How To Make A Simple and Frugal Sensory Tub

Sensory experiences for kids don’t have to be a show stopping three ring circus. I like making elaborate sensory tubs especially for my son since he is getting older and needs ones with specific tasks ( like finding letters, words or sorting objects in them) but a true basic sensory bin is an amazing educational tool. My toddler is just getting to the perfect age for this at 16 months. Exploring the small hard filler, using a spoon and scoop to transfer the grains from one spot to the next and practicing things like sharing with me as we play. Please don’t feel like you need to have all the bells and whistles because for toddlers it’s best to keep it simple and let them discover.

  1. Gather your materials. For this tub I bought some popcorn, barley and dried beans. Total cost for the grains was $2.34. The pumpkins were bought at a patch for $1 for 2 and the spoons and scoop are from my kitchen.  The tub was under $2 and I reuse it by putting the filler from previous tubs into ziplocks and storing to re-use. We had a canning funnel to play with but all she wasnted to do was this which was cute but we moved it to the side so we could get down to digging.
  2. A tip when doing a sensory bin with small grains and a small child. Do it on carpet, if a spill does happen it won’t scatter. You can easily vacuum it up.
  3. Also I am asked all the time how I deal with my daughter putting the beans and grains in her mouth. She doesn’t generally but that is why I use such small grains , they will taste gross if she tried to chew them but they are so small they pose a very small risk of being a chocking hazard. Still stay within arms reach at all times. I used our coffee table ( which is technically a bench)  and sat on the opposite side the while time the tub was within her reach. If your child is not ready for these try this one we made last year
  4. Practice scooping , pouring, talk about the colors of the spoons. Today I think we may have learnt which spoon is yellow and which is orange … I think. I do know we practiced sharing the spoons back and forth accross the table.
  5. I found this interesting, she is cleaning up some of the grains that spilled out. Not something her brother was interested in at her age.

We played with this simple sensory tub for much of the time we had between lunch and picking her brother up from school.  Simple, fun and educational.

Halloween Sensory Tub For Multiple Ages

I noticed on Pinterest a comment on a pin of my Sensory Tub from Halloween 2010. The commentor noted that I use the same container ( usually yes) and just store the contents in ziplocks ( yes again I have close to 20 bags).  That comment sparked this post. My son had been asking for a Halloween sensory tub since we bought the bouncy ball eyeballs a few weeks ago. My goal was  to make one that both he and his baby sister ( 15 months) could use. This is what we did.

  1. Gather your materials. I grabbed my Halloween Sensory Tub contents from 2009 and 2010 – which included black beans, white beans, orange lentils for the fill. Then sticky skelletons, plastic spiders and other bugs, bouncy ball eyeballs , a few pumpkin containers , a scoop and some tongs.  Do not feel like you need to have all of this! My main goal is to show that you can mix two old ones to make a new one.  
  2. For the toddler version I started by putting in the dried beans and lentils. Then chose only the large plastic bugs and pumpkin containers.
  3. You may notice she is on a small rug. If you are doing this on the floor a carpeted floor works the best, the beans don’t skatter as far.
  4. Encourage them to keep the beans in , but please don’t scold. If spilling makes you angry just skip this activity all together. Gently show toddlers how to keep it in but until children have lots of experience with sensory tubs use only positive guidance. Anger will confuse them and halt any play and learning that was happening.
  5. Feel free to have them put beans back in though !
  6. Into the pumpkin!
  7. Now for older kids add the as my son calls it ” good stuff!” We did this when my daughter was daddy so it wouldn’t be unfair for her to see her brother playing but be told she can’t.
  8. I challenged him to pick up the balls with the tongs – it was tricky!
  9. He decided to pick out all the skelletons.
  10. Then he decided to create a skelleton world on the playroom floor, and the eye balls were bombs? Something like that. He asked if he could play it for his quiet time. Ummm yeah! I love how fun mama directed activities almost always lead to something for him to explore and lead himself. 

When I stored this sensory tub I used 2 ziplocks, and picked out all the big kids stuff into one, the toddler safe in the other and store them next to eachother for fast fun for either kid.

** Please remember that it’s your job to know what is safe for your child and what your child is ready for . All activities require adult supervision. **

3 Fruity Cheerios Activities

I bought these fruity cheerios for a fun craft at my daughter’s birthday party and decided to use them for a few more crafts and put it all together for you.  These smell awesome! Which make them even more fun to use for crafts since they add a deeper sensory experience for kids.  Each of these activities are distinct but so simple you could do them all in one day or spread over years!

Fruity O Sensory Tub

This was a fun colorful tub for my daughter to play with.  Using the cheerios let her explore with scooping and pouring with something that although I don’t usually have it in her diet if she did ingest it I wouldn’t be concerned. I didn’t encourage her to eat this though as I treated it like any other sensory tub where we are not suppose to eat. I should note that she’s never been fed these so they were not immediately thought of as food. As with any activity with young kids this is only to be done under immediate supervision , only you know if your child is ready for an activity, look at your child’s abilities not the age recommendation.

  1. Gather your materials . You will need a container ( I love light ones for babies so if they pull it off the table by accident you have a mess but no injuries). You will need a few cups of fruity cereal and fun tools to scoop with . You may also want some painters tape.
  2. Add a few loops of tape to your table and tape down your tray.
  3. Add cereal.
  4. Add tools and toddler !
  5. Watch out for fast moving preschoolers too!

Fruity Flower

This was impromptu and as you will see it evolved as we went. My original vision was not what my son wanted to make , so we changed it up mid craft. I like his vision better anyway and the end result was a really fragrant flower!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some fruity cereal, a paper plate, a sheet of colored paper, scissors and white glue.
  2. Start by gluing the paper plate in the middle of the paper and drawing the petals with glue.
  3. Add your cereal to the petals. Which he did… for a bit. 
  4. He decided that just putting one color on each wasn’t “seriously cool” but if we filled the middle , that would be.
  5. So that’s what we did! There are enough power struggles in every day life with preschoolers if they don’t like the craft and want to change it go with it, it’s great if they have an idea they want to make.
  6. Let it dry.
  7. Cut out. 

Fruity O Butterfly Necklaces

I loved these Butterfly treats from TeachMama and knew when I decided to use a butterfly theme for my daughter’s first birthday party that I’d need a craft for the kids to do. So I changed it up a little by turning it into a necklace craft.  The craft table was busy even though the sun was out at the party, and these are a fun craft to do any time.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need fruity O’s cereal, sandwich baggies, and some craft lace.
  2. Start by filling the baggies with a handful of cereal.
  3. zip it and separate the cereal to the edges. 
  4. Wrap a cut piece of craft lace around the middle and tie.
  5. When making it into a necklace loop the craft lace through one o first to make an easy stopper so kids can string the cereal on without them zipping off the end.
  6. Lace and tie . At the party we had kids from 2-8 enjoying this craft.
Believe it or not I have not been compensated in any way for this post – no one at Cheerios have contacted me although if they are reading this , wow those chocolate ones are so good!

Mining For Magnets!

minig for magnets science sensory tub

My mom returned from an Alaskan cruise with this super cool mining hat for my son and I knew I wanted to use it as a prop for an activity. He is all about pretend play and dress up The same way I use super heroes to get him excited to write I used this new hat for this fun sensory activity. Even though we used magnets you could do this with pinchers , a small scoop or just wee little hands!  Older kids ready for magnets though will love how the wand helps them mine for the ” diamonds”.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some dried beans , lentils or rice, a container, a magnetic wand with steel ringed chips or marbles .
  2. Pour the dried beans/ rice in the container. A lot of parents email me saying that they are shocked that their 4-7 year olds still like sensory bins. I am not surprised in the least.  Especially when you have them help make them and there is a little task involved ( though never required).
  3. Add the magnetic chips – we were pretending they were diamonds.
  4. Start mining. Count, sort do whatever you want with the treasures you mine.
  5. The only thing you must do is have fun!

Book

Mole Music by David McPhail is a beautiful book about the power of music, trying hard and not giving up on your dreams.  The story is about a mole who sees a violin on TV one day and decides to get his own and play. He is terrible at first but sticks with it. His music becomes beautiful, and over the years he thinks only he can hear and enjoy it. In reality his music is nourishing a grand tree above the ground that serves roles in great things including as a mediator in a battle where both sides end up coming to a peaceful agreement instead of warfare. Now yes I think that one little mole’s music ending a war is a rather large statement but if you break it down, music and the arts are vital and do transform people’s lives the way they transformed Mole’s.  My favorite part is in one illustration Mole is playing and in another tunnel you can see his old TV discarded and tipped over, I like that message.

Butterfly Sensory Tub

I love what we call butterfly pasta. Not only does my son eat it well, he plays with it well too.  We made this ages ago but between Easter and Mother’s Day crafts it got lost in the shuffle. As we pulled it out to play with it again I remembered I never posted this sensory activity. Although I didn’t photograph it I popped some of these butterflies into a clear Take and Toss sippy cup through a lid on it and my daughter has been using it as a shaker for weeks. So many uses!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some bowtie ( butterfly) pasta, food coloring, vinegar, ziploc bags, cookie sheets, a medium sized plastic tub, scoops, a divided tray and play tongs. You can also through in some penne pasta as ” Caterpillars”.
  2. Start by putting a few drops of your favorite food coloring into a ziploc.
  3. Add 1 tbsp of white vinegar.
  4. Throw in a few handfuls of pasta. Shake until all the liquid is gone.
  5. Pour out on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper to dry. The vinegar smell will lessen in time, even if it’s strong initially in a day or two it will be all but gone.
  6. Make multiple colors.
  7. Pour dry dyed pasta into a bin with scoops for little ones to explore, add penne pasta as caterpillars.
  8. Using a divided tray you can sort the pasta by color using tongs.