We love sensory tubs! Digging, scooping and my son’s favorite… pretending! Yes these fun tubs filled with dry goods aren’t just for sensory development they are awesome for the imagination too. I really love this one not just because it was a big hit with my son, but because it combines so many different textures as well as sounds as you play.
- Gather your materials. For this festive themed tub we are using split peas, white beans, green matte garland , red and silver shiny garland, scoops, tongs and a plastic container. My son also grabbed a Christmas tin to fill up.
- Start by cutting the garland into the tub. Have your kids help if they want.
- Pour in the split peas.
- And the beans .
- As soon as he did the hands dove in to explore. The shiny garland was smooth, the beans were hard, the green garland was crunchy and the split peas were sharp. A wide range of textures for such a simple tub.
- Add the tools and enjoy.
- My son used the tongs to sort the garland into the tin.
- And the scoop for the beans.
- Eventually he got all the bunches of garland out.
Merry Christmas, Mouse! (If You Give…) by Laura Numeroff is an adorable little Christmas counting book. Most of the praise should really be on Felicia Bond the illustrator because the pictures take the cake on this one. The book follows the mouse as he decorates the Christmas tree, 1 Star… 2 angels… etc… It’s a perfect to read and then count the ornaments on your own tree. After reading it my son and I found 4 bells, and 3 trains on our own tree.
A Small Christmas by Wong Herbert Yee is about as perfect a Christmas book as my son could ever read. My son is obsessed with firefighters, he rescues his baby sister all day long and the sound of sirens are pretty much a given day or night in our house. Fireman Small is a tiny firefighter that children immediately relate to because he is little. His heart is big though and so is his courage. In this installment though it’s not a fire he rushes to but Santa’s aid. Your child doesn’t need to be as nuts about firefighters as my son is to enjoy this sweet holiday book.
I love sensory tubs and one of the reasons is illustrated beautifully in this post. They aren’t just a chance to scoop and pour ( although don’t discount the importance of that) they are also a chance to make believe, create a new mini landscape and practice imaginative play. Children love to explore so when you create a sensory bin allow them to add to it as well, it’s not a static item but rather a dynamic experience for them to create with.
- Gather your materials. You will need a big pan or plastic tub, some multicolored unpopped popcorn , red quinoa, and brown rice. You will also need some fall leaf confetti, and scoops. Obviously you don’t need to follow our contents exactly but I do love the corn since it ties into other Thanksgiving crafts so well. Orange lentils, wild rice, flax seeds etc… all have a fall feeling to them too.
- Pour the dried grains etc.. into the tub. Have your child help with this , my son loves ” cooking up” the sensory bins.
- Add the fall confetti. Be careful some of ours were pretty small, fabric leaves are another larger option for younger children.
- Add the scoops and containers and start playing.
- Follow your child’s imagination, we went and got some construction vehicles.
I get asked all the time what I do with these tubs after he’s done playing. I pop them into ziplocs and keep them , and pull them out for quiet play time often. The variety keeps him interested and as long as the bags are sealed from moisture and insects you can keep them indefinitely.
The Little Engine That Could Saves the Thanksgiving Day Parade by Watty Piper is unremarkable. The story is about a school band who has a flat tire and hitches a ride on the train to get to the Thanksgiving Day parade on time. My son liked the instruments and the train but the story was pretty boring and it was obvious to me why this was one of the only Thanksgiving books left at my local library. If you have a child who is wild about trains I would maybe check it out of the library but it’s not worth purchasing in my opinion.
Thanksgiving at the Tappleton’s by Eileen Spinelli is a really cute story that offers many opportunities for parents to talk about lying, disappointment and what really matters at Thanksgiving. The Tappleton’s Thanksgiving dinner is doomed, first the turkey falls in the pond, then there are no pies left at the bakery and then continues to get worse. No one wants to be the person to ruin the holiday dinner and keeps it a secret that the part of the meal that was their responsibility is ruined. Of course this means they end up eating liverwurst and pickles for dinner but Grandma saves Thanksgiving by reminding them all that it doesn’t matter what they are eating but who they are eating with.
Patty’s Pumpkin Patch by Teri Sloat is a great alphabet book and story in one. Readers follow a pumpkin patch from planting the seeds until after Halloween when they gather the seeds for the next planting. I really like how this book combines an alphabet book with both upper and lowercase letters corresponding to some animal or insect in the story . I also like the easy rhythm of the rhyming text and the engaging and detailed illustrations . All in all I think this is a great fall book!
To tell you the truth I didn’t plan this activity, I saw the fishing net , wanted to do something with it and didn’t have much for my son to catch so instead I made some ice. To make it more fun we colored the ice, then to make it more educational we made them red and yellow to create orange ! It was a big hit and not as big a mess as I feared .
- Gather your materials. You will need a bin or tub, a ice cube tray , food coloring , a fish net ( or soup ladle) and water. You will also need plain ice for the second part.
- Start by putting a few drops of food coloring in your ice tray – half one color, half the other.
- Add water and freeze.
- Fill your tub with water – ours was too warm, the ice melted so quickly the color mixing was fast. When I do it again I will use cold water so it’s a slower mix.
- When ice firm, show it to your child and tell them you are going to put it in the water. Ask them to make a prediction about what will happen to the ice when it is in the water, what will happen to the water ? Pop it in!
- Mix and catch with net.
- Pop in more plain ice to “fish” – my son had fun with the color mixing but the extension of the activity was the real fun.
This sensory tub was such a huge hit that I had to sneak it away after he went to bed. He loved using the tongs to pick up all the skeletons and then dump them down. As an adult watching it was rather morbid but he was having a blast. If you use larger containers or smaller skeletons you can label the containers with the colors of the skeletons and add a sorting game to it too. I prefer to let him use his imagination with the sensory tubs , although some students I have had needed more direction so if your child is just kinda like ” Um now what? ” play with them and make up games to get them started.
- Gather your materials. You will need a plastic tub or extra large pan, some black beans, some great northern beans, pumpkin containers, tongs and skeleton toys ( ours are the stretchy ones ).
- Pour your black beans in , my tub used 2 small packages.
- Pour in the great northern beans, I only put in about half the package.
- Pop in the skeletons and pumpkins.
- Invite your child to the table ( or if you are smart out to the porch or backyard) and play.
- My son adored making big morbid piles of skeletons, not sure if I should be concerned or not…
Last Year’s Halloween Sensory Tub
Last year we used orange lentils,pasta, and black beans. Check it out.
This fall themed sensory tub is a great way to welcome the best parts of the coming season, by scooping, pouring and pinching up beans, apples and acorns. I usually keep a sensory tub theme for a month or two pulling it out every few days and letting my son explore. Now that he is a little older my son prefers to use the tongs to pick things up . Using a small dish to hold the material he pinches up is a great way to encourage counting and sorting with a sensory tub.Don’t miss our books about apples
- Gather your materials. You will need some beans ( we are using pinto and navy), acorns ( real or artificial), some fake apples, scoops and tongs. I use the same container for my sensory tubs usually , and keep the materials in ziplocs while not in use. I got the acorns and the apples in the potpourri section of a home decorating store.
- Start by pouring the beans into the container.
- Add the apples .
- Add the acorns.
- Add your tools and invite your child to play!
- Pinch and count!
Books About Apples
Apples by Jacqueline Farmer is not a book to snuggle up and read before bed or really anytime with a toddler but wow it’s a wonderful resource. I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about apples until I read this book. It’s packed full of detail about how they are grown, where they came from originally, varieties and more! I urge teachers and homeschooling parents to check this out if you are doing any study about fruit, or apples.
I Know It’s Autumn by Eileen Spinelli is age appropriate for young preschoolers and toddlers. The book is a simple look at all the things that tell a small child that Autumn is here. Pumpkin muffins, apple picking, cooler weather, hayrides and more all signal that the summer is gone and the fall has arrived. I like this book because there will be something a child will relate to and be able to identify with. I also love that the family is biracial and there is no mention of it at all. It’s nice to see and I wish more books were so non challant about representing all kinds of families.
Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington is another favorite in our house. My son loves this author and I like how simple but informative this book is. Your little reader will learn about the basics of what happens at an apple orchard , but you can take it further if you want. On many of the pages there are chances to learn more, like the page about sorting and classifying, where there are apples ready to count 1-10, and sorted by colors. I love the last page that says that Annie is so happy to have her own apple farm. I loved that message and think it’s a lot more powerful than some may think, women on farms in most books are “farmer’s wives” and I love that there is no one but Annie doing her own thing.