Homeschooling with Toddlers — Sensory Bins

Moving on to the next item in our Montessori inspired classroom with toddlers in mind.  This one takes a little bit of discipline for the child and a little patience for the homeschooling mama because it can be messy until they understand the rules. 

Homeschooling with Toddlers -- Sensory Bins

Homeschooling with toddlers in tow can be the biggest challenge we face day to day.  Trying to find things for kids too young for school but far too awake to be quiet is a huge challenge.  In this series I will be exploring ideas inspired by Maria Montessori in her early education classrooms for keeping our youngest kids out of trouble and teaching them a few things too.  Adding these things to your homeschool classroom may just be the answer to buying you a few minutes with your busy toddler.

In case you missed part one of the homeschooling with a toddler series, you can check it out here.

Sensory Bin

Cost: about $40 (for bin and supplies)

Space Needed: Medium

Prep Time: 30 minutes or less

Toddler distraction factor: Extra High

It’s no secret that toddlers want to touch everything.  Much of a child’s early learning is done by touch.  Maria Montessori was well aware of this and incorporated a touch activity into many of her classroom activities, including the sensory table.  Adding this hands-on activity space for your toddler is sure to buy you some much needed moments of happy, occupied toddlers!  The more a child can experience through multiple senses, they more they learn about themselves and the world around them.  Plus, they just plain love it!

Homeschooling with Toddlers -- Sensory Bins

There are many sensory tables out there to purchase.  Some have two bins and wooden sides that have lids that close water tight so you can move the table without fear of spilling any of the contents.  Our sensory table, however, is an under-the-bed storage container placed on top of a thrifted piano bench!  It is the perfect height for my little one and the entire thing was just a couple of dollars.  You may even have something that will work already in your house or garage! 

Homeschooling with Toddlers -- Sensory Bins

This bin has been filled with everything from fake snow, to water beads (originally intended to place flower arrangements in), to cotton balls, sand, beans, rice, wheat berries, popcorn….  let your imagination be your guide here!  Anything that feels good falling between your fingers will be a thrill to your little one and keep them occupied for hours.  I have even moved the whole thing out to the back porch (the slider is in the school room so he was always in sight) and filled it with water and his bath toys.  The SAME bath toys he has in his nightly bath… but for some reason they were thrilling in this tub of water in the back yard and gave me a full hour to do a writing lesson with my 7th grader. 

Homeschooling with Toddlers -- Sensory Bins

Please be sure to use only non-toxic materials for your sensory table (this one is white beans), if not for your little one, then for your pets!  Things from the sensory table will end up on your floor and you want to make sure Fluffy and Fido are not eating things that would give you a vet bill (plus, we can never be to careful with the kids, no matter how old they are.  Winking smile

Clean Up Tips: 

Homeschooling with Toddlers -- Sensory Bins

This is where my sensory bin is.  Right near my back sliding glass door.  Under it I have a cute metal tub that holds two types of small brooms and a dust pan.  At first, this was very handy for when Luke spilled something as I could pick it up quickly before my puppies (we have gotten two this last year) ate whatever dropped on the floor.  But now Luke does most of the clean up by himself if he spills!  Teaching ‘practical life’ skills in this way was also part of Maria Montessori’s approach to education and it sure does make my life easier! 

Homeschooling with Toddlers -- Sensory Bins

If you ever feel you are lacking for sensory bin ideas, just do a quick internet search for inspiration.  I guarantee you will find  hundreds of ideas at your fingertips in moments!

You can also follow Inner Child Fun’s Sensory Bins Board on Pinterest:

Follow Inner Child Fun Kids Crafts’s board Sensory Bins on Pinterest.

A few guidelines to get you started:

  • Only use food grade or non-toxic materials.
  • Create a theme for your table (such as the pumpkin patch theme above) to help you choose what should go in it.
  • Always let the child lead what is in the sensory bin!  If he likes the feeling of sand falling through his fingers then leave that in there through a beach theme, underwater creatures theme, shells and fossils theme… 
About Val

Valerie Rose, creator of the blog Collecting the Moments… one by one spends her days cooking, gardening, and homeschooling her 4 children on her urban homestead in rainy western Washington. With camera in hand, she is constantly collecting the moments of life and encouraging others to do the same with activities and inspiration for a simple, creative household. You can find her on Pinterest, Facebook and on her homeschooling blog where she documents all the fun learning her kids do day to day.