Let’s face it, as moms we always want to keep our little ones busy and entertained. But beyond the usual go-to activities like puzzles, coloring books and blocks, what else can you do to occupy your one year old’s attention?
How about a sensory bin for 1 year olds??
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Once your child is able to sit up on their own and control their head, they are ready to be introduced to sensory bin play.
Just remember they like to put everything in their mouths so choose items that are choke and taste safe!
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Sensory Bins on a Budget – Easy DIY Ideas
Blocks and a Muffin Tin
If your little one is in a “putting things into things” stage then this is a great setup for them to practice their transferring skills with their hands.
This setup couldn’t be any easier! And the best part is there is no mess!
My son absolutely loves to “put things into things” and this has been his favorite sensory bin.
You can mix up the blocks for any toys or goodies.
- Various sized blocks or other toys/goodies
- A standard muffin tin
- Small tongs (optional)
- Fine Motor Skills: Picking up and placing blocks into the muffin tin slots can help develop precision in hand movements.
- Cognitive Development: Understanding shapes and spatial relationships as they fit blocks into the corresponding spaces.
Winter Sensory Bin
If you have snow in the yard, why not create a snow sensory bin!?
Add some little people, construction toys, or just scoops and bowls for some extra fun!
If it’s not winter/you don’t get snow you can add ice cubes to the bin. If you have a powerful blender you can blend ice cubes to make “snow.”
- Snow or ice cubes
- Little people or construction toys
- Scoops and bowls
- Sensory Exploration: Experiencing cold and texture of snow or ice can stimulate sensory responses.
- Imaginative Play: Using little people or construction toys can encourage role-playing and creativity.
Cheerios or Rice Krispies
Sometimes it’s ok to play with your food!
If your little one puts everything in their mouth then adding a base of Rice Krispies or Cheerios can make great sensory bin fillers!
Just dump the cereal in the bin and let them crinkly and cruch away. You could also add some construction toys or scoops for more engaged play.
- Their favorite cereal
- Little people or construction toys
- Scoops and bowls
- Tactile Learning: The texture of the cereal provides tactile feedback which is important for sensory development.
- Hand-Eye Coordination: Scooping and pouring cereal can refine motor skills and coordination.
Water – Lemon Slices and/or Fruit
Make some “soup” with lemons and berries (if they are able to safely eat them.) Blueberries can be a choking hazard. If your child isn’t ready for these, you could cup up some bananas.
After you’re done with them you can scoop them out and put them into a smoothie for a snack.
- Lemon slices
- Berries (if safe to eat) or bananas
- Bowls and spoons
- Sensory Stimulation: The sensation of water combined with the smell of lemons can engage multiple senses.
- Understanding Cause and Effect: Observing how items float or sink can introduce basic physics concepts.
Oats are small and taste safe, but don’t let them eat too many!
They can be scooped and poured. You can also hide “treasures” underneath and let them dig and find them.
- Rolled oats
- Toys or objects to hide within the oats
- If they are into construction toys or scoops, add those in there as well!
- Texture Exploration: Feeling the texture of oats can be a calming sensory experience.
- Discovery and Curiosity: Hiding toys in the oats encourages exploration and problem-solving.
Long spaghetti noodles, with a little bit of oil to prevent sticking, is a really fun, and messy way to play.
Just keep them plain and your toddler will love pulling and squeezing the slippery noodles.
- Cooked spaghetti noodles
- A little oil (to prevent sticking)
- Tactile Sensation: The slippery texture of pasta is unique and can be intriguing for toddlers.
- Fine Motor Development: Manipulating the pasta can improve dexterity and hand strength.
Large Pom Poms
Large pom poms (ones that are too big to be swallowed) are a nice soft addition to your play.
They can also be added to water as another sensory experience. Give them a squeeze and lay them out on a towel and they can be reused.
- Color Recognition: Sorting pom poms by color can help with color identification.
- Sensory Discrimination: Feeling the softness of the pom poms can be a soothing sensory input.
Oobleck (Cornstarch & Water)
Oobleck is a super fun science experiment. It’s a blend of cornstarch and water. To brighten it up, you can add some natural food dye.
It’s in between a liquid and a solid and oh-so gooey. It cleans up surprisingly easily too!
My kids are huge fans of this! It’s a double activity, we get to make it and play with it!
- Cornstarch – 1 cups
- Water – 3/4 cup
- Natural food dye (optional)
- Scientific Exploration: Experiencing the non-Newtonian fluid can spark early interest in science.
- Sensory Integration: The unique properties of oobleck can help with sensory processing.
Crush up/blend graham crackers for a really cool sand-like bin. You can add sand toys and even a little water towards the end for a different texture.
- Imaginative Play: Pretend play with sand toys can enhance creativity.
- Texture Play: The texture of crushed graham crackers can mimic sand, providing a new sensory experience.
Kinetic Sand (not taste safe)
As your baby moves away from eating everything, kinetic sand can be really fun indoors. It’s moldable sand with a great texture for building things.
You can add playdoh toys or cookie cutters.
Making your own kinetic sand is also super easy!
- Creative Expression: Molding and building with kinetic sand can foster creativity and imagination.
- Fine Motor Skills: Using tools to cut and shape the sand can refine small muscle movements.
Cloud Dough/Moon Sand
Another “sand” option is “moon sand.”
It can be used over and over if kept in a well-sealed container if you decide to bake it. Bacterica can live on raw flour.
Otherwise this comes together in less than 5 minutes!
Add your favorite cookie cutter or play doh toys.
- 4 cups flour
- 1 cup oil
- If resuing – combine, flatten, and bake at 350 for 5 minutes, then cool.
- Tactile Learning: The soft and moldable texture of cloud dough offers a rich tactile experience.
- Creative Play: Creating shapes and structures with cloud dough can support imaginative play.
Nature’s Sensory Bin
Getting outside and playing in nature is a great way to develop your child’s sense of curiosity! From beach trips in the summer playing in the sand to crinkling leaves in the fall, there’s no shortage of natural sensory bins for your child to enjoy!
The best part about nature’s sensory bin is it’s free and there are tons of developmental benefits associated with outside play!
- Natural Elements: Outdoor sensory bins often include elements like sand, water, leaves, sticks, stones, and other natural materials that provide diverse textures, temperatures, and smells.
- Sensory Integration: Engaging with a variety of sensory inputs helps children process and respond to sensory information more effectively.
Motor Skill Development
- Gross Motor Skills: Large-scale outdoor bins can encourage activities like digging, scooping, and pouring, which involve whole-body movements.
- Fine Motor Skills: Picking up small objects, manipulating tools, and performing detailed actions refine fine motor control and hand-eye coordination.
- Exploration and Curiosity: Children are naturally curious, and an outdoor sensory bin can stimulate their desire to explore and learn about their environment.
- Problem-Solving: Interacting with various objects and figuring out how they work (e.g., floating versus sinking) can enhance cognitive skills.
Language and Communication
- Vocabulary Development: Discussing the items in the sensory bin can introduce new words and concepts, expanding a child’s vocabulary.
- Social Interaction: Sharing the sensory bin with others can foster communication and cooperative play.
- Stress Reduction: Natural settings are known to have a calming effect, and sensory play can reduce stress and promote relaxation.
- Confidence Building: As children learn to navigate and manipulate different materials, they gain confidence in their abilities.
Creativity and Imagination
- Imaginative Play: Outdoor sensory bins can become anything in a child’s imagination, from a chef’s kitchen to a scientist’s lab.
- Creative Expression: Children can express themselves creatively through the way they interact with the materials.
Connection with Nature
- Environmental Awareness: Playing with natural materials can foster an appreciation for the environment and an understanding of the natural world.
- Sensory-Rich Experience: The outdoors provides a dynamic, ever-changing environment that can enhance the sensory experience in ways that indoor play often cannot.
- Active Play: Outdoor play encourages more physical activity, which is important for overall health and development.
- Vitamin D Exposure: Sensory play outside can also mean more exposure to sunlight, which is a natural source of Vitamin D, essential for healthy bone development.
Training for Sensory Bin Play
1 year olds LOVE to put things in their mouth, so when starting sensory play it’s important to make sure you don’t have anything too small (choking hazard) or not taste safe (example water beads – save these for later!).
A nice way to introduce this type of play is to start with water and add scoops and cups. Super simple and you have everything already. You can also add little rubber duckies or other bath toys.
Move on to other items like large blocks or pom poms.
At 12 months, a baby’s attention span won’t be long so don’t be surprised if they only last a few minutes to start. It’s totally normal, and a good reason not to worry too much about elaborate setups at this age.
Sensory Bin Tools for 1 Year Olds
We have a Flisat table from Ikea which we love. You can also just use containers from the dollar store or Amazon.
As mentioned above you can start with things you already own, but as time goes on you can add tools just for your bins. These are our favorites:
Can’t you just see your kiddo’s face light up when they grab and tweak with the adorable gator clip and squeeze tweezers?
Their coordination will improve as they carefully twist and drop with the – well – twisty dropper (so clever!). And the scoopers will have them practicing those pre-writing motions as they dig and pour.
With this bundle, you get one of each thoughtfully crafted tool, specially sized for those tiny hands (but durable enough to withstand energetic play!). Pop them in a bin of rice, beans or water beads, and let the exploration begin.
Don’t you want to nurture your toddler’s development in a fun, hands-on Montessori way?
I’ve got just the thing – these absolutely adorable wooden sensory bin tools! Crafted from real wood and sanded smooth, they’re perfectly sized for those precious little hands.
With 7 different shapes like cups, tongs and scoops, their minds will be captivated for hours, or at least a few minutes, exploring different motions.
I’ve got an activity that will unlock your child’s creativity and build their skills through play. Introducing this deluxe 45-piece dough tool set – it’s got all the cutters, stamps, rollers and molds needed for endless dough fun!
These brightly colored plastic tools are perfectly sized for those busy little hands. Can’t you just imagine the look of concentration on your child’s face as they roll, cut and shape colorful creations?
They’ll be practicing hand-eye coordination, problem-solving and fine motor skills without even realizing it.
Conclusion: Sensory Bins for 1 Year Olds
Overall, it is amazing how much 1 year olds can learn and experience through sensory bins! They allow kids to explore their senses, develop motor skills, and generally have fun with them. In addition to that, the safety of your child is the most important factor when playing with any type of material.
So be sure to keep these tips in mind when making your own sensory bin! Experiment with different materials while ensuring taste and choking safety for your one year old.
Sensory bins are just one of many ways you can engage in developmental play with your little one. For more inspiration, check out my post on sensory activities, many of these can be done with basic household ingredients too!
And if you find something that works really well, make sure to share it! What is your favorite sensory bin? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
At what age should I introduce sensory bins?
Once your child is able to sit up and control their heads you could begin to introduce sensory bins. Just remember to choose “ingredients” that are safe for their age.
Why is sensory play important for 1 year olds?
Sensory play encourages learning through exploration, play, problem solving, and curiosity. They make up the rules as they go! This helps to build neural connections in the brain and encourages the development of motor and language skills.
What to put in a sensory bin?
Really anything that is taste and choking safe could be added to a sensory bin! If it’s got a cool texture, shape, or sound it can make for a unique experience for your 1 year old.
Some of my favorites are, blocks, snow, large pom poms, or kinetic sand