Fall is here! Which means I get to put together one of my most favorite sensory bins of the year.  Who can resist the smell of apple cinnamon and pine cones mixed with the texture of corn kernels, right!?

Every year I try to add in components that align with the developmental stage my daughter is in.  Being almost 3, she is refining her fine and visual motor skills every day, so we added in lots of fine motor challenges and visual perceptual options this year. Toddlers also seek independence in everything they do, so sensory bins are always a great task to get them involved when putting it together.

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Sensory Bin Materials

First, we gathered all of our goodies.  For this bin, we are using corn kernels, play apples, pine cones, flat marbles, and play leaves as our main “ingredients”.  You can control the amount of scent you include in your bin by sprinkling apple pie spice, or adding cinnamon sticks.  My daughter does not have any aversions to scent, so we went with pre-scented apples and pine cones (you can often find these in the fall section of your local craft store!).

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Next, I had her scoop and pour the corn kernels into her bin, and add in all of the goodies.  I let her play for a while and explore the different scents and textures.  She loves to explore using kitchen utensils (spoons, bowls, funnels, cups, etc) – she made our whole family some apple soup with a side of leaves and pine cones for dinner!  All of this is working on their imagination skills which is fantastic for this age.

Then, the fun begins for me! Here are some fun challenges I incorporated into our purposeful play!

Fine Motor

Corn kernels are awesome because when a toddler plays with it, they are naturally practicing their pincer skills just picking them up and moving them around!  I also love to incorporate various tongs, tweezers, and clothespins for her to use while she picks up apples or “catches” leaves.

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Visual Motor

Sorting tasks are always a big hit.  I had her sort out red apples, green apples, yellow leaves, and green leaves.  You can also work on patterning or visual model copying.  For my daughter, I lined up a couple objects (red apple, green leaf, pine cone) and had her find the matching objects in the bin and line them up in the same order.

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This is a high-level perceptual skill that I love to throw in when planning activities.  Stereognosis is the ability to perceive an object from touch – sensory bins are perfect for this because you can hide a pine cone underneath the corn kernels, have them dig in, and see if they can find the pine cone only by touch. I can’t tell you how intrinsically motivating and fun this is for them, all while working on some amazing developmental skills.

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The thing I really love about sensory bins is that they are easily adaptable to any age group.  If your little one is younger, try adding the corn kernels to a clear bottle with some leaves and pom poms and have them roll it all around.  Watch them in awe as they see the goodies move all around inside the bottle and hear the sounds of the kernels as they slide!

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