The Learning Resources® Jumbo Reptiles & Amphibians set has such a great selection of creatures to explore. One way we love to use them is with sensory habitats. This means we love to add a fun sensory base such as rice or water and a few materials that you might find in the creature’s natural habitat. Sometimes we enjoy making these habitats on a large scale using larger storage containers, and we will focus on just one of the reptiles or amphibians from the set. However, this time around, we decided to make a unique little home for all five creatures from the set by making mini shoe storage box habitats. These particular shoe storage boxes are from Walmart and are less than $1 each. Here are all the details and some fun ways that the boxes were played with.

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The Jumbo Tortoise

For the sensory base, we used some play dirt which is similar to kinetic sand. You could, of course, also collect some actual dirt and grass from outside! We then added some mini logs, rocks, and green glass pebbles (all from Dollar Tree).

The play dirt is such a neat sensory base because you can explore making tortoise footprints in it, scoop it and transfer it with your hands (it’s so soft!), and you can also squish it into little hills for the tortoise to climb up. With this box, there was also lots of burying the green pebbles in the dirt for the tortoise to dig up and discover.

The Jumbo Iguana

It can be fun to simplify the sensory base sometimes and go for something a little different. For the iguana, we used some fake plants from Michael’s and some mini logs from Dollar Tree. The fake plants added a different texture to the bin and were nice and robust for the energetic, hands-on play.

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The advantage of including the logs with this bin is that they lend themselves well to some STEM building. There was lots of fun using the logs to build towers for the iguana to hide behind. As they were all different in size, it meant a great sense of challenge was to balance the log pieces on top of each other.

The Jumbo Frog

We had to opt for a water base for the frog-themed box as water play is always a hit with my children. We added some green glass pebbles from Dollar Tree and also a few green foam lily pads. The contents of this box, in particular, are very simple, but when it comes to water play, you don’t need to complicate the play. Children always enjoy the open-ended sensory element of water play!

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The design of the Jumbo Frog means that the mouth is open wide and acts as the perfect scooper. The frog spent ages scooping up the water and then slowly ‘spitting’ it back out. The frog even went fishing for green pebbles too. The foam lily pads make for fun balancing pads which is another fun STEM play link.

The Jumbo Snake

The Jumbo Snake is particularly fun for a sensory bin… especially when you re-use two speckled Easter eggs as baby snakes about to hatch! For the base, we also re-used another Easter favorite- Easter grass! This particular version of Easter grass was more like crinkle paper, but the different shades of green were ideal.

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The Jumbo Snake is so appealing to little hands because you can unravel it and stretch it out. We had lots of fun stretching out the snake and slithering it around outside of the box. We then pretended that the snake was rewinding up and settling for a sleep in the cozy habitat with the eggs. This works gross and fine motor skills hard!

The Jumbo Gecko

Our final sensory base was one of our favorites, rice. We dyed the rice green by adding rice and green food coloring to a baggie and a small squirt of white vinegar (this helps to prevent the color from rubbing off the rice and onto hands). We squished all the ingredients together in the baggie and then spread the rice out on tin foil to dry overnight. We then threw in some large pebbles and mini sticks (both from Dollar Tree).

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Rice is a great sensory base for moving animals through; there’s something super relaxing about it! Time was spent ‘showering’ the gecko with the rice, as well as hiding the pebbles and sticks for the gecko to find. There was also some ‘fetch’ being played with the sticks and gecko too!

It’s amazing how much play can come from relatively small set-ups like this. It was fun to use the storage shoe boxes because they were like little habitat tanks. It is important to note that it helps to allow the play to flow out of the box. Sometimes the creatures were taken out of their habitats with some materials and played with, which was fine. I had a tray set up to allow for this to happen without being worried about any mess being made. It’s all about keeping the play freely flowing!