As teachers, we are often looking to incorporate engaging and trendy activities in our primary classrooms. I know I’m not the only one who looks at trends like pop-its or sensory bins and wonders, “How can I use this to teach content?” Well, I’m going to show you how sensory bins in the classroom can look and the benefits they have.

There’s no age-limit on sensory bins. On a recent trip to the beach, I spent half an hour moving my feet and hands in the sand. When my sister and mother come over, I often find them playing in my toddler’s sensory bin filled with rice. It’s simply a relaxing activity at any age.

For students, a sensory bin is a great way to engage their senses while also providing a challenge and engaging way to learn content. You can use sensory bins with various content, from math to ELA to science. Here are some of my favorite ways to use sensory bins in the primary classroom to teach content:

Foundational Language Skills

There are various opportunities to build language skills with sensory bins. Fill your sensory bins with various objects, colors, and materials. Then, have your students explore. Ask your primary students to identify different colors, shapes, and objects. You can also have students count objects in the bin.

You can explore this in a small group or have sensory bins as a center activity. Have students share their findings together. Print a worksheet or mat for answers to be recorded on.

Shapes, Counting, and Curiosity

I wanted an interactive way to engage my students in shapes and counting skills, so I turned to sensory bins. I created a winter counting sensory bin for my classroom that became a huge hit. Using a cup and some paper, we create an animal’s mouth. The students then fed the animal different items from the sensory bin.

This turned into a great lesson on counting, shapes, and curiosity. My students were practicing their number skill by counting the food they gave the animal. My favorite part is the curiosity that comes with this bin. Students can try out different shaped objects to feed the animal (will it fit in the opening?) and use different utensils to pick up objects. Imagine what a small group could discuss while interacting with this sensory bin! 

You can grab this winter counting sensory bin here! It comes with four outlines (two animals, girl, and boy), number cards, and food cards.

Shown above is a sensory bin activity for Laura Numeroff’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

Seasonal Learning

Sensory bins are also wonderful to integrate into seasonal learning. Sensory bin fillers can reflect the colors or look of the season or occasion. For example, I fill my winter sensory bins with cotton balls or blue rice, and my Valentine’s Day sensory bin with shredded red paper or red rice. You can also add in seasonal objects such as snowflakes or hearts.

Sensory bins are awesome for early childhood education skills like matching, colors, shapes, counting, informational learning, and motor coordination. For example, in this Christmas counting activity, students pull a number from the bin and pick that number of objects or make that number of scoops into a cup. 

Sensory bins in your classroom allow you to get creative and deliver engaging activities to students! If you want to give sensory bins a try, grab this free sensory bin quilt shapes activity and see what you think!


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