If you have been following along you will know that I previously posted about the best sensory bin fillers. Today I want to take a second to talk about the very best sensory bin tools. These are the items that really allow for maximum fun and lots of fine motor practice as well!
All sensory bins can be broken down into four parts. The bin or container you are playing in. The filler such as rice or water. The manipulatives or toys, something to make it extra special or fun. Then the tools you use to play with the filler.
What is a sensory bin tool?
The best sensory bin tools are ones that help your child practice some fine motor skills and they don’t even know they are doing it. Things like cups, spoons, and tongs are what we are dealing with when we talk sensory bin tools
It may take time some trial and error to find just the right tools for your kiddo but trust me. Adding tools to your sensory play will make it last so much longer and they will be getting so much more out of it!
The Best Sensory Bin tools
In no particular order here are my top ten types of sensory bin tools
Tongs – there can be so many versions of these. I think we have half a dozen and those are just hers, not counting the ones we use in the kitchen.
For young sensory players, I recommend going with a pair that don’t have to squeeze much to pick up the item. As they age they will develop the fine motor and coordination to aim for a specific item, squeeze the tongs, and then transport the item, but I found at first we were getting frustrated that the item wouldn’t stay put. If the item is a more snug fit it requires less effort leading to less frustration when things go wrong. THAT SAID. As they age I would recommend offering a wide range of tongs and tweezers to really work that skill! Wide tongs with smaller rocks, small tweezers for cotton balls, you see where I’m going right?!
Spoon/ladle – Again there can be so many versions of this. Think of what you use in the kitchen on the regular. My guess is you can think of at least five different kinds of spoons right away.
Each Spoon has a reason, from soup ladles to slotted spoons to teaspoons. With each reason is a different way to physically use the spoon. Allowing access to a wide range of spoons for play will help them develop the fine motor needed in the kitchen!
Scoop – I am talking about the kind you use in bulk barrels at the store. This is a whole other motion compared to using a spoon and they move a lot more filler than most spoons will.
Cups, Containers & Bowls
Bowls – Remember what I was talking about with the spoons? How there are so many different kinds you come into contact within your daily life? The same thing applies to bowls.
I also like to offer different bowls of different materials. Loud metal ones, colorful plastic ones, light wooden ones. This is just more sensory exposure and the different containers may react differently to the filler!
Measuring cups – How to fill and then dump a measuring cup is going to come up at some point in your child’s life.
Measuring cups in sensory play are great because they act as an inbetween. Kinda like a bowl kinda like a scoop, plus they way you empty the cup is again a different fine motor skill than the others!
For the older kids, these can also be a bit of a math lesson. How many times do you have to fill the ¼ cup to fill the 1 cup?!
Cup – You might be thinking why are cups on this list when cups are really not that different than bowls!? The simple reason is pouring play.
Teaching our kids how to pour without spilling everywhere is a goal may parents have. I love providing a cup for play so that she can practice in a less threatening environment. Right now she has to use both hands to pour the cup and often misjudges where the contents will go but that the thing she is learning and practicing and that is what I want!
Small pitcher/frothing pitcher – The best sensory bin tools in Bitty’s book would have to be pitchers. She gravitates to these every time I put them out. I don’t know if it’s the smaller size or the handle or what but she loves them
These are great for more pouring play because, well that’s what they were made for! Not play necessarily, but pouring! Without a doubt she has the best control over pitchers and this tipping a jug with a handle will someday lead to pouring her own milk and I am here for that!
Slightly more limiting tools but no less awesome
Icecube tray/egg carton – These are the best sensory bin tool for sorting and categorizing. If you have a little that loves to sort then this may just be your holey grail.
I personally would recommend a couple of different trays, as the items you sort may need a smaller or larger size! Let us not forget the humble egg carton. I have seen some truly awesome color matching and posting activities created out of these babies!
Funnel – This is a tool that is slightly more limiting based on the type of filler you are using but no less fun to play with. So long as your filling fits through the funnel!
This is a great sensory bin tool as it can do what it was designed to do. Fill a container with a small opening but it can also be a lesson in patience. No matter how much you add to the top it takes time to drop through.
Eyedropper/pippet – Again another sensory bin tool that is slightly more limiting. You need a liquid to really use these. That said…if you are playing in water an eyedropper is a great tool to use.
The fine motor used to squeeze the air out and then waiting for the water to fill back in and then the squeeze again to unload the water is an action that both stimulates and entertains most all kids!
Sifter – I love the idea of a sifter as a sensory bin tool but so far I have only really found it to work with sand and flour and to be honest it leads to a mess.
If you spend a lot of time in a sandbox then I totally recommend it but beyond that, you could wait and use this in the kitchen when the recipe calls for it.
Colander – again I love the idea of the colander, but we run into the same problem as the sifter. It really only works well in water and sand. So I am all for adding it to the bathtub to play with but for a sensory bin tool, it falls a little short.
Whisk – This seems like such a good tool to add, but when you get down to the basics it really is just stirring and at least with a spoon, you can scoop too. So I pass on the whisk for the most part. UNLESS you have one of the old-style beater whisks with the hand crank. I bet those would be fun in water!
What are your best sensory bin tools?!
This is by NO means an exhaustive list of sensory bin tools. If you ever need inspiration take a walk down a kitchen utensil aisle and see what jumps out at you.
Do you have any sensory bin tools that I should add to the list? Leave a comment down below! I am always on the hunt for new ideas!
If you want to see some fun sensory bin ideas you should check out my Pinterest board full of ideas and I am always adding more!