Pinto Bean Counting Sensory Bin
I’m always on the look out for materials that are easy, inexpensive, and on hand for our sensory bin play. I try to change them out every two to three days. This past week I was cooking dinner one night and was looking through a pile of pinto beans weeding out the good and bad in the bunch. It occurred to me that this could possibly be much more fun for my little one than myself. So I dumped the rest of my bag into a bin. Than I thought about how to add to the experience. I also had these wooden numbers on hand that I purchased from Wish last month. I am obsessed with Wish, I can’t believe all the weird things we have gotten off there. I just ordered my second batch of water beads from there. 10,000 for $2.00 including shipping. I also ordered these numbers with counting sticks for around $4.
Anyway, I’ll save all that for my Wish anonymous club that I’ll eventually have to join. So this bin was almost complete but I also added these small plastic cups. These are really baby food containers for people who make homemade baby food but I use them for everything from science to sensory. They came from Amazon and I think there was 10 or more in the box. They also come with lids and make great storage containers for homemade play dough and slime. We put some slime in there and found it in the kitchen catch all drawer three months later and it was still semi slime.
She was armed with around a pound of pinto beans, 5 cups, wooden numbers, and a sense of exploration. In my house I let them make a mess. Messes can be cleaned but you will not hear me control their play by barking orders or ensuring they stick to the plan.
Instead I let her explore the materials herself. Generally if given the materials and basic guidelines, she does pretty much what I plan. I will ask her questions such as, “How many of those beans do you think you can fit in a cup?” or “Do you think there is more beans in this cup or that one?” Mostly I let her play… okay mostly I pretend eat all the goodies she pretend cooks for me.
Scooping and dumping is fun. It’s fun for small children. It’s fun for babies. It’s fun for kids. It’s fun for us adults. It’s just fun. It’s also a cognitive skills toddlers tend to like to practice… ALOT. It’s important for toddlers to see that a space can be occupied and unoccupied. It’s a natural reaction and sensory bins are an awesome way for them to practice that skill.
They are also a great way to check out cause and effect as well as the laws of gravity. The heavier cup on top will eventually end up the empty cup among a pile of spilled beans.
For more guided play, you can lay out the numbers and have an older toddler/preschooler to count out the beans under each number. For older children, they could even use the beans as a way to learn addition, subtraction, and other mathematics. 5 beans plus 5 more beans equals 10 beans and so on.
Adult guidance is suggested to keep the kids from eating the beans or sticking them into noses, ears, or other kid’s noses or ears.