Looking for a fun, hands-on preschool summer sensory bin? Here’s a great idea for you! Keep reading until the end of the post for a free printable, too!
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WHAT ARE SENSORY BINS?
Sensory exploration is such an important part of being a kid! Sensory bins are usually a plastic tub or large container filled with materials and objects that engage the senses.
I love creating sensory bins to go along with each theme in my class to engage my little learners & keep them interested in our topic!
We know our little ones learn best when they can touch and feel something, and sensory bins allow them to have this hands-on experience while still practicing academic skills.
And this is especially true during the summer, when the summer slide can cause students to lose valuable academic gains they made during the year. (To check out the routine we follow during the summer, click here!)
PRESCHOOL SUMMER SENSORY BIN
For our summer sensory bin, I decided to bring out an all-time favorite (both with my students and my kids at home)…water beads!
If you haven’t tried water beads yet, you’re going to love them! Water beads are a non-edible bead made from a combination of water and a water-absorbing polymer. Water beads come as teeny tiny balls but grow larger once they absorb water.
Before I tell you about how we play with water beads, I have to give you an IMPORTANT WARNING…water beads are NOT okay for babies or young toddlers. If you have a little one who still puts things in their mouth, DO NOT use these! They are VERY harmful if swallowed and can cause your little one to need surgery to remove them. It’s scary!
Please do not use water beads until your kiddos are old enough to play with them safely AND you commit to watching them like a hawk! You can’t take your eyes off of them while they’re playing with these. If you’re not sure if your kiddos are ready or not, it’s best to wait. Better safe than sorry! (Oh, and make sure you don’t put these down the drain, either! They can also cause problems with your plumbing.)
Now that I’ve given you that important warning, let’s get back to the fun! Watching water beads grow is really neat! All you do is put them in a bowl of water, and you can see them change right before your eyes (they start growing within 15 minutes, although I usually leave ours out overnight to absorb as much water as possible!)
Water beads are fun to touch, squish, and scoop! I like to add foam shapes, scoopers, and funnels for my students, but there are SO many other ways you can play with them!
Keep reading for 5 more ideas for you to try in your preschool summer sensory bin!
1. COLOR SORTING
Set out colorful cups, and have your little one sort the water beads into the correct cups. Not only does this practice color recognition and visual discrimination, but it also helps your students develop their fine motor muscles. You could add tweezers or tongs as an option!
2. SHAVING CREAM
Full disclosure…my kids did not really like this one! Neither of them love getting their hands messy, although we’re working on that. But I LOVED it! Shaving cream really engages our senses of smell & touch, and adding water beads to it makes it so much more fun! Plus, you can FREEZE the shaving cream…but more on that later in this post!
3. WATER BEADS IN A BAG
If you’re not sure about trying water beads yet, you could try this safer option instead. Just put your water beads in a ziplock bag and you’ll still have a ton of fun! We put ours in a bag and taped it to our sensory table. My little guy loved smashing the water beads through the bag!
4. FROZEN WATER BEADS
Yep, it’s true, you can even freeze water beads! How cool is that?! We froze them in 3 different ways to see what would happen.
First, we froze them in a plastic container. They came out looking like this:
They were pretty much still individual water beads, just small and cold and hard. Easy to break apart from each other!
Next, we froze them in a plastic container with water. They came out looking like this:
These were frozen inside of an ice cube! We had fun melting the ice with salt, squirt bottles of water, & toy hammers.
Last, we froze the tray of shaving cream & water beads. It turned out like this:
This was my favorite activity! I loved how cold the shaving cream was on my hands…it felt like I was playing in the snow!
5. POPSICLE PATTERNS
One last way you can play with water beads…use them as a sensory bin for a fun printable activity! We used them with this FREE Popsicle Patterns activity. We put the popsicles in the water beads, then pulled them out and used them to make patterns.
This activity (along with all of our freebies!) can be downloaded from the Free Activity Library. If you’re already a member of our email community, you can click HERE to head to the Free Activity Library, enter your password (it’s on your most current email from me), and download your copy!
If you’d like to join our email community & receive the password as my way of saying THANK YOU for joining, you can click HERE to subscribe. Once you enter your information, the password will be emailed to you within minutes.
Do your littles love playing with sensory bins? Do you have any preschool summer sensory bin ideas? I’d love to hear them! Comment below or head over to Instagram [@littleslovelearningblog] and share there!
MORE SUMMER SENSORY BINS
Are you interested in more summer sensory bins? Check out this post from my friend Kristina from Sweet for Kindergarten for a list of amazing sensory bins to use with your preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten students. There’s sure to be one on the list that works best for your littles!