Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sensory Tubs

It was cloudy yesterday and kept looking like it was going to rain.  So I took the opportunity to do something fun indoors that I've been wanting to do with the kids.  This is, of course, an item from our Summer List

I was quite inspired when I saw this post about Sensory Tubs.  There are TONS of ideas for various sensory tubs, which was something I had never even heard of before I saw these awesome ideas.  {By the way, I will probably never do the Jell-o one! :)  I know my limits for my mess capacity.}

I went to Walmart last week to buy supplies for several activities, including this one.  You could definitely use stuff you already have on hand, but I wanted to buy supplies to make three different sensory tubs so the kids could each have one.  Everything I bought can be reused for future sensory tubs as well.

I noticed in the link above that the sensory tubs had various fillers.  I chose three different fillers for my kids' tubs so they would each look and feel different.

I bought split peas, black beans, and rice for fillers.  I bought wide, shallow bins with lids so I can snap the lids on and reuse the sensory bins ($3.97 each).  Then came the fun part!  I walked all around Walmart and tried to think like a child.  Anything can be used for a different purpose than the obvious one.  For our first sensory bin experience, I thought it would be fun to put "buried treasures" in the fillers and have the kids hunt for them.  I can't wait to get to the dollar store to find more treasures and tools for the next time we do sensory tubs.

Here's what we had this time:

The tools:  measuring cups and spoons ($0.88 for each 8-piece cup/spoon set! and $1.88 for each liquid measuring cup), scoops ($0.94 and $0.97), and a strainer (with large enough holes for the rice and peas to fit through so the kids could sift out treasures; $3.27)

Treasures:  alphabet and number magnets (which we ended up not using yet today; $0.94 each), sea animal erasers ($0.97), princess fairy erasers ($1.97), fun shaped paper clips ($1.00), pirate compasses ($0.50 despite the $1.50 price tag!), and neon pom-poms($0.97)

Some more random stuff:  unidentified black pipe pieces ($0.75 each), clothespins ($0.97 for the whole package), hair nets ($1.57 for 3), and shower curtain rings ($0.50)

Allow me to explain some items.  I walked down the clearance aisle and looked for anything that I thought we could use.  Nora was pumped about those princess fairy erasers, so I'm glad I snagged those for cheap.  The paper clips were also on clearance, and the kids loved all the shapes.  The shower curtain rings were a hit with all three kids.  They used them as bracelets, props, and just enjoyed burying and uncovering them.  The black pipe pieces were in the clearance aisle for mere cents, and Griffin enjoyed pouring rice in them.  The pirate compasses went over very well with the boys.  I buried two in each of their bins.  Griffin talked about them the rest of the day.  He's into maps right now, so the compass was right on target. 

I looked everywhere for some good tongs for the kids to pick up their treasures, but I couldn't find any small enough.  I wish I could find some of those kid chopsticks.  But then I had an aha moment and we used clothespins for the kids to grab the little treasures.  They didn't use them very much, but I'll try again next time because picking things up with tweezers/tongs is supposed to help them develop fine motor skills.

So, you're probably wondering about those hair nets.  Remember, I was very open-minded while shopping.  I saw those hideous hair nets in the clearance aisle, and I thought they could be tools for the kids to get their treasures out.  I was right because Nolan said his was a fishing net and his treasures were his fish.  He actually spent more time using the hair net than any other tool.

Here are lots of pictures of the kids enjoying their sensory tubs:

I set up the tubs in our living room because we don't spend much time in that room, and I thought a change of scenery would be good.  Some of the rice/beans/peas got out of the bins, of course.  We scooped up and returned what we could.  When the kids were all done, and I had picked up what I could by hand, I used a broom to sweep the wood floor and the vacuum to clean the rug.  I think this was a good spot because the rug contained most of the spills and was easy to vacuum.

Some of the messes:

Griffin got curious and wanted to taste the rice:
And Nora followed his example:
You can guess how it went...

Eventually the kids wanted to bury their body parts in the rice/beans/peas.  I allowed hands and arms but denied their requests to try heads and legs.

Just as I predicted, Nora got bored first and started wandering around.  Nolan was the most vocal about what he was doing, and he was willing to work together with Nora on his treasure adventures.  Griffin stuck with it the longest, which I figured because this is exactly the sort of thing he loves to do.  He keeps asking me when we'll do it again!

I will absolutely do these again.  Now we can have fun with burying different treasures and giving the kids new challenges and activities.  They can work on measuring with their cups, matching numbers/letters, finding things that are a certain color, etc.  This will be a fantastic activity for rainy days and for winter days, as well as something we could easily take outside right now.

These were definitely a big success!



  1. Love these! So proud of you for doing this - you are always braver than I am with cool activities!

  2. Fantastic activity! You did a lot of work to prep for this and clearly it was a UGE success. Thanks for doing such fun summertime stuff with our little ones. I have just one question - where is my sensory tub?