Fine motor skill building has been the most challenging thing for me to conquer with my littles. We've got gross motor pretty much on lock, but fine motor skill building always seems to make a mess! Sensory bins, slime, ooblek, play doh... all things that sound like a lot of fun for other mom's to do with their kids. My kids are messy enough without me letting them play with messy things. That was my mindset until recently. Recently I realized that I am going to spend my whole life cleaning. Whether it's cleaning up after them, their father, myself... hopefully my grandkids one day, I'm going to be cleaning for a lot of years. If I'm going to be cleaning anyway, we need to be learning and having fun.
Because of my previous mentality, I'm pretty new to the sensory bin and fine motor play world. I've seen it done with rice, oatmeal and beans and they're all awesome. I just haven't been sure about where to start until now. The other issue has always been keeping four whole humans entertained simultaneously. Why I didn't consider making four different sensory bins for them prior to now, I'll never understand, but it truly did not cross my mind.
So, now that I've had all the realizations I need to make this work, I'm building bins! I want to give you all a little sneak peak into my bin building setup.
It's a super simple structure: a container, a base, an extractable item and an extractor. Can't get easier! Because we still have a baby who puts a million things in her mouth I try to make sure our extractable item is not a choking hazard. I'll break this down by category.
Containers. We all know I'm obsessed with Dollar Tree, I don't know why anyone would be surprised at this point. My local store has shoe box size plastic bins with lids. Keeping the mess contained is paramount. I know I'm going to have a mess to clean, but minimizing as much as possible is absolutely necessary. I keep containers with lids on hand for the most part, so getting my hands on a decent sensory bin container was simple enough. If you don't want Dollar Tree bins for whatever reason Amazon or Walmart will have the same thing. It won't be a dollar though, so... chose wisely. I am actually using bins I ordered on Amazon, so I'm not even taking my own advice this time, ha!
Base. I've seen so many different sensory bins, it blows my mind. Everything from beans or rice to slime or water. There is no way on earth I'd let my kids, Lana especially because she's a mess queen, play with a water or slime sensory bin inside my house. I don't recommend you do either. But beans, rice, oatmeal and sand seem more reasonable to clean up in the house. We've been blessed with some outdoor space, so sensory stuff typically happens outside anyway.
Extractable items. Honestly, I just sort through their toys for kinda small toys and toss them in the bin. The math manipulatives we have work wonderfully, too! I stick the little bears in a box of rice and Uriah will dance his heart out extracting just the yellow bears and then the blue. It's really a good learning tool overall. We're working little muscles and his little color recognition skills. Lana has a pile of tiny unicorns I got from Dollar Tree (surprise, surprise) and finding her little toys in the box of sand makes the activity that much more fun for her. Zadok just gets hyped about making a mess.
Extractor. The idea is the move the muscles they wouldn't normally use, so an extractor is pretty necessary. for a while I just let them use their fingers and it seemed to occupy them. Since adding in tools they've become so much more invested in the project. Our local Dollar Tree has large plastic tweezers in their school section. These are everyone's favorite tool. We also dig through the kitchen for extractors. Slotted spoons, colanders (for sand and water), forks, chip clips and clothes pins are the most popular. There really is no end to the available tools if you search around the house thoroughly enough.
It's messy, it can get loud and sometimes I get frustrated just thinking about doing a sensory bin, but we do need to brush up on fine motor. At the end of the day I have to let go of the idea of a perfect house for a while and let them be little. I never thought I'd be the one worked up over messes, but here I am! Thankfully I'm learning this lesson when they're still little.