Sensory Bins and Language
Children use their senses to explore and learn about the world around them. Sensory play can easily be incorporated into your home routine because often times you can create these opportunities with items that you find around your house and are readily available. Children can use their senses to imagine, explore, and learn. Sensory bins are tactile experiences in a contained area such as a storage bin.
We began using sensory bins when my daughter was 1 year old, however I've seen babies as young as 6 months enjoy these too. Our very first sensory bin was colored rice with horses. My daughter was into horses and we were able to search and find all the horses to scoop them up and out into smaller containers. Since then we have tried different types of sensory bins and have been pleased with every experience.
In our home we have the rule that the filler material must stay inside the bins. We can only take out and move the items. I usually like to lay out a large fitted bed sheet on the floor so that whatever filler does come out can easily be collected and the mess is kept to a minimum.
There is endless possibilities for fillings. Both my kids like the colored rice but we have explored other fillings as well. Beans, popcorn kernels, play sand, water, ice, feathers, marbles, bird feed, cheerios, pasta, pom poms, rocks...and the list goes on and on.
We mostly use sensory bins to practice specific skills. We can sort by different attributes or finding matches. Not to mention the themes are endless. If we are learning about colors I can take black beans as our filler and dump in colored buttons and have my children sort these by color as they take them out. If we are reading about insects I can take our sand and dump in plastic insects to have my children sort the the insects between those with wings and those without. We can talk about what the insects are called and how they get around. If we want to practice our letters we can use use soft pompoms as fillers and dump in plastic magnetic letters. As I write a letter on a white board we search for that same letter in the bin until we find it. Not to mention there are so many tools that your child can use to extract the specific items such as tweezers, spoons, or droppers.
The above are ideas to exercise a child's fine motor and academic skills. Just as important as those, we have language! These activities must be accompanied with language. I always introduce the activity naming our filler material and the items inside. "Vamos a jugar con nuestra caja de sentido. Mira estos son frijoles. Vamos a clasificar los botones por color." Then I ask them about the filler material. We always establish that we do not eat the filler material and keep it inside our bins. We talk about the activity possibly picking up an item and identifying the color or its other physical attributes. "Qué es esto? Es un boton. Es un boton rojo. Los botones rojos van en el plato rojo. Asi." We do the activity together until I see that they have understood what to do and can do it on their own. When they are independently playing I encourage them to narrate their activity or I ask them questions as they play. "De qué color es ese boton? Donde lo vas a poner?"
Whether we are playing or simply doing an everyday activity we are always speaking in our target language. The more often our children hear us using it and the more we provide them the opportunities to also use the language we are establishing a better foundation for language learning.
As always, Nene Bilingüe wants to hear about your stories raising bilingual children. Do you also use sensory bins, how do you incorporate language with yours? Please share - comment, email, and follow us on social media (@nene_bilingue).