As summer seems to have rapidly disappeared and we’re getting more rainy days, I’ve been thinking of new activities to keep Ollie entertained indoors. This week I made him a lavender sensory bin which we had great fun with.
A sensory bin or sensory box is basically a container filled with objects that stimulate a child’s senses. You can put anything you like in them, so it can be a very thrifty activity. Just use objects and toys you have around the house! I use food in a lot of sensory play. Firstly, because it doesn’t cost me anything as I use items we already have in the kitchen. Secondly, because I think playing with food is a great way to get kids to become more interested in trying foods with different textures.
I decided to go with a lavender theme this week because Ollie really seems to like it. Over the summer we’ve been spending lots of time in the garden. Ollie is at a stage where he’s really interested in nature and loves the flowers and plants we have in our garden. Our lavender bush is his favourite plant and he always takes time to go and smell it when we play outside. Lavender flowers from July to September so now is the perfect time for this activity!
Sensory bins are great rainy day activities. If you use a deep box, the stuff inside will be contained so you won’t make too much mess. If it’s nice and sunny outside, you can play with your sensory bin in the garden.
How To Make A Lavender Sensory Bin
The first thing you need for a sensory bin is a strong container. It needs to be big enough to hold all the items, and deep enough so that they can’t spill out over the sides. I used a clear plastic box, as we have loads of them around the house. Storage boxes, big tupperware boxes or even baby baths all work well.
Next you’ll need a filler or base material. This is the main part of the sensory bin and you can use anything you like. I’ve made sensory bins with oats, spaghetti and shredded paper before. For this one, I used rice because I think it’s a great sensory play material. It’s an interesting texture, makes a good noise, you can dye it and make it smell nice, and you can use it over and over again. See how to make lavender scented rice below.
Next you need to fill your sensory bin with items for your child to play with. As this one is lavender themed, you’re going to want to include some lavender! We have a couple of lavender bushes in our garden, so I just trimmed a few pieces off those. If you want to get a plant, they’re pretty cheap to buy from garden centres and even supermarkets. Or you could go for a nature walk and try and forage your own.
I also added some pink and purple flowers from the garden. The colours and scent add to the sensory experience. Plus it’s nice way for children to investigate nature without them ruining your garden! The flowers add a different texture which is all part of the sensory experience.
I also added a few toys as an invitation to play. I chose plastic cups and a teapot because they’re good for filling, scooping and transferring. We also used plastic cutlery so he could make marks in the rice. You can include any toys you like. Toy cars are good for creating marks and tracks, and toy figures are good for stimulating imaginary play.
How To Make Lavender Scented Rice
You can either dye your rice with food colouring (using the technique I used for my rainbow rice), or you can use paint. I used paint to make sure the smell of lavender wasn’t overpowered by the vinegar used in the food colouring technique.
I dye my rice one cupful at a time to make sure the colour mixes well. Just put it in a sealable container and add some purple paint. I use about one tablespoon to start with the test the shade it produces. If you don’t have purple paint, mix blue and red – but make sure you mix it before you add it to the rice. Otherwise you can end up with multicoloured rice! Seal the container and give it a good shake. If you’re not happy with the colour, just add more paint until you are.
Grab some pieces of lavender and crush them into the container. Mix it in well and leave the rice to dry. Once it’s dry, add some more lavender, give it a good shake and leave it in a sealed container. I left mine overnight so the lavender scent would really soak in to the rice. When I opened the box in the morning it smelt amazing! You could also add lavender essential oil if you want a stronger scent, but I haven’t tried it myself. I’m not sure if it would affect the paint, but I’m sure it would dry out.
Invitation To Play
Just set your sensory bin out somewhere for your child to play with. Including toys lets them know it’s a safe place to play. Ollie was really interested in the bin and immediately started scooping the rice up in his hands. He loved filling the cups and tipping the rice out and listening to the noise it made. He used the cutlery to move the rice around the bin and transfer it into the teapot. I sat on the floor with him and we played together. We worked on his colour recognition as I asked him what colour the rice and the flowers were.
Ollie and I both really enjoyed this activity. It was very simple to prepare and didn’t cost me a penny as I just used items we already had. I’ve saved the rice in an airtight container so we can use it again. We will definitely be making more sensory bins in future so watch this space!