Beans make such a great sensory bin filler!
They feel cool to the touch and have a nice weight when you hold them by the handful.
They also make a lovely soothing noise when you run your fingers through them.
Not to mention they are super cheap! Grab a few bags next time you are out to have on hand for an easy, on the fly sensory bin.
We used tan beans for this particular sensory bin. White beans can easily be dyed rainbow colors for a more colorful sensory bin, and black beans are great for a Halloween sensory bin.
We used this sensory bin as a practice station for scooping, pouring, and transferring!
Benefits of Scoop, Pour, and Transfer Activities
Scooping, pouring, and transferring are three separate skills that are important for toddler development.
You will likely find that your toddler will focus on sensory activities involving these skills for a longer period of time than with other toys.
This is because toddlers naturally crave sensory input. As their little brains develop, toddlers are naturally drawn to developmentally appropriate sensory activities such as scooping and pouring. Activities that stimulate the senses promote high engagement which leads to longer attention spans – giving you a few extra minutes to yourself!
When toddlers scoop, pour, and transfer they explore…
- Gravity. They notice how the beans drop back down when spilled, poured, or dropped.
- Cause and effect. When they tip the cup or dump the spoon, they cause the beans to fall.
- Weight. The spoon of beans feels lighter with only one bean and heavier with more beans.
- Fine motor skills. Scooping beans with a spoon allows your toddler to fine tune the little muscles necessary for self feeding and other essential skills.
- Self awareness. Your little one might initially want to dump the beans all over the floor, but will soon realize it’s difficult to move about in a messy space and even harder to replace all those beans one by one!
Benefits of Sensory Bin Play
The best learning occurs when multiple senses are engaged. It’s important for your toddler to explore through sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and movement.
Engaging in sensory bin play facilitates vocabulary development as you and your toddler discuss different textures, sights, sounds and smells.
Sensory play also strengthens muscles as they engage in fine motor activities (holding a spoon) and gross motor activities (holding their arm steady as they transfer from one container to another).
Sensory play encourages critical thinking and problem solving skills as toddlers explore different ways to achieve desired goals.
So now that you feel good about providing your child with sensory play, let’s get to the sensory bin!
Although we used beans for this activity, feel free to substitute with anything you have around the house!
Other great sensory bin fillers include:
- uncooked or cooked pasta
- ice cubes
Use your imagination and go with whatever is easiest!
Related Post: 24+ Awesome Fall Sensory Bins
Pin for Later!
Sensory Bin Idea: Scoop, Pour, and Transfer Beans
This activity is not recommended for toddlers who still put everything in their mouths. Adult supervision is required for all activities on this website. Use good judgement when selecting activities – nobody knows your child better than you!
- plastic bin
- ice cube tray or plastic containers
- play kitchen utensils
I purchased all my materials on a recent dollar tree haul. We have tried this activity using ice cube trays, bowls, food storage containers, measuring cups, you name it. Just use any kitchen utensils or containers you have available!
To make cleaning up stray beans easier, I usually set this activity up on top of my Ikea serving tray. I have also used a large disposable tin baking pan.
Pour the beans into a small storage box and place containers or an ice cube tray beside it.
Provide cups and utensils for scooping and let your toddler go to town!
The first time we tried this sensory bin I kept it pretty simple. I set my daughter up on the kitchen floor with her play kitchen utensils, a bin of beans, and an ice cube tray and let her scoop away!
She loved testing out the different utensils to transfer the beans from the bin to the ice tray and containers. For some reason she is especially intrigued by the ice cube tray!
Several times she dropped beans on the floor which was the perfect opportunity to practice her little pincer grasp and place them back in the bin.
Overall, she played with this sensory bin for just over 20 minutes!
I’m pretty sure that’s nearly two hours in toddler time, so I’ll take that as a huge win.
Sensory Bin Clean Up (so many beans…)
We’ve tried this sensory bin several times now. I’ve noticed that when my little one is tiring of playing with this activity, she will attempt to dump the entire bin out on the floor.
That’s my cue that playtime with this particular bin is OVER!
At this point I will quickly intervene and do my best to get there in time to stop the dumping!
I encourage my toddler to help me clean up any stray beans. We place the utensils and ice tray back in the bin and replace the lid.
Everything fits nicely inside a small dollar tree storage bin which makes for a super easy clean up, as long as the beans haven’t been dumped!
Are you are worried about the entire bin being dumped all over the floor making a huge mess?
We’re talking about toddlers here so let’s be real, it happens.
I suggest throwing down a blanket and setting the bin on a serving tray or in a large baking tin. The tray will catch any dropped beans and if your toddler decides to fully dump everything, you can just pick up the blanket for an easy cleanup.
The first time is usually the messiest, but by now my toddler is usually content to scoop and pour for a good 15-20 minutes without dumping the entire thing.
Don’t give up if this activity doesn’t go the way you expect the first time!
Sensory Bin Bean Safety
A note about choking hazards:
Unfortunately there is something about beans that makes my little one just love to put them in her mouth, moreso than with our other sensory bin fillers. So we only pull it out every now and then when I can make sure I’m fully supervising her.
The first time we tried this sensory bin with beans, I made the mistake of making a big deal out her putting the beans in her mouth. I gave her a firm and emphatic “NO MOUTH!” verbal command.
Unfortunately at 16 months, giving her a response like that only encouraged her to do it again. She became fixated on repeating the action to test if I would give her that same strong reaction again.
After all, this time of voice is very different from the one she usually hears from me. So it’s only natural for her to want to explore this new side of Mommy.
Since then I’ve found that she only puts the beans in her mouth when she thinks I’m watching.
If I busy myself with something like doing dishes, she will happily scoop, pour, and transfer with very little mouthing.
Last time we pulled out this sensory bin I ignored the mouthing and noticed out of the corner of my eye that she quickly spit the beans out and moved on.
So for me, for the time being, I have found it best to try not to make eye contact with her while she plays with this sensory bin! I busy myself with doing what I need to do in the kitchen. Of course I still watch her carefully, but I am sneaky about it!
If the mouthing becomes too frequent, we end the activity and move on to something else.
Yes, this sensory bin does pose a choking hazard, so you will need to decide if your little one is ready for it or not. I personally feel confident that my toddler has moved away from putting beans in her mouth for the most part.
It’s up to you to decide what’s best in your toddler’s current phase and age. Every child is different! You know your child best.
No matter what, this activity should only be done with close supervision! If your child is still in the phase of trying to eat EVERYTHING, then I do not recommend this activity.
Sensory Bin Fun
Have you tried sensory bins with your toddler? If you have a favorite sensory bin, leave it in the comments!
For more sensory bin ideas check out my list of 24+ Awesome Fall Sensory Bins!
More Sensory Play Ideas
- 30+ Fun and Easy Sticky Wall Ideas
- Pom-Pom Scoop & Transfer Color Sort
- How to Make Ice Cream in a Bag with Toddlers
- No Mess Smush Painting Project (easy & beautiful!)