This post was contributed by Sarah of Little Bins For Little Hands.
Some Sensory Play & Learning for Valentine’s Day!
We love sensory play, and I love finding new ways to work on basic early learning skills. Why not pair the two together for some awesome hands-on activities that make learning fun and always a surprise! Every once in a while, I pick up a new bag of water beads. I like the kind you need to hydrate in water for a few hours. They can be found in the floral decorating section of any craft store. You can purchase them already hydrated in containers too. Liam enjoys watching them grow throughout the day. It really is amazing to watch the water beads get bigger and “drink up” all the water, as he says!
Since Valentine’s Day is soon approaching, I picked up his favorite color water beads, pink! We put the water beads and a quart or so of water in a small, clear plastic bin, and then we waited. I also assembled some other items to add to the bin. Also at the craft store I stocked up on some acrylic hearts in red, purple and clear and a big bag of buttons. Every holiday or season, I like to look through the sales and gather my coupons to add to my stash of little items for sensory bins and other activities. Both the hearts and buttons will be used for so many other things too!
Once the beads were plumped I added the buttons and hearts into the sensory bin. Such a pretty mix of Valentines Day colors and also great camouflage for making us really use our eyes and hands to look for the items!
Water Beads Sensory Play Activity #1:
Sorting Buttons and Hearts
I placed two small containers and a pair of tongs on a cookie sheet (all from the dollar store) next to the water beads sensory play bin. My son’s job was to sort the buttons into one container and the hearts into the other container using the tongs. He works on sorting skills and fine motor skills all in one! Once both items were sorted, we took the activity a bit farther. Liam sorted the buttons by color and then counted each color! We also did it for the hearts. Great math fun for preschoolers!
Water Beads Sensory Play Activity #2:
Toothpicks and Water Beads Fine Motor Skills
Our next water beads sensory play tray included styrofoam, toothpicks and a bowl of water beads for some fine motor skill development. Liam carefully took out a toothpick, carefully picked up a water bead, and then carefully stuck it into the water beads. Then he stuck the toothpick into the styrofoam. He needed to move slowly and carefully and concentrate on what he was doing to not break the water bead. The water beads looked pretty cool too!
Water Beads Sensory Play Activity #3:
Cookie Cutter Measuring Math Activity
How many water beads does it take to fill the cookie cutter? Our last water beads sensory play activity is all about math! I put various sizes of heart cookie cutters on a cookie sheet. The goal was to see how many water beads filled the inside of each cookie cutter. He counted as he went along fitting in as many as he could. We talked about which ones held more and which ones held less. This was great for 1:1 counting, fine motor skills, and understanding the concept of more and less. Also great for measuring.
Of course what water sensory play bin wouldn’t be complete without some free play. He did a little free play with the sensory bin and ran his hands through the beads. He likes the structure of activities I create for our sensory bins, but the great thing about sensory play for these hands-on learning activities is that it provides a constant sensory input he often needs to enjoy learning and playing! Using the water beads as part of our activities is still sensory play and he enjoys it!
Have you tried water beads lately? They are a blast for every one of all ages!