If you are new to our site, take a minute to check out these posts to help take the stress out of the mess of creating with your kids!
- 5 Steps to Take the Stress Out of the Mess
- 10 Things You Need to Have for your Kids’ Art Projects
- Plan Ahead: The Secret to No Stress Fun with Your Kids
What you need:
- Things you probably have at home
- Plastic bin or box
- Tissue box, cardboard tubes (varying sizes)
- Plastic scoops, lids or small containers (varying sizes)
- Things to buy – schedule a reminder 1 – 2 weeks before you want to do this activity
- Black beans – this 4lb bag was a great size for my container
- Construction trucks or toys – definitely use what you have in the house, this doesn’t require special trucks
- Plastic bin – if you don’t already have one, here are two options for you:
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Ideal Age Range:
This is ideal for younger toddlers 1-2 and will work well for 3-4 year olds as well. (My 6 year old came home and saw his brother playing with something new and they played TOGETHER with this for almost a half hour while I finished dinner.)
Low. You do have to clean up the beans (which get everywhere), but they are easily swept up.
Less than 10 minutes!
Let me tell you a story about how my toddler played with this construction-themed sensory bin for over AN HOUR each day for three consecutive days! Even my 6 year old came and played with him for nearly 30 minutes (he can’t resist anything that looks new).
Take a look below for a very simple set up that leads to lots of exploration for your child (and passive scrolling time for you!).
How to Prep:
1-2 weeks before you want to do this, set yourself a calendar or task reminder to purchase any supplies you don’t have from the list above.
You can really use any bin or box that you have on hand. I like the clear plastic ones because I can reuse them week to week and because they have lids for easy storage.
This activity is all in your prep, so when you have 10 kid-free minutes gather everything you need on a table and have some fun! (If you need to wash the bind, make sure it is fully dry before starting.)
- Unbox the trucks. Test if they fit in your cardboard trucks. Mine didn’t because I wanted trucks a bit bigger for my 1 year old to be able to manipulate. Not a problem – I just cut open one of the tubes to make an easy truck/ bean slide.
- Put tissue box, crumpled up paper, or anything else you want to give height into the box. I used a tissue box for a truck slide and created a mountain with the paper from the shipping box for the trucks.
- Dump in the beans!
- Arrange small bowls, container lids, scoops, whatever you easily have on hand to transfer beans in and out.
- Arrange the toilet paper and paper towel tubes that you have in whatever way works. I cut one of my paper towel tubes in half and taped the top to the tissue box, creating a slide. I also taped two toilet paper tubes together to make a scoop/ tunnel.
- Place trucks around the bin
- Put the lid on and you are done!
It really is very straightforward and you can arrange things however you want to. Don’t get too caught up in it, just give your toddler a few things to scoop with and a few different things to put beads in or on. They will rearrange it all when they really start to play and make up their own game.
This activity doesn’t involve any active participation from you, just monitoring during play.
This activity can be totally passive for you. Just put the bin down and let them play while you monitor.
I would recommend playing outside, even though the beans don’t make a mess, they are going to come out of the bin and go everywhere.
My son doesn’t really mouth things anymore, but he did keep putting beans in his mouth. Definitely monitor because even though the beans are food, they are a choking hazard.
The ideal timeline is to use this bin for 1 – 3 days. Unfortunately when my 6 year old hopped in, he also introduced water, which made my beans get moldy on the bottom.
Extend the life of the bin: Rearrange all of the items each night so that it looks a little different to your toddler the next day. Buy some extra trucks and reserve a few that look different to change it up.
Let us know if your child liked this bin – most kids who are crazy about trucks will go nuts. How long were you able to take a break while they played? Did you try another filler instead of beans? Let us know if you liked this activity in the comments box below. If you want to pin, please use the image below.