Encourage your little ones to explore the outdoors, gardening and playing in the dirt with a fun and easy-to-set-up gardening sensory bin invitation to play from MamaPapaBubba.
By Jen Kossowan
Dare I say it? Okay, I will... Our beautiful fall weather has finally arrived! And thank goodness for that. Too many more visits to our go-to indoor play areas just may have driven me mad.
Of course, our time outdoors here in Kuwait isn’t quite the same as it is back home in Canada, but with plenty of beaches and parks to visit, plus loads of play down in our courtyard, we really can’t complain. One of the things we do miss though, is gardening. Back home, we were able to grow many of our own fruits, vegetables, and herbs, but given our living situation here in Kuwait, along with the extreme heat we have for much of the year, a garden is just not all that feasible. That doesn’t, however, mean that we can’t pretend!
Digging in the dirt is an important part of childhood after all, right? To do this, we usually set up a simple gardening sensory bin. If you’re new to the world of sensory bins, they are basically plastic tubs filled with materials that stimulate the senses. Some are very simple, some are more complex, some are themed, and some are not. The important part is that they encourage children to explore in an open-ended way, while letting their creativity and problem solving skills lead the way.
This particular sensory bin is one that I introduced to my daughter when she was about 17 months old and she still loves it now at 4 years old. Of course, gardening sensory bins can look many different ways, but for ours, we use potting soil as a base, filling the bin about 1/3 of the way full.
On top, I carefully place several things you would see in a real garden - several eco-pots, a garden spade, a small rake, a larger shovel, some faux flowers and a packet of seeds. Just for fun, I often add a couple of little extras, which in this case are the wooden ladybugs and white picket fence. Other fun additions could include plant tags, pretend earth worms, pinwheels, and small spray bottles of water. We usually just use whatever we have on hand.
To set it up for play, I place the bin on top of an inexpensive shower curtain which catches the little bit of dirt that inevitably falls to the ground and makes clean-up afterwards a breeze. From there, it’s time to play! Some kids might explore the bin by raking the dirt, some may scoop soil into pots, and some may plant pretend flowers.
Others may just play in the soil with their hands, which is perfectly acceptable and loads of fun! There’s really no ‘right’ way to play, which is the beauty of a sensory bin. As a parent or caregiver, I usually try to stay back, let the kids lead their own play for as long as possible, and step in only when needed. Or, if I feel like it may extend the play, I’ll play alongside the kids, simply doing my own thing within the bin.
Then, when I can see the interest starting to die down, I may lure them back in by initiating a new way to play - in this case, with a ladybug or seed ‘treasure hunt’ in the soil. Afterwards, as long as there’s no immediate need for the bin, I’ll tidy it up and tuck it away for a couple more rounds of play before disassembling it, which means that we have a fun and engaging activity prepped and ready to go for next time. Win-win!
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