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Christmas Sensory Play

If you have checked out my Instagram feed at all (@fdk_learnandplay), you'll see that I'm a huge fan of using sensory bins in the classroom. I find them to be so engaging for young learners, and a great entry point for all kids to join play. I also like to use them often for story retelling opportunities. I am planning to a post to really delve into my thoughts on sensory bins, as well as how I set them up in the classroom, but for now I thought I would highlight some Christmas bins that I have done. Tis the season, right?

I absolutely love using my collection of gingerbread themed books in the classroom, but my favourite one for retelling in kindergarten is the classic "Gingerbread Man" story. 

For this bin I used white rice as a base, and added in some cinnamon and real sprinkles to give it that "Christmas baking" feel. I added some authentic baking tools - a pan, rolling pin and gingerbread cookie cutter. Next, I added in elements from the story such as the animals and gingerbread cut outs, and lastly some miniature holiday cookies. The multi-sensory element was very engaging for my students, and I would often see them referring back to the story book (which I left by it) as they played.

Nativity bin

I loved this Nativity set from Melissa and Doug, and wanted to make it more interactive than just sitting on our prayer table. I used some leftover hay from some fall decorations as the filler in this bin to mimic the hay in the stable and manger from the story. 

Rice is a really great sensory bin filler, often one of my go-to's. Below are two different ways I used them in Christmas themed bins. The first one is an "I Spy" bin, since this particular year my students were really into that book series. I left the rice plain but added in Christmas fillers like ornaments and confetti to make it look festive. Under the rice I had hidden other objects like candy canes, nutcrackers, bells etc for the students to find - and had recording sheets nearby for them to draw and list what they found. The second bin had white rice, as well as rice that I dyed red and green. To add a multi-sensory element, I added a few drops of peppermint extract as I dyed it - to give it a candy cane feel. I added in some wooden Christmas blocks and a few ornaments, but otherwise left it quite open-ended, as that's what my group of students at the time needed. 

Now, if you aren't celebrating Christmas, but are just looking for some general winter sensory bins - look no further. "Snow" bins are always a huge hit with little ones! I've used a few different "snow" fillers, which I've included pictures of below. The first is a bag of dollar store fake snow, which I used in this Arctic animals bin. I added in some clear, flat marbles and plastic snow flakes to give it some depth and make it more visually stimulating. I chose all white animals for this bin, because we were learning about how animals in the Arctic are able to camouflage, but this would work well with regular woodland animals as well for a hibernation bin. 

                          Arctic animals bin                           
For a snowman theme, I found using cotton balls was great. I based this next bin off of the "Snowmen at Night" series. I added some snowman peg people that I painted (if you look closely you can see them hiding in there), and some little sleds. I really didn't need to add much to this one, as the kids loved the book and playing with the pegs.

Snowmen at Night
The last bin I'm going to show is one that I used in February for Valentine's Day, but if you took out the little plastic hearts it would be perfect for any winter month. This was a hot chocolate bin, and it smelled heavenly! I used a basic cloud dough recipe (flour and baby oil), but substituted some of the flour for actual hot cocoa powder. I added in some cups, whisks, pots, and mini marshmallows. We obviously had to have a discussion about not eating anything in the bin, but I never had an issue with anyone trying that. Since most of them had real life experiences with hot chocolate, they absolutely loved acting those memories out with this bin! 

Hot chocolate bin

Winter days can feel long when you're stuck inside due to temperature or weather conditions, why not break it up with some fun and engaging sensory play! 


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