This summer sensory bin is so vibrant and inviting! Filled with dyed dried beans, this colorful bin offers amazing sensory experiences. Be sure to check out all my summer themed learning activities here.
Dyed Beans Summer Sensory Bin
A summer sensory bin doesn’t have to be elaborate. Something colorful and suitable for outside will do. Something even as simple as some dyed lima beans and plastic cups and tubes in coordinating colors.
It does not need to have an overarching theme that screams summertime. It does not have to include water, either. The bin I set up for my preschoolers couldn’t have been more simple, and yet with such basic materials couldn’t have been more appropriate for our summer learning outside.
FAQ About Using Dried Beans in a Sensory Bin
Just about any dried bean will work as a sensory bin filler. It all depends on the look you are trying to achieve. Generally, all beans will scoop and pour well, but of course smaller beans will be more fluid in movement. In our summer sensory bin, we used lima beans.
White beans work the best for dying dried beans for sensory play. To dye beans, just add the desired amount of beans to a zip top baggie. Add some liquid water color or food dye, as well as a squirt of hand sanitizer. Zip up the baggie and shake until the beans are evenly coated.
Add more coloring if you desire a darker or more saturated color. Once the desired color is achieved, lay the beans in an even layer on a parchment paper lined pan and allow to dry for several hours.
This is also how to dye rice or pasta for a sensory bin.
Yes! Dried beans are a choking hazard, so when using them in sensory play children should always have adult supervision, just like in water play.
Please do not leave your child unsupervised during any kind of sensory play. Instead, get down and play with your child, modeling the proper way to handle the sensory bin filler, so as to teach the child not to explore with their mouth.
How to Make a Simple Sensory Bin for Summer
This one couldn’t be more quick and easy. Dyed beans can be used multiple times. (I’ll tell you how we sanitize them down below).
- large tote for sensory bin or sensory table
- dried lima beans (or other white bean)
- liquid watercolor
- small plastic shot glasses (preferably clear)
- small plastic tubes glasses (preferably clear)
The first step is to dye your lima beans using the instructions in the frequently asked questions above. Use a different baggie for each color so the color from the previous batch doesn’t bleed into the new color. For this sensory tub, I chose colors hat coordinated with the plastic shot glasses and plastic tubes glasses.
Pour the beans in rows in the sensory bin. Then, add the colorful plastic glasses and tubes.
Invite your child to play. It’s that easy!
Playing in a Summer Sensory Bin
Of course, the first thing the preschoolers did was to spread the beans around and mix up the colors, and doing so made the sensory bin even more fun! Look at the photo!
And they scooped and poured. And poured and scooped. Twisting and turning their wrists in just the right way to spill the beans from one tube or cup into another.
And the noise the beans made as they were shoved around in the bin and dropped from different distances did not escape their little ears, and only piqued their interest.
Some students discovered that the beans made different noises being dropped from a distance back into the bin than they did when dropped into a cup or one of the tubes. They tried dropping them into piles of beans and onto the concrete (although I discourage the later to minimize the mess).
All the while other students attempted to sort the beans back into their color categories.
The great thing about dyed beans for a sensory bin is that as long as they don’t get wet they will basically last indefinitely. I still have some from over two years ago.
How to Store Dyed Beans for Reuse
After your preschoolers are done with the sensory bin, you can collect the beans and save them for later use. (Use your best judgement here. Sometimes materials in a sensory bin get too much love to save.
To save your dyed beans, simply put them back into a zip top baggie and spray them down with rubbing alcohol. Use a small spray bottle from the dollar store, fill it half way with rubbing alcohol, and give the beans a good spray, and then shake!
Then, lay the beans out to dry.
Like dyed rice, I keep mine stored in an airtight zip-top baggie.
More Sensory Bin Ideas for Preschoolers
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.