Preschoolers are like little raccoons. They love all things sparkly, which is just one reason why this Valentine’s sensory bin was such a huge hit! With practically neon pink rice and handfuls of light pink and red gems (and a few giant diamonds), what’s not to like about this sensory activity for preschoolers?
Be sure to check out all our other Valentine’s Day activities, too!
Our Favorite Valentine’s Day Themed Sensory Bin
I have this problem when I go to Hobby Lobby.
Do you have a Hobby Lobby near you? You’re lucky if you don’t. That’s right…if you don’t. Because otherwise you might have this problem, too.
The problem is this: I want everything! I mean, talk about a great place for creative inspiration! A good blogging friend of mine said that strolling the aisles of Hobby Lobby (by herself, I might add), is one of her favorite ways to relax.
And I know why.
Because if you are a teacher, or a parent of growing humans, you have some creativity in you, and creativity often is inspired by one of two things:
- a problem that needs a solution. Um, having trouble keeping track of everyone’s snow hats and gloves and such? Keep them in an over-the-door shoe rack. Try it. You’ll thank me later.
- or by something lovely staring you in the face. This is what happens when you spend an evening by yourself at a place like Hobby Lobby.
Because when I happened upon the aisle with all their seasonal decorations (ok, I know, it’s right inside the door; it didn’t happen very accidentally at all), you stop and look. And admire. And dream.
And the next thing you know you’ve loaded up your basket with a baggy or two each of acrylic hearts in pink and red, and acrylic gems in pink and red, and eight or more giant acrylic diamonds.
But honestly, that’s all ok because you end up with an awesome Valentine’s sensory bin! And when you teach a handful of preschoolers who are like little raccoons and drawn to shiny things, a trip to Hobby Lobby that results in such is a great thing.
Just have your husband talk to me. I’ll vouch for you.
FAQ About Teaching Friendship and Kindness in Preschool
A Valentines preschool theme makes an extra fun Valentine’s Day, but it is also the perfect time to do a little teaching about friendship and kindness. Here are some things to get you started.
One of the best ways to teach preschoolers about how to make and keep friends is by being a model for them during your own interactions with preschoolers. Show your preschoolers appropriate interactions and what it feels like to have a good friend by first being a friend to them.
Show them how to be kind and caring. When you help your preschoolers swaddle their baby doll, or open a cheese stick, or listen to their stories and answer their questions, your preschoolers will notice your kindness and want to be like you.
Modeling friendship is the first and best way to teach preschoolers about friends. Preschoolers also need to learn how to recognize their feelings and to reach out to an adult if they are feeling lonely or hurt.
Including friendship activities in circle time is also helpful. Teach your preschoolers to be good listeners, to respond to things that are said, and to be helpful. Friendship activities for preschoolers should also include collaborative activities and games, and random acts of kindness.
The possibilities for friendship activities are endless. Try playing cooperative games, working together on a single shared art project, doing building activities at the block center, or doing a scavenger hunt together. There are countless picture books that teach preschoolers about friendship, too.
This post features six printable friendship activities; each one is designed specifically to be used with preschoolers and toddlers. They are an easy and effective addition to your friendship theme in preschool.
Around the age of 3, children are starting to play more with each other and are forming new friendships. We talk about what makes a good friend, we do friendship activities, we read friendship stories, and we sing friendship songs. All year long.
Valentine’s Sensory Bin Kids Will Love
My preschoolers’ eyes nearly popped out of their happy little heads when they saw this sensory bin! Yes, it definitely has a girls’ appeal, but the boys liked it too! Sensory bins tend to make noise, which boys like. And this sensory bin had gigantic diamond shaped gems in it, which the boys liked to collect for treasures.
I think I have Valentine pirates in my class.
My point is, this is a super fun Valentine’s sensory bin, for both boys and girls!
- acrylic hearts (Here they are in red, pink, clear and even in rainbow colors).
- acrylic gems (I have pink and red, but you can also get a rainbow of colors).
- large acrylic diamonds (These are about 2″ across!)
- dyed rice or other Valentine-ish sensory bin filler
- heart shaped bins with lids (I grabbed mine from a dollar store).
Start by dying your rice. I used Colorations brand liquid watercolor. They are my favorite because they have so many different colors and they are so incredibly vibrant!
Carefully pour the dyed rice into the bin in stripes of color. Then gently add the gems and heart shaped bins.
Now invite your kiddos to come and have some Valentine’s sensory fun!
The Sensory Table Play
I say sensory table because of course you can make this exact same sensory bin in a table.
At first, the kids marveled at the sparkly pink, red, and purple gems and hearts. My daughter began counting them, as if counting loot after a great haul. I offered them some formula scoops to use in the bin. (Formula scoops make the best, scoops, by the way). They were just the right size to scoop the rice and gather up the smaller hearts and gems.
My daughter made quick work of collecting all the hearts, laying them out on the floor in long lines that stretched the length of the sensory bin. At first she just made lines, but another preschooler sat next to her and tried to make patterns with the hearts.
After several minutes they returned the gems to the bin and collected hearts in the little heart containers. The girls counted how many hearts could fit in the containers.
So far, the work has been very delicate. My preschoolers jabbered away at how pretty everything was, holding the large acrylic diamonds up in the air to look through them. My son filled formula scoops full of rice and held them up to closely examine them, looking for any gems that might be hidden in his scoop.
And then my daughter had an idea…
“Treasure!” she called out and used her hands and arms to scoop up as much of the sensory bin as possible, mixing all the gems and colors of rice together.
And then the others got involved, brushing the rice from side to side as if their hands were little brooms. They used the scoops to bury the gems in the rice and then it was a race to see who found them again!
These gems from this sensory bin we also used in this free Valentine printable.
How to Make this a Valentine Sensory Bin for Toddlers
This sensory bin was fitting for my own toddlers who are mostly past putting things in their mouths. But I only allow my toddlers to play in this sensory bin when 100%, fully supervised!
Here are some ways to make this Valentine’s sensory bin toddler safe:
- Replace the rice with a cereal base.
- Replace the rice with one inch of water dyed pink.
- Remove the acrylic hearts and gems and replace them with paper ones.
- Or use more large acrylic diamonds.
The Benefits of a Sensory Bin
You might be asking yourself the point of this sensory bin. Yes, it’s in warm Valentine’s colors (and pairs wonderfully with any Valentine’s theme in preschool) but beyond that, what is the point? Here is a short list of the “why” behind a sensory bin.
- Sensory bins give children opportunities to practice fine motor work, like scooping and pouring, which are life skills.
- Sensory bins develop language skills as children learn about the contents of the bin.
- Sensory bins encourage children to take turns and share.
- Sensory bins stimulate multiple senses at once.
- Sensory bins allow children to explore and learn through play, which is how they learn best.
These are only five reasons for sensory play, but I assure you if you Google it you will get pages and pages of the “why’ behind sensory play. I’ve even written about it multiple times.
While there are entire books on the benefits of sensory play, I love it for one simple reason:
And preschoolers like fun. They learn really well when something is fun. So, I’ll keep making sensory bins, even if it means more trips to Hobby Lobby.
I’m super torn up about that. (Can you read the sarcasm?)
More Valentines Sensory Bin Ideas
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.