Corn kernels make a great sensory bin filler, and they are even better for a farm themed scooping and pouring activity for toddlers. So grab a jug of popcorn kernels the next time you are at Costco and offer this creative farm sensory bin to your toddlers this fall.
Scooping Activities to Add to Your Toddler Farm Theme
Scooping and pouring popcorn kernels is a simple activity, yet my preschoolers and toddlers love it. That’s the best kind of toddler activity, right? The kind that is easy and cheap to put together AND toddlers stay engaged?
Sign me up twice!
This sensory bin can be used in a farm toddler theme or as a preschool farm activity, and it can be as simple or complex as you would like to make it. We added some tractors to the bin, but you don’t need them. Just a bunch of popcorn kernels and various scoops and spoons and you’ll be set.
A note about toddler safety
Since this activity requires small popcorn kernels, it might not be right for toddlers who are still prone to putting things in their mouths. Never, ever leave your toddler unsupervised while using a sensory bin.
FAQ About Toddler Fine Motor Skills
Scooping and pouring is a valuable tool that can be used to teach fine motor skills, while also creating an engaging sensory experience for young children. Activities like scooping and pouring should be included when teaching practical life skills. Scooping and pouring is a practical life skill because it helps toddlers learn to self feed, as well as develop hand eye coordination, hand and finger strength and muscle control.
Developing fine motor skills isn’t just important, it’s critical to quality of life! Fine motor skills help children perform crucial tasks as basic as reaching, grasping, and holding objects.
Children also learn to use tools like crayons, scissors, buttons, and doorknobs by developing fine motor skills. And of course these skills help in their handwriting, too. All these things combined helps a child be more independent.
You might be surprised at what fine motor skills are for toddlers. Clapping hands, shaking musical instruments, and moving objects with hands are fine motor skills for toddlers. Additional skills typical for children under three years are slipping on shoes, brushing their own teeth, and using utensils to eat.
That’s one reason why spooning activities for toddlers are so popular. It’s an important part of their child development.
Farm Themed Fine Motor Activity for Preschoolers
During a day where we learned about tractors and seeds, we also got to explore corn kernels. Students put their hands into a bin of corn kernels and we used magnifying glasses to examine their shape and texture. Finally, students enjoyed some free play with scooping and pouring.
- popcorn kernels
- sensory bin to catch messes
- scoops of various sized
- small bowls
The Set Up
Place the popcorn kernels is a sensory bin, or on a tray. The amount used is up to you.
This activity can be done as a full blown farm sensory bin or just a tray activity. Set out some small scoops, spoons, and bowls too. Then invite your preschooler to join you in some scooping and pouring activities.
Get the Best Scoops for Toddlers
Having the right tools can make all the different when teaching toddlers. Here are some of the scoops, bowls, and spoons we have for sensory bins.
The Scooping and Pouring Activity
As a scooping and pouring activity, preschoolers can practice using small scoops to fill a bowl, and then pour the kernels from one bowl into another. This mimics real life muscle movement and helps develop the gross motor skills needed for fine motor control.
Watch your toddler as he carefully rotates his wrist when pouring, and as he gently spoons the kernels into the bowl. Both large muscles and small muscles are used in these everyday movements.
As students were exploring on their own, watch their handholds and grips on the small scoop, as well as the way they pour scooped kernels. Away from their body or towards their body? While pouring both directions develops the muscles in the hands and wrist, pouring toward the body will result in fewer spills.
When I offer scooping and pouring activity or spooning activities to my toddlers, I sit down and play with them. This is important to keep them safe since corn kernels are so small, but it also offers me an opportunity to naturally demonstrate how to properly scoop and pour.
I left this activity out during free choice centers. All of my students opted to scoop and pour for at least a few minutes, some students opting for more like ten or fifteen minutes. A few times the corn kernels were spilled among the tray, which reinforced another fine motor skill. Picking up individual corn kernels forces the use of the pincher grasp, which uses the same three fingers that are used for holding a pencil correctly.
Scooping and pouring corn kernels was a fun way to exemplify facts my preschoolers were learning about seeds and planting farms. This also paired well into a short discussion about harvesting, and where seeds come from. Being that this scooping and pouring activity included corn kernels, it also fits in well to any fall or autumn theme unit.
Make This Into a Farm Theme Sensory Bin for Toddlers
Popcorn kernels make a good sensory bin filler during your farm theme.
If you feel uncomfortable using popcorn kernels as a filler for your toddler sensory bin, you can replace them with one inch foam blocks or jumbo poms and pretend they are corn kernels. Toddlers love to pretend.
If you have a preschooler, then corn kernels are just fine. But safety first! Your preschooler should still be supervised.
You can add any toddler friendly farm toys to make it into a sensory bin. We love adding tractors since they can also be filled like the bowls can.
Other items to consider are farm animal toys and even farm printables, like the animal cards from my farm theme old maid game.
Tips for Doing Scooping and Pouring Activities with Toddlers
- Present the materials on a tray or in a sensory bin to contain the mess.
- Model the activity. This prevents spills as well. When presenting this activity as an option for my preschoolers, I modeled how to properly scoop the corn kernels and how to turn my wrist to pour them into another container. I modeled how when we pour we pour close to the container, not from high above it.
- Model how to clean up, too.
- Save the corn kernels for a later sensory bin. Don’t keep them for popcorn making.
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.