As Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s the perfect time to introduce preschoolers this brightly colored, red and pink activity: a Valentine’s Day sensory bin. This vibrant and tactile sensory bin is filled with red tinsel, heart baubles, and foam hearts, creating a visually appealing and touch-friendly activity for little hands to explore.
But this Valentine’s Day sensory bin isn’t just about play; it also incorporates a letter matching activity to enhance your child’s letter recognition skills. So, while they’re engrossed in the fun of exploration, they’re also learning and developing crucial early literacy skills.
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, there couldn’t be a more opportune moment to engage your preschoolers this activity: a sensory bin for Valentine’s Day.
This sensory bin, brimming with the vibrant hues of red and pink, is especially enticing for little ones. The contents, including red tinsel, heart baubles, and foam hearts, offer a variety of textures for tiny fingers to discover and explore, fostering their tactile development.
However, this Valentine’s Day sensory bin isn’t merely a source of fun and play; it serves a dual purpose by incorporating an educational component – a letter matching activity. (It pairs wonderfully with this letter matching activity, too).
This is by design, to boost your child’s letter recognition skills, laying the groundwork for future reading skills. Sensory bins serve as a valuable way to simultaneously learning while honing vital early literacy skills. This combination of play and learning ensures that while their senses are engaged, their minds are also being nurtured.
This is the approach we take when designing our literacy centers for preschoolers.
Are Sensory Bins Worth It?
Sensory bins have several benefits in early childhood development:
- Enhancement of Fine Motor Skills
- Activities in the sensory bin like digging, stirring, and pouring can strengthen your child’s hand muscles.
- By incorporating tools like oversized tweezers, spoons, and funnels, your child can practice critical grasping skills needed for self-feeding and writing.
- Sensory Engagement
- Sensory bins stimulate multiple senses – sight, touch, sound, and even smell.
- The tactile experience of interacting with different materials in the bin can be highly enjoyable for your child.
- Cognitive Growth
- While it may appear as mere play, sensory bins facilitate intellectual development.
- Sorting items by size or color, measuring volume with cups, or identifying letters and numbers can enhance cognitive skills and literacy concepts.
- Sensory bins offer a calming experience. If your child is feeling overstimulated, a sensory bin can help soothe them.
- It also encourages independent play, allowing parents some quiet time.
Letter Matching Activity for Valentine’s Day
Letter matching activities are an engaging and entertaining way for children to learn the alphabet. Letter activities are not just for learning the alphabet, but also help in developing their cognitive abilities, such as visual perception and memory.
This animal alphabet letter matching printable, when pairs with a Valentine’s sensory bin, makes learning letter recognition all the more fun!
The free printable includes thirteen full color pages of alphabet fun! The letter cards are sized to 3.5 inches, making them a good size for preschoolers to handle, but they can also be used for many other activities outside the Valentine’s sensory bin.
The printable also includes the matching mats and an alphabet mat for children to check their answers or to use as a guide.
How to Make a Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin
This sensory bin is easy to prepare, taking less than five minutes. And, all the materials can be found at the dollar store, too! Easy to prep and easy on the wallet!
This post may contain affiliate links, which means that at no cost to you, I may earn a small sum if you click through and make a purchase.
- GREAT VALUE PACKAGE: Set includes 2000 red tinsel icicles attached at the top for easy assembly….
- WINTER ICICLE GARLAND: Create a festive, holiday ambiance using this vibrant Christmas tinsel….
- RED PARTY DECORATIONS: Accompany with a red tinsel garland and foil balloons to complete naughty…
- This package includes 27 foam glitter heart table scatter. They range from 1.35 inches wide by 1.27…
- These foam glitter hearts are made of high-quality foam designed in the shape of hearts with a…
- They are perfect for decor, vase fillers, table scatter, and tiered tray decorations.
- Package includes: you will receive 18 pieces heart bead necklaces in red, pink and purple colors,…
- Reliable plastic material: the heart shaped bead necklaces are made of quality plastic, they are…
- Proper size: the size of each party necklace measures approx. 0.4 inches in width, and the total…
- Package includes:You will receive 48 red heart plastic boxes,plenty of them not only for your needs…
- Size:Valentine hearts filled candy boxes measure approximately 2.76 x 2.56 inch.The size is suitable…
- Material:Red heart plastic box is made of plastic,can be used many times for a long time.Red heart…
The Set Up
Fill the sensory in the tie red tinsel, spreading it out along the bottom. Then, place the foam hearts on top of the tinsel. Put the bauble necklaces inside the heart containers, and put them along the perimiter.
Next, print out the free letter matching printable in color and on heavy card stock. Laminate for added durability. Cut the alphabet cards apart and set out along with the sensory bin.
Now, invite your preschoolers to join you in some letter recognition fun with a Valentine’s Day themed sensory bin!
How to Use Sensory Bins
Encourage your little ones to dig in, stir, scoop, and pour – these actions will engage their senses and promote their fine motor skills.
Remember, the goal of a sensory bin is to create an environment that stimulates their curiosity and fosters a love for learning, so keep it fun, interactive, and stress-free.
Remind the children to keep the materials within a confined play space. In my classroom, that’s always the table where the keep out sensory bin. The materials must stay in the bin or on the table.
If your preschoolers are like mine, they will most likely gravitate toward playing with the materials to the exclusion of the alphabet activity. This is excellent fine motor practice and allowing some free play before encouraging the letter matching activity will keep it fun sensory play, too.
The preschooler above is opening and closing all the heart shaped plastic containers. First, he took out the contents – the bauble necklaces – and then he worked very hard to put them back in and close the boxes up again. This took dexterity as he had to make sure that all the edges lined up perfectly.
The preschoolers also took out the foam hearts, one by one. Some preschoolers made perfect lines of hearts. Other made patterns. Another preschoolers wanted to hoard all of them for himself.
Collaborating, compromising and sharing with classmates is one the best social skills that comes out of playing in a sensory bin.
Social Benefits of Sensory Bins
When thinking of the benefits of sensory bins, it’s easy to think of fine motor development. But sensory bins are also a great way to increase social skills, too! Sensory bins can:
- develop language and communication skills
- increase vocabulary
- social problem solving
- self-regulation skills
- healthy risk-taking and exploration
- teamwork skills
- sharing and turn taking
How to Develop Letter Recognition Skills
Sensory bins can be a highly effective tool for developing letter recognition skills in preschool children. We have a few examples of alphabet sensory bins on our site.
But this letter matching printable makes this Valentine’s sensory bin all the more fun!
After allowing my preschoolers to freely play in the sensory bin, I asked them what they were going to do with all the animal cards in the bin. Some of my preschoolers had already noticed them and collected a stack of animals they liked.
I showed my preschoolers to matching mats and the alphabet mat, and soon they began making matches themselves.
The preschoolers were tasked with matching the animals and their beginning sounds with the letter square on the mats.
If a preschooler struggled with finding the correct match, they could use the alphabet mat as a guide.
My preschoolers continued working, and working together, to place all the animals on their corresponding letter squares. And the next thing I knew, they had cleared the mats of the animals cards and hid them in the sensory bin so they could do it all over again.
Letter Recognition Activities for Valentine’s Day
Letter matching is just one aspect of masting letter recognition skills. Here are some other Valentine’s themed letter recognition activities for preschoolers.
- Broken Hearts Letter Matching (with fine motor component)
- Spin and Stamp Valentine Alphabet Worksheets
- Feed the Robot Valentine’s Alphabet Game
- Beginning Sound Find and Cover Mats for Valentine’s Day
- Valentine Letter Recognition Activities
Get Your Letter Matching Printable Here
Think you want to make this super fun sensory bin for Valentine’s Day? Your preschoolers will love it, and get loads of letter recognition practice at the same time. It’s a win-win, right? Grab you copy below.
- sensory bin or sensory table
- red tinsel
- foam glitter hearts
- heart boxes
- Valentine bauble necklaces
- Start by filling the sensory bin with red tinsel, spreading it out all along the bottom.
- Next, place the foam hearts on top of the tinsel.
- Place the bauble necklaces inside the heart containers and spread them out along the perimeter.
- Next, print out the free letter matching printable (in color and on heavy card stock). Laminate if you would like, for added durability.
- Cut the alphabet cards apart and set out along with the sensory bin.
- Invite your preschoolers to explore this incredible sensory bin!
- Show your preschoolers the letter cards and model how to match them to the printable mats.
- You can also have your preschoolers use the printable alphabet page as a guide and resource, as needed.
The free printable includes thirteen full color pages of alphabet fun!
The letter cards are 3.5 inches, which makes them the perfect size for little hands.
The printable also includes matching mats and an alphabet mat for children to use as a guide.
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.