I first learned about sensory development when my son turned about 14 months old. This was right around the time when he started walking and getting into everything he wasn’t supposed to. His curiosity to touch, feel, and taste everything in sight prompted me to do a little research on this particular stage of his development. This is when I noticed the phrase “sensory play” became a common idea among mom bloggers, educators, and psychology blogs. It’s a phrase I think I’ve always heard but never really bothered to understand.
Simply put, sensory play involves activities that stimulate the senses—the five major ones include taste, smell, touch, sight, and sound. It is through sensory play and the five senses that children, mainly toddlers and young children, start to discover the world around them. It’s an important part of childhood brain development. The intent is that the more experiences you can provide your child through sensory play, the easier it will be for them to learn in a formal school setting.
One of my favorite tools for sensory play and development is through the use of these colored beans. They are so cheap, simple to make, and you can use them for a variety of exercises. They should not, however, be used with children who still put things in their mouth as they are a choking hazard.
Check out my quick and easy way to make DIY Colored Beans for Sensory Play and some of the activities I use them for.
- Light colored beans (northern beans or even pinto beans)
- McCormick liquid food coloring
- Large ZipLock bags or covered plastic container for bean coloring
- Covered plastic container-for bean storage – I got one from Dollar Tree
Related: Progresso Soup Stuffed Peppers
- Pour 2 cups of light colored beans into a large zip lock bag or plastic covered container. If using a bag, blow some air into the bag.
- Add between 20-25 drops of liquid food coloring and shake until all the beans are covered. Follow the directions on the box for color combinations.
- Lay beans on 2 sheets of paper towels and allow them to dry for a few hours before using. I colored mine at night after my son went to bed and let them dry overnight.
- Bag beans until ready to use.
Related: Toddler Bath Caddy
DIY Colored Beans for Sensory Play Uses:
- Counting Exercises-use ice cube tray to count the beans.
- Color Sorting-use ice cube trays to sort colors.
- Discovery Play-hide miniature figurines within the beans and ask your tot to find them. Use dinosaurs, plastic bugs, dolls, bears, cars, rings, etc. You can find great stuff at the Dollar Tree.
- Alphabet Exercises-Right now I’m using my DIY Colored Beans for Sensory Play to hide alphabet cards. Using the Letter of the Week Technique ( an idea I picked up from another mom blogger) to teach my son the alphabet, I printed corresponding letters (these are the letters I use), laminated them, and then hid them within the beans for him to find. As he tries to locate all the Js, we talk about the letter J and different things that start with the letter J. I found some play kitchen utensils at the Dollar Tree for him to use while fishing letters from the bean box. He likes to spoon beans from one container to another.
- Number Exercises-use a similar exercise like the alphabet cards.
Related: Mini Construction Site Sandbox
What kind of activities do you do with your DIY Colored Beans for Sensory Play? Share in the comments below.
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Meagan is in her mid-thirties and has been married for almost 10 years. She is a proud boy mom, happily navigating her way through the toddler years. She met her husband 20 years ago in high school; they got married 10 years later after graduating from the University of South Florida. Meagan currently helps run a family business with her parents and sister, while blogging about her life and taking care of her three-year-old son full time (at work)!
When she isn’t chasing her son around and constantly picking up Matchbox cars, she enjoys spending time with her family on a beach anywhere. She also loves decorating and organizing her home, delving into fun DIY projects, bargain shopping, and eating at unique restaurants. She also loves Barbecue anything and a good show or movie on Netflix.