DIY Sensory Play Box

DIY Sensory Box | Belleview Cottage

This sensory play box is an easy way to introduce your toddler to sensory play!  Sensory play is an important way that babies and toddlers learn by experiencing the world through their senses.

Sensory play includes any activity that stimulates your young child’s senses: touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. Sensory activities and sensory tables facilitate exploration and naturally encourage children to use scientific processes while they play, create, investigate and explore. Spending time stimulating their senses helps children develop cognitively, linguistically, socially and emotionally, physically and creatively.

Source: PBS Parents.

In this sensory play box, your toddler uses his or her senses of touch and sight, combined with lots of imagination, for hours of entertainment and learning!

I’ve seen “sensory bins,” filled with rice and small toys, at play dates before.  But my inspiration for this sandbox-sized sensory box came from our local library.  Each year the Scottsdale Public Library hosts The Ultimate Play Date – an awesome morning dedicated to early childhood development, with tons of creative play stations, vendors, and music and entertainment for the little ones.  We went for the first time this year, and my son enjoyed playing in this kiddie-pool filled with rice and dinosaurs:

DIY Sensory Box | Belleview Cottage

Since my son enjoyed playing in the rice, I decided to make our own.  The materials needed are simple:

  1. A kiddie pool or sandbox (I got our kiddie pool for just $5!)
  2. A cover of some sort (you don’t want rain water getting on your rice, since you will likely keep it outdoors)
  3. A plastic tarp to go under the pool/sandbox for easy clean-up
  4. A 50 lb. bag of rice ($18 at Costco)
  5. Toys of your choice
  6. Optional: dust pan & brush for cleaning up spilled rice (I picked up this one from Ikea for $2)

The easiest option to protect your rice from the elements, especially if you live in an area with a lot of rain, would be a plastic sandbox that comes with a lid.  I went the less-expensive route and chose a simple kiddie pool.  I also got a huge plastic tarp to go under it, and I just fold the tarp over the top of the kiddie pool when we’re not using it.

DIY Sensory Play Box | Belleview Cottage

I added some beach toys and a plastic dump-truck to the rice, as well as some little animals.  One great thing about the size of this sensory “bin” is that multiple children can easily play together 🙂

My little guy looooooves his sensory play box.  Whenever we used to go outside, all he wanted to do was go over to the pool and splash the water.  Now all he wants to do is play in his rice box.  Alllllll the time!  It’s very cute.

I don’t have any pics of it, but he also sits in the kiddie pool and plays with the rice there.

DIY Sensory Play Box | Belleview Cottage

One of our favorite games is hiding his toys under the rice, and then he finds them and digs them out.

DIY Sensory Play Box | Belleview Cottage

It is easy to clean up rice that spills out of the pool and onto the tarp using a small dustpan and brush.  I just toss our plastic one into the rice box when we’re done playing.

DIY Sensory Play Box | Belleview Cottage

Update: after a few weeks I noticed some tiny little bugs were attracted to our rice box.  So I added about 15 drops of eucalyptus essential oil to the rice.  Bugs don’t like strong smells.  The bugs disappeared and haven’t returned for weeks.  I’d call that a success!

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