Keep kids busy for hours with this simple sensory bin! They will love pouring colored beans through the funnels and watching them come out the tubes below.
If you liked our PVC pipe sand and water table, you might enjoy this simpler option for indoors. We used PVC pipe that we had on hand to build a simple structure that sits inside one of the under-the-bed tubs that we bought for the sand and water table. After playing with the sand and water table all summer, I enjoyed setting up something a little different, and the kids actually enjoyed playing with it on the floor so that they could have a surface on which to put their cups and bowls that they filled with beans. They were pretending it was candy! 🙂
Another option is to just use the sand and water table indoors. It would work great indoors or out! Obviously, you may not want to use sand and water inside… just saying! 🙂 Beans, rice, pasta, dried corn, or small pebbles would be great sensory materials for indoors.
Here is what our PVC structure looks like:
We used 3/4 inch pipe to build this.
I dyed navy beans using Asia’s method over at Fun at Home with Kids. You can see instructions here: How to Dye Beans for Play and Art. It worked really well, and the beans are so pretty!
We did notice that the color rubs off slightly on finger tips after playing with the beans. It’s nothing that a hand washing won’t fix, but I wouldn’t play with these on white carpet. Our grubby IKEA rug was not harmed at all. The color will probably run if the beans get wet, so make sure that kids have dry hands. Still, I think that the fun colors are definitely worth a little bit of mess! The colors contributed quite a bit to the fun of the activity, as you’ll see below.
This tub has been played with for hours by my 7, 4,and 2 year olds. The pouring is very fun and the colorful beans are such a great sensory material! We have always had the policy that if you are just making a mess you are either too young to play or too uncooperative to play and your turn is done. For this, I was fine with beans out of the box as long as they stayed on the rug. The clean up has not been bad! One key thing is that I don’t get it out at times where we don’t have time to deal with picking up the beans.
Adapt the funnels to accommodate beans.
Note that I cut off the ends of the funnels (with a PVC pipe cutter) to allow the beans to fit through easily. Also, the funnels were too wobbly with the ends cut off, so I duct taped them to the PVC pipe which solved that problem nicely. Some of the photos were pre-taping.
Egg Carton Color Sorting
Another big hit was something that I tossed in there on a whim – egg cartons. They have had so much fun with the egg cartons! Jonathan and Owen have spent quite a bit of time on multiple different days sorting out a pile of beans by color using the egg carton sections. They like to pretend that the beans are different flavors of candy.
They consider this to be very important work, and it’s great fine motor practice too!
If you choose not to color the beans, another idea for sorting is to use different types of beans.
Rice is also fun to use with funnels like this! You can see how to color rice here: How to Make Dyed Rice.
More Play Ideas
An empty water bottle is perfect for filling with beans, and it’s also great for fine motor practice.
Janie and our babysitter had fun hiding a little toy penguin the bottle. They put the penguin in first and then filled the bottle with beans. Then it was fun to turn the bottle around and look for the penguin!
We also had fun with spoons, bowls, and little disposable storage cups with lids.
Have fun playing!