Sorta-Montessori : Toddler Water Play Skills Bin (a sensory bin alternative) | The Speckled Goat: Sorta-Montessori : Toddler Water Play Skills Bin (a sensory bin alternative)


Sorta-Montessori : Toddler Water Play Skills Bin (a sensory bin alternative)

We have been (imperfectly, sort of) following a Montessori-style philosophy with our toddler for almost a year now.

While we don't follow all the "rules," (our toddler sleeps in a pak n play, not a floor bed; we have many plastic toys; he uses a high chair for meals...), some Montessori principles are practical, helpful for our family, and fit with our parenting style. So we use those, and toss the ideas that don't work for us.

One thing that is technically not a Montessori activity is sensory bins.

If you're not familiar, a sensory bin is a container with a base material like sand, corn, slime, water... and then some objects or manipulatives for a child to use to interact with the base material. They're super popular, often very engaging for kiddos, and can range from simple to very, very elaborate.

There are millions of ideas out there for really awesome sensory bins.

But generally, they're not really Montessori.


Well, Montessori tries to isolate skills and senses, and focuses on meaningful work. Sensory bins usually engage multiple senses and are geared towards teaching multiple skills or are created just for a fun experience.

I'm definitely not saying I don't think sensory bins are awesome. They totally are. And even though they don't really "count" as a Montessori activity, we use them a lot!

But every now and again, I try to think of my sensory bins as a skills bin-- I try to focus on a specific skill, rather than a theme or fun experience. Sort of more Montessori.

I have some stuff that I use for a water play sensory bin. I switch out materials based on what Evert's showing interest in, but here are some of the things I keep around for our water play bin :
Decorative Rocks
Small spoons
Measuring cups
Cups of various sizes
Bowls of various size
Rubber duckies
Rubber fish bath toys
Pool noodle pieces
Plastic coffee creamer containers (they have cool spouts!)

All fun sensory bin things.

But when I want to make my sensory bin into a skills bin, I isolate the skill I'm trying to emphasize.

With my water play bin, a natural skill to work on is pouring liquids.

So I'll focus on just tools to use for pouring. Cups, scoops, bowls, funnels, spoons. And then maybe I'll add a couple toys to add a little variety (and I've found that when Evert starts losing interest pouring water, if I suggest he pour water on a toy, he gets into it again).

When we can work on water pouring outside, I don't even use a bin, just a bunch of big bowls or containers, since there's no reason to contain the water for long.

When we are inside (typically because the weather isn't ideal for outdoor play), I put the bin in our shower and let him go to town. Sometimes I add a couple drops of food coloring to the water so that it's a little easier to see against the white shower walls and floor.

It's a super subtle difference between a skills bin and a sensory bin, really, but I do think it makes a difference in Evert's ability to concentrate. He tends to move from one manipulative to another pretty quickly when there's a lot of variety, but when things are more focused on one skill or activity, he spends more time concentrating and performing the skill over and over.

That said, sensory bins are still a weekly activity around here- we really enjoy both sensory bins and skills bins!

Stay tuned for more sensory bin and skills bin fun!

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