Sensory Play Ideas for Extending Stories


I’m always looking for ways to extend our read-alouds.  Books just naturally ask us to continue exploring, thinking, and experiencing.  So, designing a sensory bin where students can explore, think and experience after enjoying a book is a great fit.  So, grab your sensory bin fillers and get ready for a book activity the students will remember.

sensory bins to go with children's books

Sensory Play Ideas That Pair With Children’s Books

Why is Sensory Play Important With Books?

Sensory play is a wonderful way for children to interact with the world around them.  It is also a natural fit with reading and writing development.  The experiences invite children to interact with the characters and symbols of the story.  They are perfect open-ended stages for retellings of stories.

What are the Best Fillers for Sensory Play Bins?

The sky is the limit when it comes to sensory bin fillers.  A few things to keep in mind though.

  1. Food items could encourage students to put items in their mouth and/or attract critters.
  2. Thinking about choking hazards for young children.

That being said, here are some of my favorite fillers for creating the base of your sensory bins.

  • Water (try different colors and temperatures, soapy water, and ice)
  • Sand
  • Leaves and other nature items (twigs, small rocks, flowers, etc.)
  • Beans (see cautions above)
  • Dyed Pasta (see cautions above)
  • Dyed Rice (see cautions above)
  • Kinetic Sand
  • Slime
  • Paper (crinkly, tissue paper, colored paper, cardboard, etc.)
  • Water Beads (see cautions above)
  • Pom Pom Balls or Cotton Balls

Toddler Sensory Bins Inspired by Board Books

The big thing to keep in mind when creating sensory bins for toddlers is not to include anything that could be a choking hazard.  Sensory bins by nature are worlds for small world play but for toddlers, we need to be mindful of not using items that are too small.  We can still have a safe sensory play with textures vs small pieces.

Bring on the sand for an alphabet sensory bin to pair with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr from Natural Beach Living.—>Check out the sand bin.

Caterpillar Sensory Storytelling Tub from The Imagination Tree is great fun for retelling all the details of a classic story, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

Stay at Home Educators shares a truck bin to pair with Roadwork by Sally Sutton.—>See the truck bin.

For another truck inspired sensory experience to pair with Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, try this idea from Sunny Day Family.—>Check out the Little Blue idea.

Bring in natural elements for the Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf- Sensory Bin from Stir the Wonder.

Owl cuteness abounds in Owl Babies by Martin Waddell sensory invitation from Adventures and Play.—>See the owl play.

I love the scented element in this Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown from Still Playing School.—>See the water bin here.

Preschool Sensory Bins Inspired by Picture Books (Works for Bigger Kids Too)

Julia Donaldson is the beloved author of Room on the Broom and The Gruffalo.  Check out her book, The Snail and the Whale, and then create a water-themed sensory experience for the kids.—>See The Snail and the Whale Sensory Bin

sensory bin, The Snail and the Whale book and activity

For another Donaldson book, check Rainy Day Mum’s sensory bin for the Gruffalo.—>See it here complete with Gruffalo characters.

Oh, how I love the Jack in the Beanstalk story.  In fact, it had a lot to do with the design and name of the Growing Book by Book site. Fantastic Fun and Learning has a super fun sensory bin for the story complete with a tall vertical beanstalk in the bin.—>Check it out the beanstalk bin. 

Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni is brought to life by Teaching With Children’s Books.—>See the fish bin.

JDaniel4’s Mom shares a shape sensory bin that could be used with any of the books on our Shapes Book List.—>See the shape bin and activity printables to go with it here.

I’m in love with the many sensory bins I Heart Crafty Things has on her site.  Make sure to check out Acorns Everywhere Bin and The Day it Rained Hearts Bin.

How neat is the cutlery tray used in the Dig, Dump, Roll by Sally Sutton sensory bin by Finding Myself Young.—>Check out the vehicle bin here.

Dyed bow tie pasta becomes bats in this Stellanua by Janell Cannon bin by Fun-A-Day.—>Check out the bat bin.

Little Pinch of Perfect brings us a pea bin for 123 Peas and LMNO Peas by Keith Baker.—>See the pea bin.

Too Many Carrots by Katy Hudson gets fun in this bin from Teaching 2 and 3 Year-Olds.—>Check out the carrot bin.

sensory activity for the The Three Billy Goats Gruff

The Three Billy Goats Gruff from Growing Book by Book is packed with retelling opportunities.

Books & Bins Sensory Bin Play:  Apples and Pumpkins from Little Bins for Little Hands is great for autumn exploration.

Jump ,Frog, Jump! by Robert Kalan pairs with this Pond Sensory Bin from 3 Dinosaurs.

straw house from The Three Little Pigs

The Three Little Pigs Small World Play is a fun way to retell a classic story and even put their own spin variation on a traditional tale.

I love the student involvement in creating props for this Where the Wild Things Are Bin from Playful Learning in the Early Years.

And if you are looking for a quick and inexpensive simple sensory bin stand, you have to check out this one from mama.papa.bubba.  It will make all the above projects very organized!

Check out more sensory play ideas based on books on my Sensory Bins to Extend Stories Pinterest Board.

*This post first appeared on Growing Book by Book on 12/2/13.

The post Sensory Play Ideas for Extending Stories appeared first on Growing Book by Book.