Sensory Bin Ideas and Our Morning Routine

My little family of four has been on a journey lately to slow down. One morning my husband and I woke up and our oldest was 6-years old, we were driving to work, dance, gymnastics, church and a host of other places at break-neck speed. 

It wasn’t the life we wanted and it wasn’t the life we wanted for our girls. And so began our journey. I’ll probably touch more on what this looks like for us because it is slowly touching every area of our lives; but for today I just wanted to talk about our mornings.

I’ve already shared my families dirty little secret that I perhaps let my children watch TV every morning (ok, not perhaps. I do.) I’m not happy about this routine but for a while it was life giving. Life. Giving.

My girls are early risers (we’ve been known to be up and about at 4…in the morning) and while the OK to WAKE clock we got our eldest has helped with that; neither of them sleep well. Now days, most mornings we are up at 6am. I’m so tired. In a fog I feed the cat (or he’ll nip my ankles), pour the girls their drink of choice (or they’ll nip my ankles) and make myself coffee (so I don’t cry when…inevitably…my ankles are nipped for not moving fast enough).

Letting them watch TV so I don’t have to entertain, break up arguments or actually talk to either of the wild things seemed like a good plan at first. But they’re getting older and S will start 1st grade in the fall at an actual school (more on our failed attempts at homeschooling later) and, as I said earlier, my family is trying to slow down. TV in the morning isn’t really conducive to a slow morning. I knew it was the first thing in our routine that needed to go.

But what to replace it with.

S and C rarely sit still (unless they’re in front of the TV which, as I mentioned above, is no longer an option). They can’t read. They don’t sit nicely on the floor and play dolls. To give you a visual on what our household is normally like I’ll tell you this:

During the Pandemic my husband and I invested in a Nugget (I’ll link my favorite one here). Every day we are creating endless obstacle courses where they can hurl their small bodies through the air into a pile of cushions or run themselves ragged climbing mountains of stuffed foam. Over and over and over again.

So, you get the idea.

They do love their sensory bins though. So I thought I would start there. I searched Pinterest for the best ideas on what kinds of bins to have (which you can find our favorites here). Purchased my bins…WITH LIDS…from Amazon and gathered my supplies. Most of what I needed we already had around the house but a few things I did supplement from…again Amazon. And then I assembled.

Here are the bins we currently have together in our house:

  1. Colored rice, wooden scoops, small plastic bottles and a funnel
  2. Colored chick peas, a scoop set, colored beads and coordinating colored bowls.
  3. Colored beans, small trees, stacking geo blocks and dinosaurs
  4. Sand, mermaids and some small sand tools
  5. magnetic dress up dolls

I let the girls help me color all the dried food we would be using and to be honest, this was the most fun. I felt like an Instagram influencer with my rows of rice, beans and chick peas. They were beautiful and my children didn’t fight a single time while we colored them. Sunlight trickled through the kitchen window and we smiled and laughed in slow motion. (Ok, that last bit isn’t true but the moment was so perfect it could have been).

At the end of the day I had beautifully curated sensory bins my girls were excited to use and we were all filled with anticipation for the new morning routine.

Dear reader. I am so glad you weren’t here to witness what transpired this morning. It was not pretty. The idea was that I would be able to stay in bed a few extra minutes while my darling children would come out to the living room and chose their sensory bin. They would play quietly and sweetly until I joined them where I would have breakfast with them and drink a cup of coffee.

None of this happened.

Nope.

The absolute only thing about this plan that happened as it should? My children went out to the living room when they woke up. After that it was all down hill. Immediately they began to scream and bicker about who got to use what sensory bin. I woke with a start to their blood curdling cries and instantly began trying to bring about peace and order. Once everyone was settled, I made myself a cup of coffee, curled up by the fire to read my Bible and thought now, NOW my children will follow the plan and we can have a sweet morning together.

15 minutes later.

The girls decided they were totally over the sensory bins and the rest of the morning I spent gulping my coffee while telling them to Find. Something. Quiet. To do.

When I had just about despaired over the morning ever coming together as planned, my girls settled in. Pulling two chairs up close to the fire, they snuggled and giggled looking over some of their favorite picture books. And that’s when it hit me.

Life rarely goes as planned. But if we hold our own plans loosely and with open hands, life can still be filled with sweet moments. And as a mom, sometimes I find the unscripted sweetness better than anything I could have fabricated.

I plan on sticking with my sensory bins. I think my girls just need training much like anyone else learning a new habit. I think I need training too. And maybe the sensory bins won’t work. Who knows. But if we’re willing to try something new and to let it be ok when it doesn’t work, we’ll figure it out in the end. Or we wont. And that’s probably ok too.

I promise to keep you abreast of our progress because sometimes you just need someone on the internet to tell you that in theory, sensory bins are a great idea but often in reality they leave you sweeping beans off the floor at 7am or vacuuming up the world’s finest sand from your rugs and carpets while your coffee goes cold.

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