I have tons of old bills and credit card statements piling up inside a drawer. I know you're supposed to hang on to them for a while, but mine go back years and years. I finally decided to invest in a shredder so that I could properly dispose of these papers that contain important personal information. I never imagined that it would become a source of entertainment for my toddler!
First of all, my three year old was fascinated with how the machine worked and, under very close adult supervision, he was allowed to feed some papers into the shredder. He also liked to peek through the window to see the shredded paper fall into the bin. Now, every receipt or envelope he finds, he asks if he can shredâ€¦ I have to make sure no bills or photos make their way into his hands! (Don't worry, the machine is unplugged and out of reach when not in use!)
Now, I'm not suggesting that you go out and buy a shredder; however, if you have access to one or to the contents of one from someone's work place, see if you can gather the shredded paper for a fun sensory bin experience. I have seen many posts where children are climbing right in to the bin to play with whichever material â€“ rice, corn, etc., but other than our Beach in a Box, I have never had enough of any one thing to make it playable in that manner; that is, until now.
I hadn't planned on doing anything â€œfunâ€ with the shredded paper, but after my son helped shred some expired coupon inserts one day, he asked me if he could look inside the bin. I took the top off and we examined the paper that was once whole â€“ we even tried to piece a few back together. Then, he asked me if he could touch the paper. Since it was only the collection receptacle (all sharp bits were moved out of his reach), I said okay. His hands went in and he started playing with all of the paper shreds. My brain started working overtime as I tried to come up with a way for him to really play with this, other than just running his hands through it (although, he seemed perfectly content to continue).
I quickly got the tarp we use as an indoor play mat for easy cleanup and placed that on the floor. I ran outside to the backyard and got my baby daughter's little blow up pool and set it on top of the mat inside our office. I then told him to dump all the shredded paper into the pool. He looked stunned. With a little more encouragement, I finally got him to pour it in and he immediately dove in afterwards.
My son continued to run his hands through the papers and discovered that magazines felt different than newspapers. He also liked looking for recognizable pieces of pictures and discovering random letters and numbers. Eventually, he asked for his box of sensory bin tools and took out a wooden spoon, fork, and spatula, and pretended we were making soup and some other crazy concoctions. A while later, per his request, I got him his lunch box filled with construction vehicles (which come out almost once a post!) and they began to work pushing, scooping, and dumping. We also found a piece of another toy which was basically like a large checker or poker chip. I had him close his eyes and count to ten and I hid it somewhere in the pool. He had to dig around to try to find it!
This inspired him to bury his feet and legs under the paper, and then his whole self. He asked me to close my eyes and count to ten and then try to find him â€“ it's not always easy to not find someone right in front of you! My digging around to try to discover his hiding place elicited many tickles and giggles. His favorite activity, however, was making it rain paper!
When my son was done playing with this sensory bin, we scooped up as much of the paper as we could and put it back in the shredder's receptacle. The few pieces that escaped had to be picked up by hand or gotten with the hand vacuum (or for sure baby girl would have tried to snack on them).
This turned out to be one of my son's favorite sensory bins to dateâ€¦ and to think, it was all done without much preparation! If you don't have access to the contents of a shredder, perhaps using the Crinkle Cut Paper Shreds that are used when packing presents and are sold at a craft or gift store would suffice.
What are your child's favorite full-body sensory bin experiences?
Young children love to feel and explore sensory bins. Here are some other ideas to create your own: