Apr 28, 2013

Baby-Friendly Bug Small World Play Bin

We are finally getting our bearings at my parents house and have jumped head first into our next Baby-School unit - Bugs! Bugs are a touchy subject for me. Well truthfully, I hate them. I am aware that hate is a strong word, but I despise them with every inch of my being. I detest, loathe, and abhor them. They disgust me in every way! Mostly, I am just afraid of them. However, I don't want Kingston to feel this way. I want him to feel free to explore and discover without fear holding him back. So, I thought I would take something that terrifies me and make it fun. Bugs can be fascinating for littles, and K loves to explore new things. So, for the next week or so, we will be doing activities and crafts based on bugs!

I have come across plenty of insect based sensory bins throughout my time perusing Pinterest and blogs. I just recently came across the term, "small world play" which to me is a more true to life sensory bin of sorts. It recreates a habitat in compact scale, perfect for little hands to peruse and discover. I wanted to try a simple, baby friendly small world sensory bin with Kingston, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity.

Here are some other great small world/sensory bug bins to check out:

Simple Small Worlds: Insect World - Fun at Home With Kids features this amazing, very life like, sticky insect small world made with contact paper and all kinds of beautiful natural materials!

Insect Sensory Bin - Finding the Teachable Moments showcased this fun sensory bin equipped with a magnifying glass and tweezers!

Digging for Bugs Sensory Station - Growing a Jeweled Rose put together this fun sensory station in a kiddie pool with digging tools and buried bugs! 

(Amazon Associate links added for your convenience!)

For our small world bin, I used a small plastic bin from the Dollar Tree, large Polished River Rocks, Sunny Patch Bag of Bugs by Melissa & Doug, and some lime green Easter grass that I got on super clearance at Target after the holiday! I went to the craft store to look for one of the plastic bug sets that I have seen used in many of these bug worlds, but found that they seemed much to small for Kingston. I wanted to find bugs that didn't pose an immediate choking hazard.  I found some giant bugs that were really cool, but were pretty expensive. Plus, they were super realistic and a bit creepy. I felt defeated and was heading out of the store when I found these great Sunny Patch Bugs based off of David Kirk's characters and by Melissa and Doug. They were perfect! Of course Kingston still needs to be closely monitored at all times while playing with them, but he is always watched like a hawk when we do any kind of sensory activity! This set comes with two ladybugs, two grasshoppers, two beetles, two centipedes, and two ants. They are super friendly looking and are fun colors! Perfect for baby!

I lined the bin with the grass, chose rocks that were extra smooth and were medium sized (perfect for little hands to explore, but not so apt to go in the mouth), and arranged one of each bug in their new home. I tried to choose the bugs that were different colors, so that I could point them out to K.

Before I let Kingston dig into his new sensory bin, I pulled out one of our books, One Butterfly. This book is a Golden Board Book and it walks the reader through a counting adventure that introduces ten different insects. K loved turning the pages by sticking his fingers in the cut outs!

After we read, I placed the bin in front of him and took off the cover. He did not waste any time diving right into it!

He immediately zoned in on the grass. He started to take out each and every piece and examine it. He really liked the texture and made a funny excited shake after he grabbed each strand. Then, he turned his attention to the bugs. I introduced each one, "ant, centipede, beetle, ladybug, cricket". He surprised me by really interacting with the bugs. He would choose one and tap it on the rock. Then he would move it around the blanket!

Here he is examining the little red ant!

The cricket, he turned over a few times in his hands and when it fell out he was so surprised! He stared at intently as if it jumped out of his hands. Just an FYI, crickets are the bug I despise the most. They horrify me!

It wasn't long before Kingston discovered the cover to the bin. He couldn't get enough of it! I was amazed at his coordination when he lifted the cover and made the ladybug dance on top of it. He seemed like such a big boy walking the little ladybug across the top. He played with the cover alone for about 15 minutes!

Then he took out the cricket and played with both bugs simultaneously. I was fascinated by the way he was making them interact. I felt like I was playing with a toddler. He was walking them both around the cover and then banging them into each other. I pointed out the colors of each bug. Then he started examining the rocks. He practiced lifting them up and down with his strong little baby muscles! 

He played with his small world bin for about 45 minutes. That's an eternity. He played with it several more times throughout the day as well. Today, we took the buggies out of their small world "habitat" and brought them outside to explore a "real" bug habitat!

We placed the bugs in the grass and let Kingston interact with them. He ran his fingers through the green grass and then selected different bugs to move around. Today, he definitely started exploring them with his mouth! He was gnawing on a few of them. Dada and I kept a close eye on him while he chomped away. He had just as much fun exploring the bugs in the great big world as he did in his small world bin! I am so thrilled that he loved this activity and that it was perfect for his attention span and age. I cannot wait to try some of the other themes that I want to explore with him. He is so curious and took a lot of time to take in each and every element of his bin. Plus we were even able to sneak in some outdoor play which is always a plus!


  1. Love this! Every sensory experience I've tried with my daughter (she's 8 months) has been a trial of keeping things out of her mouth. We'll have to try this one!

    1. Thanks Jillian! Kingston seems to put everything in his mouth too. Lately though, he is excited to explore with his hands before he tries to put the object in his mouth. Let me know how it goes if you try it! :)

  2. I think it's awesome that you stepped out of your comfort zone for your son. :) And great idea to take the bugs out of their "play habitat" and into a real one!

    p.s. thanks for linking to our insect bin. :)

    1. Thanks Tanya! :) He loved the buggies even more outside in the real grass. Your insect bin was great!

  3. love how friendly this is for little hands! am pinning and featuring it at this week's kid's co-op on my site http://www.crayonfreckles.com/2013/05/weekly-kids-co-op-sensory-bin-galore.html

  4. I'm featuring this on The Sunday Showcase tomorrow. :)

  5. Just dropping by to let you know I am also featuring this as part of Tuesday Tots on Growing a Jeweled Rose this week! Looks like everyone loved this post- lots of features =D

    1. Thanks for featuring us Crystal!! :) I will be heading over to Tuesday Tots to link up!