My 2½-year-old granddaughter, Zoey, has been in love with whales since she was a baby. So how could I not use my DIY sensory table to make a whale sensory bin this summer?! (Actually, this is also the “W is for wonderful whale and water-bead sensory bin,” part of the A-Z of Animals Series!)
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Zoey’s love of whales started with Raffi’s Baby Beluga CD and then Baby Beluga (Raffi Songs to Read) Board Book. We went on to a few different whale activities, which Zoey loved. Recently, Zoey’s had lots of fun with the whale breaches fitness and counting game.
Wonderful Whale and Water-Bead Sensory Bin – YouTube Video
This is so cute! (Note: Zoey’s work with lifting the whale isn’t a traditional lesson of any kind. It’s entirely Zoey’s creation … and adorable.)
Whale and Water-Bead Sensory Bin (and DIY Sensory Table)
I already had my DIY sensory table. And I even used the water beads from my previous frog sensory bin! I had used distilled water in the frog sensory bin, which may have helped the water beads stay fresh. So I just rinsed them in a strainer and added fresh distilled water for the whale sensory bin.
Materials Used for Whale Sensory Bin
- DIY sensory table (This has been AWESOME! It’s been very durable and the perfect container for our sensory bins. Of course, you can use a bin on the floor.)
- 2 parts blue water beads to 1 part green water beads (Note: I used the ones from the frog sensory bin, so mine are a bit faded but still work great.)
- Safari Ltd. Dolphins and Whales TOOB
- Free Types of Whale Matching and Fact Cards (made into a book) from The Pinay Homeschooler
- Parts of a Baleen Whale Cards (subscriber freebie made into a book) from Trillium Montessori
- plastic tabletop easels for waterproof books
- Arctic Sea photo, printed on 5×7 photo paper and laminated
- Mountains and Icebergs of Antarctica photo, printed on 5×7 photo paper and laminated
- Scotch Thermal Laminator with Laminating Pouches
- binder rings
- for toddlers, you could use large whales along with blue felt (or plain water) for the ocean to eliminate the small objects.
Feel free to adapt your sensory bin for your family.
Important: If you use this with a toddler, be aware that water beads are very dangerous for children who mouth objects. Even with children who don’t typically mouth objects, I prefer being extra careful with water beads. I put this sensory bin up out of reach whenever I’m not closely supervising Zoey’s work.
Arctic and Antarctic Whale Geography
I added photos to represent the Arctic (for the narwhal and beluga whale) and Antarctic (for the blue whale, humpback whale, killer whale, and sperm whale) with the gray whale somewhere in between. I told Zoey what the photos represented, but I didn’t emphasize them. The Arctic and Antarctic regions don’t make a lot of sense at Zoey’s age, so they’re mainly pretty pictures at this point. They would make a simple geography lesson for older preschoolers. For the photos and books, I printed out the pages, cut apart pages as needed, laminated the pages, and then left 1/4″ laminate edge to make the pages waterproof.
Types of Whales
I like to add at least one special hands-on learning activity using a printable to each sensory bin I prepare. Zoey LOVES handmade books. I used the free types of whale matching and fact cards from The Pinay Homeschooler to make a handmade types of whales book. I just printed it, cut the pages apart, and laminated and hole punched each page before binding the book with binder rings. Zoey enjoys matching the whales to the pictures in the book. I like having the facts readily available as needed.
Parts of a Whale
The video doesn’t show all of Zoey’s work with parts of a whale. She used the Trillium Montessori parts of a baleen whale cards made into a book to identify and match parts of the killer whale.
Other Ideas for the Whale Sensory Bin
(Note: In case you’re wondering, Zoey’s outfit is from Gymboree.)
I typically leave out a sensory bin for a month or so before changing it to a different theme. During the month, I might switch some of the activities in the bin to add new learning activities and keep it fresh.
The whale and water-bead sensory bin is perfect for use indoors or outdoors. It can be used as a sensory bin, sensory table, or water table.
I’ll be publishing a whale pack for my July subscriber freebie. That will add extra printables to use for counting and phonics activities with the whales. (Note: If you subscribe to my weekly newsletter, you’ll have access to the current subscriber freebie as well as all past subscriber freebies.)
Zoey always works with her sensory bins for long periods of time. This is already one of her favorites!
Check out the A-Z of Animals Series organized by Nadia from Teach Me Mommy for lots of animal crafts and learning activities. 🙂
Learn more about my eBook Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy! I’m also one of the coauthors of the book Learn with Play – 150+ Activities for Year-round Fun & Learning!
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