Gluten Free Sensory Bins

Sensory bins are great for building fine motor, math, science, and language skills. However, some items used in sensory bins may contain gluten.  My daughter has Celiac Disease, so she cannot eat wheat, oats, or barley.  When she was in school, we had to modify what she could play with in this center because it would get on her hands. This could cause problems if any crumbs or residue was left on her fingers when she ate lunch or snack. This post will give options for making the sensory center gluten free and fun.

Gluten Free Pasta Sensory Bins

The BIG BONUS is gluten free pasta is much sturdier than wheat pasta.  My grandchildren LOVE to play with it over and over again.  They scoop, pour, bang, and drop it.  The gluten free pasta is like the Energizer Bunny.  It just keeps on going!

Gluten Free Sensory

MATERIALS NEEDED

  • Gluten free pasta of different shapes and sizes (Walmart)
  • McCormick food coloring (red, yellow, and blue)
  • Gluten free distilled vinegar (Great Value brand at Walmart)
  • Gallon plastic baggies
  • Plastic gloves
  • Large plastic tub or sensory table
  • Scoops, tongs, clips, small bowls
  • Small manipulatives (see pictures below)

As always, check the products you purchase to ensure they are gluten free.  The products above are listed as gluten free on their websites and/or labels. Sometimes, companies will change ingredients.  Please check the labels or call the company if you have any questions.  If you are a teacher, ask the child’s parents if you have any questions.  I appreciated my daughter’s teachers asking first.  This helped us find alternatives that would allow her to participate too.

DIRECTIONS

  • Pour pasta into large plastic baggies – one for each color.
  • The pasta is already yellow, so it is ready.
  • Mix 1/4 cup vinegar with a few drops of the desired color into the bag.
  • For orange, mix equal parts of red and yellow.
  • For brown, follow the directions on the McCormick coloring guide on the back of the box. If it gets too dark or green, add in a few drops of red.
  • Mix in baggie until pasta changes to the desired color.
  • Drain the excess liquid out of plastic bag.
  • Line a large cookie sheet or baking tray with foil.
  • Pour pasta onto cookie sheet. (see picture above)
  • Pasta can air dry over night or can be placed in an oven on warm for 15-20 minutes.
  • If using the oven method, turn pasta halfway through the process.
  • Use plastic gloves to keep any dripping color off of your hands.

Store the pasta in a plastic tub or other container and use multiple times.

Differentiated Sensory Bins

FIRST, have the children free explore with scoops and containers.  They will explore concepts such as size, shape, capacity (filling up different sized containers).

  1. Play I SPY or the Camouflage Game.  Place the same color of bear counters or other small objects in the tub and let the children take turns hiding the objects.
  2. Add in lids of different sizes with the pasta.  Have the children sort by size, shape, color, and texture.  The small pasta and lids will help young children strengthen their fine motor skills.
  3. Add in different sized pompoms. The children can learn vocabulary such as hard, soft, long, short, small, and large.

Math and Fine Motor Sensory Bins

KID FRIENDLY TIPS

  • Begin with the pasta, scoops, and bowls.
  • Next add different sized containers, and tongs.
  • After a few days, add other objects.
  • Always supervise young children when they are playing with small objects.

Sensory Bin Art

WANT TO DO MORE?

  • Use some pasta for art projects.
  • Elmer’s Glue is gluten free as listed on their website.
  • Always check the company website before using a craft product.
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Kathy Griffin is an early childhood teacher, educational consultant, mother, and a “Nana K” who writes about teaching young children through hands-on play, music, and movement.  Kathy's daughter has Down Syndrome, Celiac Disease, and Type I Diabetes.  Her passion is to help teachers and families find fun activities that help all children learn. Connect with Kathy on her blog, Learn and Play with Nana K,  Facebook, and Pinterest.

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