Books to go with themed sensory bins

Jasmine: I thought it would be fun to combine two of Dylan’s greatest loves- books and sensory baskets! (Andrew: Seems like you had more fun doing this than Dylan – come to think of it, did he even get to play with these baskets?)

These are some of our recent baskets (with thematically related books) that I’ve assembled for Dilly:

Sensory Basket 1: Shapes

What’s in it:

  • The triangle suncatcher “made” by Dilly and I
  • Manhattan Skwish (the molecule-looking thing)
  • Square water block
  • Dylan’s current favourite ball
  • Shapes book


The book: Shapes by Jenn Ski.

A latex-free book made with non-toxic paint that we bought at a book sale while erm, waiting to redeem free Pizza Hut pizzas. (Andrew: ‘Nothing is impossible’ is Dearie’s life motto when it comes to shopping – shopping is possible anytime, anywhere!)

What I like is that unlike our other books, it is interactive in a different way- it is a shape sorter. The foam material of this book means you can probably take it in the bath too, though we’ve yet to try that!

Andrew: Dylan enjoys the texture of this book very much and can spend extended amounts of time just playing with the shapes. He initially had difficulty ‘taking out’ the shapes, but now he can do so, but can’t put them back in. It’s a toy – oops, I mean, a book that has kept him quite occupied!


Sensory Basket 2: Food

Jasmine: So this sensory basket was special because I made a play kitchen to go with it!

Between 12-18 months, babies start engaging in make-believe play. According to a Yale paper (Andrew: Seriously?), pretend play is essential in a world where little ones often lack control of their own environment where everything is larger than them. Pretend play gives the child “a miniature world of downsized objects where she is the giantess and the [props] are manipulable. She can reshape her own bedtime or feeding experience with the help of some props we adults can offer” (Singer, 1994). (Andrew: OMG, you even have references!)

Dylan is also at a stage of imitating us and he seems especially interested in our kitchen activities. Whenever Mum was cooking, Dylan would crawl to wherever we were in the kitchen or observe me very intently as I got water out of the fridge and poured it into a glass for us to share.

Thus, I thought it was time for Dylan to have his own play kitchen, which I made from a cardboard box in about 15 minutes. I cut out a hole for the sink (a plastic container) and taped cardboard circles (cut out from the base of the box) to simulate stoves. However, Dilly seemed more interested in destroying the kitchen than actually “cooking” on it. He ripped out the sink and straw (which represented the tap) many times and threw balls down the hole instead. When I told Weixuan about my play kitchen flop, she assured me that demolition (taking things apart to see how they all fit together) was the precursor to creation (putting things together). I hope so!

[Andrew: The play kitchen lasted for about 1 day. However, following this ‘failed’ attempt at play kitchen, Dearie sent me several photos of play kitchen sets, which looked amazing, but I checked out the prices at Toys ‘R’ Us lately and well Dearie, let’s just say I’ll be supporting your next hand-made play kitchen attempt more. Think there are quite a lot of boxes from my office you can use!]

What’s in it:

  • Two sensory bottles, one liquid and one with Lay’s chips wrapper and bells
  • Two empty Yakult bottles
  • A Balinese coconut wood bowl and a Ben & Jerry’s udders bowl that my colleague didn’t want
  • Rubber and wood cylinders to double as stirrers or pretend food, to “interrupt” play (idea borrowed from Blue House)
  • Pull-apart Velcro sandwich
  • Daiso dustpan… for cleaning up after, haha



The “splashback” says Dylan’s Kitchen… but not for long, as it got torn off too

I also tried introducing some real fruit to enhance the make-believe play, like this pear…


Andrew: The toys assembled are some of Dylan’s favourite – in particular, the dustpan, believe it or not! He actually loves using it to ‘dust’ the floor, but occasionally he gets real naughty and starts using it to ‘dust’ our faces – that cheeky boy! He loves the Yakult bottles too because they are so light and make so much noise when thrown around. They are also great for biting too.

The book: Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert

Jasmine: This book was the perfect accompaniment to the play kitchen, and it isn’t even ours! Steffy accidentally left it behind after a play date. What I like is that the foods mentioned aren’t the typical ones e.g. apple, banana but more unusual ones. We also use it to get ideas for suitable, wholesome baby foods! The illustrations are rendered in great autumnal tones instead of the typical primary color schemes associated with kids’ books and all kids’ items in general.



And just throwing in a food-related picture for good measure- Dylan eating his banana himself!


Sensory Basket 3: Mother’s Day

Jasmine: Before I talk about the contents of this basket, we’ve noticed that Dylan has been displaying affection to stuffed toys and pictures of people. For example, he will rub noses with or hug this big bear of his Ee Ee’s, or pat his smelly penguin while we pat him to sleep.


Jasmine:I’ve been reading up about the importance of doll play (yes, even for boys!) and how it’s crucial in reinforcing desired social skills and compassion in children. (Andrew: I thought you were going to throw up another ‘reference’ again.) Expressing care is something that boys especially seem to be acculturated out of as they grow up, with a society that stereotypes even boys and their toys as modes for action and aggression. Yet I would say that that ability to connect with other humans and show affection is so sorely lacking in our boys and men today. Thus, I had the idea to do a Mother’s Day sensory basket which would encourage affectionate behaviours!

What’s in it:

  • A stuffed penguin
  • Dylan’s baby shoe (we lost the other side in Taipei)
  • A hairbrush
  • A silk scarf
  • Two soft books

Unlike our other sensory baskets, I deliberately tried to use softer textures. The items in the basket are to encourage pretend play, which goes very well with the other book that I will be showing you later.


The books:

  • Are You My Mother by R.D. Eastman, a 1970s classic of seeking and finding a sense of belonging.
  • Baby’s Day Out by Karen Katz, about the typical activities in a baby’s day, from waking up, eating, playing on a swing (hence my inclusion of the baby shoe in the sensory basket) to finally winding down for bedtime.

Both books have a similar concept, as they include a stuffed character that the  baby can move from page to page.

My personal favourite is Baby’s Day Out! The doll wears pyjamas and a sleepy look on one side, and training pants and wide-open eyes on the other.


Every page of the book has a little “pocket” that you can slide the Baby doll into to include him in the activities. This two-page spread always makes me swoon- after you “bathe” Baby (and comb his hair with the hairbrush that I threw in), you can towel him dry with the terry cloth on the next page!


We have been trying to set boundaries for Dylan in the area of physical contact, especially as he tends to hit or slap our faces when he gets too excited. (Andrew: Tell me about it – his default mode now is to hit faces or grab our specs violently.) We use the term “soft touch” to denote gentle patting, especially on people or fragile/ breakable items. Initially I thought “soft touch” was too abstract a term, and tried “one finger touch” at Dr Sear’s suggestion, but Dylan’s “one finger touch” involved jabbing everything with great force, including my eye, so “soft touch” quickly came back into fashion.

I have been practising “soft touch” with Dilly by modelling it on his penguin, showing him how to hug it and love it.


Dilly passing the penguin to me- he wants me to demonstrate “soft touch”


Now Dilly’s turn to love the penguin

Dylan is a naturally sweet-natured, loving baby, who loves to kiss me and lay his head on my shoulder when I say “how do you love Mummy?”. We hope that this sweetness will not be stamped out as he grows up in a culture which prizes male aggression.

Andrew: Yes, I intend to bring up my boy as a gentleman, who knows how to be firm, assertive yet without being crass and violent. He does have quite a few soft-toys, like another teddy bear which I got from my first year of teaching that says ‘Mr Chong’ on its pink shirt. I would never have thought it would end up being my son’s toy. Anyway, he does like to play with the teddy bear occasionally too, hugging it and dragging it around. He’s a really sweet boy!


One response to “Books to go with themed sensory bins

  1. Pingback: Amazon Toys Playdate | Andrew Loves Jazzy

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