Baby Bean Bowl Exploration

bean bowl sensory experience for babies

My little one is almost 9 months old and her curiosity has pushed her to see past the same ol’ toy basket (do you see it there, hidden under the cabinet?), in search of new stimulation.

“Enter stage left: Bean Bowl!”

I created the bean bowl for my older daughter to sort and sift through while I’m busy in the kitchen, and I was only sort of surprised when little baby Rainbow (my older daughter’s nickname for her) scooted over to see what it was all about. She adores the sandbox, isn’t big on on eating sand (do you hear me knocking on wood?), so I thought that with supervision this would be a fun experience for her curious little mind and body.

baby bean bowl exploration

The level of focus was palpable.

baby bean bowl exploration

And refining fine motor skills was in full force! In addition to beans, I threw in some beads, sequins, and mini toys to keep the interest high.

baby bean bowl exploration

Once she got comfortable with this new medium, she tried several things including pulling the bowl toward her, sifting beans through both hands, pushing her fingers deep into the bowl, and eventually tipping part of the bowl over into her lap. This was all so much fun that we decided to try it again the next morning…

baby bean bowl exploration

The same experience lasted for about three minutes before all the pieces were dumped on the floor! Sigh. As you can imagine, we haven’t done much with the bean bowl since! Now that I see how much she enjoyed this experience, my next plan is to move the beans into our non-tipping sensory tub.

Baby Sensory Play: Bean Bowl.

If you try this with your little ones, use common sense, especially if they’re prone to putting small objects in their mouths.


  1. Rachele,
    This is such a meaningful activity for a toddler! Yeah, the focus is indeed palpable -as you said. I used to give whole wheat and other beans to Pari in a sand bucket along with the spade, sieve and other paraphernalia that comes with a beach sand play kit. She used to play for hours while I would finish off tasks in the kitchen. interestingly, Pari never put those things in her mouth. Whereas, my 9-month old niece cannot play wth anything without exploring it in her mouth first! So, these play ideas don’t work with her..!
    Your little baby rainbow is super cute! 🙂

    • Rashmie, I was surprised that this child hasn’t been putting the beans in her mouth — yet! When we were at the park the other day, a friend was surprised that she wasn’t eating sand. No two children are the same, that’s for sure!

  2. Beans must be genetically encoded into us somehow. My now 4 yr old started “helping” me when I sort and clean beans (prior to crockpot cooking them) and she is now a total pro at it!

    • Now isn’t this a very useful skill, derived from good ol’ fashioned play! Thanks so much for sharing, Deanna.

  3. This is fun. Maybe she can have two small cups to scoop and pour? Would love to see your sensory tub and what recommendation you have to set up one. I am thinking to set up one for my 2 years old.

    • Good idea, Sheau. She loves holding something in each hand in the tub, and you’re probably right that she’s ready for something more! The sensory tub is simply a large, clear “under the bed” style storage container that I prop up on a low table. I like it because it stores away easily and it was under $10 🙂 You can see it here: https://tinkerlab.com/2011/01/vinegar-and-baking-soda/

  4. I remember this – a little friend of mine put a bean into her nose (unbeknowst to her mom). Some days later, there was great pain in the nose area. At the hospital emergency department, they were able to extract an already sprouted bean plant.

    • Good grief! Seriously? A bean actually sprouted in her nose?! I’m keeping a close eye on this one, but I’ll be sure to watch her just a bit closer. 🙂 What a story!

  5. oh my goodness Emmy!!! I was just going to say how my son puts everything! in his mouth first, but has the sense to always spit out the wrong stuff. we did beans yesterday and he loved it. but now this sprouting bean has me less relaxed about the whole event. those beans hideout in the darndest of places.

    • Really? You were playing with beans yesterday too? I love that. Yes, let’s all be diligent about bean-patrolling. No one needs to have plants extracted from their noses!!

  6. Rachelle, this is a great game for your little Rainbow to try. I used to play it with my son when he was about that age, except instead of beans I used bird seed. One thing that helped was to put a large beach towel or a blanket on the floor and sit him in the center of it with the bird seed container. That way most of the dumped out seeds ended up on the towel and were very easy to collect and put back into the container at the end of the game.

    • I am so glad you took a moment to share this tip, Yelena! A towel is a great solution to my spilled beans problem. Brilliant!!!!

  7. I love the photo with the beans dumped on the floor. Such a cute little expression.

  8. Love this!! I used to give beans to Putti along with a cup to scoop. Her favorite part was scooping beans over herself, guess she was having a bean shower:))
    Love the last photo!!

  9. Very cute! She is adorable! Never gave C beans when she was that little! She loved frozen peas and had great fine motor control back then! I bet she would have loved it! When we played with beads a few months ago we had them all over the carpet and she was playing in them!

  10. Guess what? I tried this with my 9.5 month old son and it was soooo fun for him! I came upon this idea on Pinterest and decided to go for it. I gathered all kinds of beans, wild rice, hominy, etc. anything like that … and I dumped it all into a ziplock plactic tub … I included a few random buttons, some shells from the beach, and some different sprinkles … like rainbow and stars … oh and cinnamon sticks and some whole spices.

    Well, I put the tub on a blanket and put my son on the blanket, than I decided to put the tub into a big cardboard box that my son could sit in and dig into the plastic tub. It worked so great. He was so amazed! I even taught him “don’t eat… don’t eat!!!” and re-directing him … and he started to get it.

    Thanks for such a great idea.

  11. I’ve done many different activities like this, but never with beans! 🙂 My daughters old favorite was dried split peas. They were small enough to not be a choking hazard, which I really liked… but were still food so it wasn’t a big deal if she ended up eating one once in a while. My son is now 12 months, so I think I’ll have tog et more stuff out for him to play with!

    • Hi Celena, There are so many ways to present this activity! Beans, split peas, rice, etc. Your 12-month old is at just the right age to test this out with close supervision. Have fun!! ~rachelle

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