Sensory Bin Play

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but… I think I might have just stepped over to the Pinterest side of me that I didn’t even know I had. I started doing something new with my son, not having any idea of how it would turn out. And let me tell you, it was a BIG HIT.

Let me introduce you to “Sensory Bins”.

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My sister has often mentioned the importance of sensory play. She’s a preschool special education consultant, so any advice she has to offer in way of cognitive development is going to be pretty valuable. It kept coming to my mind because I’ve been dying to try to find things for Jack to do. It’s too hot to play outside (other than swim) and this toddler NEEDED something new. BAD.

I started looking up sensory tables, knowing how ridiculous I was being since 1) I cannot afford to buy a sensory table and B) where the heck would I even put it. After some research, I found a new love. Which is sensory bins. And OH. MY. GOSH.

They are SO easy. You can find EVERYTHING you need at the dollar store. The only expensive problem is that I have too many ideas and I wish I could put together one for every week of the year. Seriously. I love these things. And not only do I love them, but you know who else does? MY TWO-YEAR-OLD.

He asks to play with them Every. Single. Day. As soon as he’s done eating breakfast he’ll walk over to the hall closet and point. “Bin! Bin!” When he plays… honestly, it’s actually quiet. Like NAP TIME QUIET. I am so obsessed with these, I don’t even know where to begin…

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I guess I’ll start with the bins themselves. What the heck is a sensory bin? Basically, all it is… is a shoe-box sized container filled with some kind of material that a kid can just stick their hands in and feel! Texture is important. You can also put little treasures and toys in. Scoops, funnels, anything that will let them play around and experiment. It’s basically a miniature sandbox. (Actually, you can totally use sand!)

Is it messy? Yes. But isn’t everything else that a toddler does? Yes! In my experience, it hasn’t been bad at all and YOU are the one who controls what kind of a mess it is. YOU are the one who decides what kind of a bin it will be. You don’t even have to do it inside if you don’t want to!

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Make sure you get a bin with a tight lid so you can store them away!

 

So with that, let me show you what I put together, so you can get an idea:

 

I found these colorful packing peanuts. So fun. Despite the fact that he was the one who picked out the Styrofoam peanuts, this is actually Jack’s least favorite bin. I’m not too worried though because I think he’ll like it more as he gets a little older. I’ve hidden wooden numbers in there, which will be fun when he starts to learn how to count.

Bin $1

Numbers $1

3 bags of packing peanuts: $6

Plastic shovels: $1

ALL IN ALL: $9

 

I reeeeally love this one. BECAUSE IT’S FREAKING DINOSAUR THEMED!

Bin: $1

Red kidney beans $1

White beans $1

Dinosaur play set $1

Plastic shovels (shared with the other box!)

ALL IN ALL: $4

 

This is my most recent one, I put it together for the fall time! Take note of the messiness in the background.

Bin: $1

Corn Kernels: $2

Fabric leaves: $1

Set of Dump Trucks: $6

ALL IN ALL: $9

 

This one is the holy grail of sensory bins for my toddler. Honestly, he’s kind of obsessed… THE WATER SENSORY BIN. And okay, I know what you’re thinking. Yikes! But here is what I do. Knowing that I was going to try out a water bin, I got a towel from the dollar store (bonus! This one is a cool round shape!) I set it out in the kitchen and put a bath mat ON TOP of that. Double protection. Then I have Jack sit with the bin on the bath mat. We’ve had a bunch of spills but it was no big deal with this set-up. I will say though that the first time he did this, he got pretty soaked himself- so that’s something to think about!

As you can see, I started to switch it up by putting in a tiny droplet of dishwashing soap and giving him one of my slotted spoons. He adored it. He likes to throw in glass aquarium pebbles, stir them around with the spoon and scoop up bubbles. This has been a massive hit at our house. In fact: Tantrum Warning – may cause a lot of tears when putting away!

Bin $1

Aquarium rocks $1

Water: Free

Spoons and dishwashing soap: On hand

ALL IN ALL: TWO FREAKING DOLLARS

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Today he also decided that he wanted to “wash” everything in my baking drawer. So prepare yourself for this kind of discovery/shenanigans.

I’ve been having way too much fun. I found an easy recipe to make fake snow. I think I’ll be putting together a winter bin in a few months!

Cajun Pasta Chicken

It’s been quite a while since I’ve shared a recipe with you guys, so I figured this would be a good one. This, in my husband’s opinion, is my best dinner. Originally it was a buzzfeed recipe (I’ll post below), but I ended up modifying it for several reasons. First reason is that I can never find good sausage so I don’t even bother with it. Secondly, I already had garlic salt and lemon pepper from another failed Cajun recipe so hey, can’t let that go to waste.

The biggest change is that the original recipe was a “one-pot” deal. Which I really liked the idea of only using one pot, but what I found is that it did NOT take ten minutes to cook out the chicken broth, it took more like fifty minutes. Ultimately, I decided that I would rather clean an additional pot than spend an hour plus standing over a hot stove. If that’s not a big deal for you, I’ve included both recipes below. Enjoy!

 

INGREDIENTS:
– Vegetable Oil (2 Tbsp.)
– 2 Diced Chicken Breasts
– Lemon Pepper
– Garlic Salt
– Onion (chopped)
– Red Pepper (1, sliced)
– Green Pepper (1, sliced)
– Mushrooms (2 cups)
– 16 oz box of Fettuccine
– Chicken broth (5 cups)
– Heavy Cream (1/2 cup)
– Shredded Parmesan (1 cup)
– Cajun Seasoning (1 Tbsp.) (I use Cajun Choice)

DIRECTIONS:

Get pasta cooking in the five ounces of chicken broth. (Or alternatively, four ounces of chicken broth and one cup water)

Pour vegetable oil into the pot. Add diced chicken breast to the pot, coat with Cajun seasoning.

Once the chicken is cooked, add in the onion, peppers, and mushrooms. Stir in the garlic salt and lemon pepper. (If you would like your pasta to be spicier, you can add more Cajun seasoning here.) Continue stirring until the veggies cook down.

Add the cooked pasta. Stir in the heavy cream and Parmesan.

 

 

Here is the original video and recipe:

 

How To Bake Rice

I was supposed to publish a recipe last Thursday and never got around to it. Did you notice?

To make up for it, I’ll teach you how to make rice without busting your back over the stove. Fair?

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup uncooked rice

2 cups water

 

DIRECTIONS:

Heat water in a 2 quart container for 2 minutes in the microwave. Stir rice in immediately, cover and bake. 400° for 20 minutes.

 

Makes PERFECT rice every time! I never make stove top anymore since this one is super easy.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

In case you couldn’t already tell, I have a love affair with pasta. Pasta is so great. I got this recipe from this blog here. http://www.craftymorning.com/chicken-bacon-ranch-pasta-recipe/  I was just too lazy for that recipe, so I made a quicker and easier version…

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound of pasta (penne or rotini)

2 diced chicken breasts

1 package of bacon bits

1 packet of ranch dressing mix

2 cups of milk

1 cup of cheddar cheese

2 tbsp of flour

 

DIRECTIONS:

Start cooking your pasta. In a skillet cook your chicken until no longer pink, (if you are as gross and lazy as me you can use a can of chicken of cooked chicken and skip this step). Add the ranch dressing, flour and 2 cups of milk to the chicken. Stir until thick. Add cheese and half of your bacon bits. Stir until melted. Combine with pasta. Garnish with extra bacon bits if desired.

 

My husband and one-year-old LOVE this recipe.

 

Val’s Version of Stroganoff

This used to be my husband’s favorite meal that I make and when we were first married he would have me make it every other day.

 

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INGREDIENTS:

1 lb hamburger

2 brown gravy mix packets

1 cup beef broth

1 Tb Worchestershire sauce

1/2 cup sour cream

 

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DIRECTIONS:

Brown the beef in skillet (drain excess fat). Add both gravy packets to the cooked meat. Add the beef broth and the Worchestershire sauce. Simmer until thick. Mix in the sour cream. Serve over noodles.

Amish Mac & Cheese

This is my “Oops, we’re out of milk” recipe.

 

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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups cottage cheese (16oz)
2 cups shredded cheese
2 cups water
2 cups macaroni noodles uncooked

Breadcrumbs (if desired)

Amish mac

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Stir everything together in a 9 x 13 pan
  • Bake uncovered at 300 for 30 mins
  • Take out and stir like you mean it! Sprinkle a bit more cheese and bread crumbs on the top (if you want)
  • Put back in for another 30 mins
  • AND YOU’RE DONE!

 

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Lemon Garlic Butter Salmon

This is the perfect meal if you don’t want to put a lot of effort into it but still -appear- as if you did.

 

fishing

INGREDIENTS:

2 Salmon Fillets

1/4 cup of butter (half a stick)

1 Tsp of lemon pepper

1 Tsp of garlic powder

Bushel of asparagus

Virgin olive oil

 

 

DIRECTIONS:

Wash and snap the asparagus to a size a little longer than your salmon. Lay the asparagus side by side on a baking sheet and drizzle olive oil over them. Set the fillets on top. Melt the butter in the microwave and stir in your lemon pepper and garlic powder. Pour the butter onto each salmon fillet. Bake uncovered at 420 for 20 minutes.

Fish dinner

 

If you have your own easy recipes or food blog, share the link below so everyone can check them out!