This oil spill sensory bin is a great hands-on way to introduce your preschooler to pollution and seamlessly leads to a conversation about the planet Earth and its animals.
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It’s never too early to introduce our children to the harmful effects of pollution. And for our Earth Science Unit, I knew it was time. My son is turning 5 in a few months and I felt he could absolutely grasp the concept of an oil spill. And, especially after this sensory bin, I know he has an interest in what we can do to save the animals affected by pollution.
More Sensory Activities You Might Like:
- Pretend Snow Sensory Bin
- Family Member Sensory Bin
- Smash the Moon Rocks Sensory Activity
- Fizzing Planets
- Easy Sensory Bottles
- Rainbow Spaghetti Noodles
- Jello Playdough Recipe
Oil Spill Sensory Activity for Preschoolers
Setting this bin up is easy enough. There are a few extras that would take things to the next level, but you can make do with what you have. I do strongly suggest adding the feather aspect to it, so they can get a real-world experience with how hard oil is to clean off of feathers. Either way, this sensory bin is sure to hit home for children of any age.
This idea has been done on several different websites, but I really liked the idea of using cocoa powder to turn the oil dark. This idea is from MoreTimetoTeach.com.
Materials for this Sensory Bin
- Plastic tub
- Baby oil or vegetable oil
- Cocoa powder
- Blue food coloring
- Ocean animal figurines or duck
- Cotton balls
- Optional: feather & dish dawn soap
- Optional: toy boat
Start by filling a plastic bin with water and a little blue food coloring to represent the ocean. To the bin, add some ocean animals or plastic ducks.
In a small container, mix together oil and cocoa powder to represent crude oil. If you have a little bath time plastic boat like this one, you can add the oil to it to kick things up a notch.
Have your child pretend to be a boat spilling the oil into the water.
Immediately they will notice that the way oil and water work together is different than anything they’ve seen before.
Get the animals dirty with the oil as well and have them feel it.
Now, instruct your child to try to clean the oil up using cotton balls. Does it soak the oil up? Is it efficient?
Next, have them try to scoop the oil out using a spoon. They’ll quickly see how difficult it actually is to remove the oil from the water.
Now, if you want to take things to the next level, grab a feather. This was leftover from our Bird Unit, so I was able to add it just as MoreTimeToTeach did!
Dip the feather into the oily water, letting the oil coat it. Next, hand it to your child and have them explore it freely. After they see realize how gross it is and how hard the oil is to get off of the feather, have them clean it off with Dawn dish soap.
You can even follow this activity up with a video showing people cleaning ducks with dish dawn soap after an oil spill!
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How have you talked about pollution in your homeschool studies? Let me know in the comments below!
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