We’re channeling Inside Out with today’s edible rainbow sensory bin, using our homemade edible rainbow waterbeads for a Emotional Intelligence-building Sensory Bin.
Inside Out Sensory Bin
Has your family watched Inside Out?
It’s a Disney movie that has a really ingenious way of explaining emotions and memories – to both parents and kids. (And as a psychologist, I can say that the way they present the information and discuss how emotions and memories form a person’s identity and way of looking at life is both accurate and brilliant.)
Getting kids to correctly identify their emotions – both in the moment and after the fact – is an important life skill that helps them navigate situations better. If you can understand that you are feeling angry in the moment, you can also be responsible for your behaviour and choices while “anger is running the switchboard.”
Identifying emotions is the first step towards teaching children beneficial ways of handling their emotions; for example, if you want to teach your child that stepping away from a situation and taking deep breaths is a good way to calm down when angry, the first step is helping them identify what anger feels and looks like – both when they are calm and when they are angry.
Talking about situations and breaking those situations down is a great way to do this, but not all kids are comfortable just sitting down and talking about situations that upset them. (And some kids just don’t like sitting down and talking!)
That’s where this Inside Out sensory bin comes in!
By letting kids immerse themselves in the sensory bin and use it to help express themselves, it creates a fun way to talk about some not-so-fun situations and makes talking about emotions less daunting. (I’ve been using EQ-building sensory bins in my daycare for years now.)
This sensory bin is great not just for helping kids talk about their own emotions and situations where they felt strong emotions, but you can also use this bin to discuss situations that they witnessed where other people experienced big emotions – developing greater empathy for other people.
First, I’m going to describe how to make the edible waterbeads – though with older kids you can use regular non-edible waterbeads – and then I’m going to describe how we used the sensory bin to discuss emotions.
Ingredients for Edible Rainbow Waterbeads
- One or two packages quick-cook tapioca pearls
- Water, as called for
- Food dye in rainbow colors
Tip: tapioca pearls often come in rainbow colors so you can skip dying them, but I find the colors very muted and wanted bright, distinct colors for this activity.
Tip 2: you can cook the tapioca pearls separately in colored water to skip a step – but that involves 6 different pots which was more work to me!
Kitchen Tools You May Find Helpful
- 6 small bowls or containers
- plastic tub
How to Make an Inside Out Emotions Sensory Bin
First, prepare the tapioca pearls as directed on the package. (Different packages may vary.)
Rinse the tapioca pearls really well under cold water to reduce stickiness.
Divide the tapioca pearls into 6 small bowls or plastic containers, and add several drops of food dye to each.
Rinse the beads to remove sticky excess residue again.
(I let the beads sit for about 20 minutes before rinsing to let the color soak in, but that may not have been necessary.)
Arrange the tapioca pearls in a small plastic tub in rainbow order.
Present the sensory bin to your child and suggest that the beads remind you of the memory balls from Inside Out (if you’ve watched the movie with your child – if not, introduce the concept that colors can represent emotions and that each of the balls can represent a time that you felt a specific emotion, and give an example).
After squishing and swirling them, make a game of making faces to match the beads – green for disgust, yellow for happy, red for angry, blue for sad and purple for fear/worry.
Hold a yellow bead, and ask your child if they have a memory of when they were happy. Talk about how happy feels, why the situation made them happy, etc.
Move on to discuss other situations with different emotions. Don’t force the conversation but make it safe for your child to talk to you about how they felt and why – even if you think the way they interpreted a situation was wrong or they shouldn’t have felt a certain way.
If using our edible waterbeads (and not real ones), you can also add on “getting rid of a memory” by eating it! (While I don’t think sad or angry emotions or situations are something children should think are “bad” or something they have to get rid of, for some kids, the feeling that they can choose what they give energy or attention to – and what memories to hold onto – can be really empowering.)
Grab your free printable for how to make your own emotions sensory bin here:
This Disney-inspired sensory bin is a great way to get kids talking about their emotions and understanding them in a whole new way!