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YO MAMA: What happened when I took advice from a mom-blogger

Image Credit: PEXELS



It was one of those days. I needed something, anything, that would occupy my toddler for 15 minutes. Even five minutes. Enough time to take a few sips of hot coffee.

The answer, according to mom-bloggers everywhere?

A sensory bin!

If you are a parent, you have probably heard of the mystical sensory bin and alleged endless entertainment that comes with it. For anyone not yet familiar with the sensory bin, it is basically a big tub filled with dried rice/ pasta noodles/ flour or other base material along with things like measuring spoons, funnels and small toys.

Mom-bloggers and Insta-moms champion the sensory bin as being great for developing fine motor skills and expanding problem-solving abilities. Children who use sensory bins as children are statistically more likely to pursue a career in aerodynamics. (Just kidding).

You are supposed to put the bin on a towel “for easy clean up” and explain to your toddler the three golden rules of sensory bins: No dumping, no eating, no throwing.

Childless readers are likely already shaking their heads at the idea of giving a small child a bin filled with such mess-inducing materials. And they are right. But they don’t know the sometimes dark and desperate moments of parenting.

I settled on the rice. It made a pleasing sound as it skittered into the bin. Kind of like a rainstick. I picked up a handful of rice and let the cool kernels slip through my fingers. Oh heck yes. The kid is going to absolutely love this. I love this! I thought. I was already daydreaming of peacefully doing dishes without a toddler yanking at my pant leg.

I set the bin down on a big drop sheet near the kitchen. The kid was already scrambling to get at it. I looked him dead in the eyes and said, “This is a very special toy that I know you will have a lot of fun with while mummy cleans the kitchen, but you need to remember, no dumping, no throwing, no eating. Ok?” He nodded very convincingly.

“Go ahead then,” I said, backing away slowly.

He couldn’t believe what was happening. I think, even then, he knew the potential destruction he could cause with a bin like this. He picked up a handful of rice and let it trickle out of his hand. Glanced back at me for reaction.

He smiled, sweetly at first, and then the smile turned slightly wicked at the corners. I watched the next few seconds unfold in slow motion. It was like a scene from John Wick. He pulled the ladle out of the bin with one hand like a samurai sword, spraying rice everywhere. In the other hand, he got a measuring cup and flung it skyward, little pellets of rice raining down on the tile floor like hail. Rice moves like a bullet train when it hits a hard surface.

In seconds, rice was in the kid’s mouth, in his hair, and in every nook and cranny of the kitchen.

Image Credit: PEXELS

My disdain for the almighty sensory bin was beyond comparison. I hated that I had fallen for this nonsensical, overrated trend. The mom-bloggers had gotten me with their bright and cheery photos of concentrating toddlers carefully scooping and pouring rice inside their sensory bins. I should have known better. I should have suspected that sensory bins were an Internet conspiracy intended to demoralize new parents. Now I had a trillion pieces of rice all over the floor that I would be cleaning up for the rest of my life.

At least the kid was having a blast. And he did help to clean it up after, so it wasn’t all bad.

When I asked my mom if she ever made me a sensory bin, she looked kind of confused.

“You played with pinecones and sticks,” she said. “That’s a sensory experience, right?”

Yes, yes it is.

— Charlotte Helston gave birth to her first child, a rambunctious little boy, in the spring of 2021. Yo Mama is her weekly reflection on the wild, exhilarating, beautiful, messy, awe-inspiring journey of parenthood.


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