Simple Bear Messy Play Invitation

Let kids explore a variety of early learning skills with this low-prep bear messy play activity. And be sure to check out my epic list of messy play ideas once you’re done here.

In addition to being super easy to put together, the bear sensory play gives children the opportunity to learn as they play. The messy bear bin allows kids to practice literacy, math, and sensory skills. All while having fun.

I think the bear bin would be perfect for your next bear theme, hibernation theme, or as part of a book-based unit. You can make easily make tweaks to the messy play invitation as needed!

collage of pompom sensory bin with text that reads bear messy play

Don’t let the term “messy play” scare you too much, now! As I’m sure you’re aware, young children can turn almost any material into a messy experience. I’m not judging them – I have that superpower, too.

So this super simple bear bin can (and likely will) get a bit messy. And that’s okay! Have a clean-up plan in place ahead of time and you’ll be good to go.

Bear Messy Play

The messy bear fun pictured here is in a small bin, but yours doesn’t need to be. Decide ahead of time if you want to make individual sensory bins or one larger one. Smaller bins let children work on their own and are great during transitions. Larger bins let multiple kids play and explore with their peers.

Materials for the Pompom Sensory Bin

Once you’ve decided if you want to make the bear messy play on a small or large scale, grab the materials you’ll need. Here’s what we used (I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post):

You can also grab a bear book to pair with the sensory bin. Corduroy, for example, or one of Karma Wilson’s bear books. Sensory tools your students like would be great with this bin, as well.

You can definitely make your own adjustments to the materials list! Maybe you have tons of brown pompoms, but no white pompoms. That’s perfectly fine! Or perhaps you want to add some small bear toys to the mix. That sounds like a great idea – in fact, I’ll likely do that next time.

pompom messy play in shades of brown, black, and white

Don’t stress yourself out if you don’t have the exact same items pictured here. Your students will still get a lot out of a messy bear sensory bin with different items in it.

How to Prep the Bear Messy Play

Once you have the materials you need, it’s time to put everything together. Since this is a rather low-prep invitation to play, it can be ready to go in a snap. You can even have the children help you assemble it if you’d like.

First, pour the pompoms into your bin or table. Mix them up so the colors aren’t separated. Keep in mind, the larger the bin, the more pompoms you’re going to need.

After the pompoms are in the bin, it’s time to add the buttons. Again, scatter them around the bin so they’re not all in one spot. Add buttons of different colors, sizes, shapes, and textures if you can. And don’t forget the bear-shaped buttons!

bear messy play bin with picture book about bear

If you want to add bear toys or bear-shaped containers, now’s the time to do so. You can also place some sensory tools, like cups or tongs, in the bin at this point, too. And then you’re ready to call the kids over (if they aren’t already there helping to set things up).

Playing and Learning with the Messy Bear Activity

This bear messy play setup is super simple. But that doesn’t make it any less interesting or educational for your students. It’s an open-ended activity, meaning that the children can use their own discretion when it comes to how to interact with the materials. Of course, set up any ground rules you have ahead of time (for example, the materials need to stay in or near the bin).

Because of the open-endedness, you’ll see your students playing in many different ways. Here are some of the possibilities:

  • Running their hands through the pompoms
  • Sorting the buttons by various attributes
  • Matching the pompoms and buttons based on color or size
  • Creating patterns using the materials
  • Making up stories about bears and acting them out with the bear buttons
collage of child playing with items in bear messy sensory bin

Of course, there are so many other ways the kids might play in the bin. Which is one of the big benefits to open-ended play, right?

In terms of early learning concepts, here are some the children might touch on with the bear messy play:

  • Counting
  • Sorting
  • Patterning
  • Storytelling
  • Conversation skills
  • Turn taking
  • Waiting their turn
  • Descriptive vocabulary
  • Sensory exploration (touch and sight, specifically)

See what I mean? Lots of playful learning opportunities within the bear messy play. Would your kids enjoy this idea?

More Bear Activities for Kids

If your students enjoyed the bear messy play, here are a few more ideas to try with them:

Be sure to save this post for future reference. And check out my Bear Theme Pinterest board for even more bear ideas.

Hibernation Lesson Plans

Let Preschool Teacher 101 save you time with fully-developed, done-for-you early childhood resources! Find hundreds of items for preschool and kindergarten in our shop or join The Pack, our membership program for teachers like you.

If your students enjoy the bear messy play, you need to check out our hibernation lesson plans. They come with a weekly overview, detailed daily plans, whole group activities, small group lessons, center ideas, book suggestions, and related printables. Click on the image below to get them for your class:

hibernation lesson plans product cover

You can also find us on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Close up of pompom and button sensory bin with text that reads brown bear messy play

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