Our All About Sensory Bins Guide below is your best resource for getting started with sensory bins. Whether you are making a sensory bin for home or for a classroom, there are a few things to know. Learn about the benefits of sensory bins , what you can use in a sensory bin and how you can make a great sensory bin for toddlers to preschoolers.  Sensory bins or sensory boxes for kids are much easier to make than you might think! 

AWESOME SENSORY BIN IDEAS FOR KIDS!

SENSORY PLAY FOR KIDS

Over the past few years, we have learned a lot about sensory play and specifically, sensory bins. I am so excited to share our best sensory bin ideas with you below.

You will also want to check out our Ultimate Sensory Activities Guide which includes more fun sensory play activities, including sensory bottles, sensory recipes, slime and more. 

These ideas comes from what I have learned from making sensory bins over the last few years. We began using sensory bins long before I understood why my son enjoyed them so much!

Sensory bins can also be part of a discovery table set up. You can see one here with our dinosaur discovery table, farm theme sensory table and with our fall leaves discovery table.

I am confident that once you know all about sensory bins, you will be creating a new sensory bin each week. Learning about sensory bins and making sensory bins will open up a whole new world of sensory play for you and your kids!

10 favorite sensory bins

WHAT IS A SENSORY BIN?

To make your own sensory bin, you need to know what one is! The simplest definition is that it is a hands-on tactile experience for kids, in a contained area such as a storage container.

A sensory bin or sensory box is a simple container filled with a preferred filler in quantity. Our favorite fillers to use include craft sand, birdseed, colored rice and water!

The container should be large enough to let your child explore without spilling the filler out of the container.  A sensory bin can be easily switched for an unique or novel experience every time!

WHY USE SENSORY BINS?

Sensory bins are awesome hands-on tools for children to learn about their world and their senses! Sensory play may calm a child, focus a child, and engage a child. I would love for you to read our story, Connecting Through Sensory Play.

Here’s what children can learn from sensory bins:

  • Practical Life Skills ~ Sensory bins let a child explore, discover and create play using practical life skills (dumping, filling, scooping) and learn valuable play skills.
  • Play Skills {emotional development} ~ Great for both social play and independent play, sensory bins allow children to play cooperatively or side by side. My son has had many positive experiences over a bin of rice with other children!
  • Language Development ~ Sensory bins increase language development from experiencing with their hands all there is to see and do which leads to great conversations and opportunities to model language.
  • Understanding 5 Senses ~ Many sensory play bins include a few of the senses! Touch, sight, sounds, taste and smell are the 5 senses. Children can experience several at a time with a sensory bin. Imagine a bin of brightly colored rainbow rice: touch the loose grains against the skin, see the vivid colors as they mix together, hear the sound of sprinkling over a plastic container or shaken in a plastic egg! Did you add a scent like vanilla or lavender? Please do not taste uncooked rice, but there are plenty of sensory play options that you use edible ingredients like our pigs in mud pudding play

WHAT TO PUT IN A SENSORY BIN?

1. STORAGE CONTAINER

First chose a large bin or box for your sensory tub. I like clear storage containers the best, preferably 25 QT size with measurements of 24″ long, 15″ wide and 6″ deep. Use what you have if you don’t have these exact measurements! We have used all sorts of sizes.

2. FILLER

Then you want to choose a sensory bin filler.  You will want to add a good amount of the filler as it will make up the bulk of the sensory bin. Our favorite sensory bin fillers include rice, sand, water, aquarium rock and even cloud dough

Check out our complete list of sensory bin fillers here for more ideas! If you can’t use or don’t want to use food in your sensory bin, we also have other options!

3. THEME ITEMS

Sensory bins are a great hands-on way to make early learning fun. Add letters for an alphabet sensory bin, pair it with a book for literacy, or change up the colors and accessories for seasonal and holiday sensory bins. We have tons of fun theme sensory bin ideas for you!

4. PLAY ACCESSORIES

Next, add a scoop or shovel and container. I save all sorts of things from the kitchen as well as collect fun containers from the dollar store! Funnels are great fun to add too. Often the kitchen drawers hold fun goodies to add. See our list of must have sensory bin items!

10 Favorite Sensory Fillers

HOW TO USE A SENSORY BIN?

There is no wrong way to present a sensory bin! I usually put something together and leave it out for my son as an invitation to explore.  Some kids may be especially curious and ready to explore so stand back and enjoy watching! It’s ok to join the fun but don’t direct the play!

A sensory bin is also a great opportunity for independent play. Some kids may be reluctant to start or don’t know how to start and need your help modeling play ideas. Dig in with them to show them how fun it can be to explore. Scoop, dump, fill, and pour yourself!

Talk about what you are doing, seeing and feeling. Ask them questions too! Play cooperatively or individually with your child. You know your child best!

HOW DO YOU CONTROL THE MESS?

Everyone asks about the mess! Toddlers especially can’t resist dumping things. We have had sensory bins in our house for so long, that the mess is minimal. The younger the child, the more challenging it will be to teach proper use of the sensory bin. But with time, patience and consistency it will happen.

I treat sensory bins as any other toy in the house. We don’t throw our toys, we respect them. We don’t scatter them around the house just because we feel like it, we use them and put them away.  Of course, there are accidents! We still have them and it’s OK! 

We also have a small dustpan and broom handy and it is great fine motor work picking up loose beans or other fillers! If a child gets into the habit of throwing for fun, your sensory bin play will be less productive and more frustrating.

READ MORE: Easy Clean Up Tips For Messy Play

THE BEST SENSORY BIN IDEAS

Ok time to put together your own sensory bin. Check out this list of over sensory bin ideas. Click on the links to find out how to set up each one.

Valentine Sensory Bin

Dinosaur Sensory Bin

Easter Sensory Bin

LEGO Sensory Bin

Space Theme Sensory Bin

Spring Sensory Bin

Fall Sensory Bins

Earl The Squirrel: Book and Bin

Halloween Sensory Bin

Halloween Sensory Ideas

Christmas Sensory Bins

Alphabet sensory play activities and ideas for kids learning the alphabet and practicing letter sounds

MORE HELPFUL SENSORY BIN RESOURCES

FUN AND SIMPLE SENSORY BIN IDEAS TO MAKE!

 Click on the image below or on the link for more fun and easy sensory activities for kids!

19 Comments

  1. Great post! My boys just love sensory bins. My girls don’t care for them due to tactile sensitivities. Still, as often as I can, I try to put one together for everyone.

  2. Love sensory play here! The kids like to get involved in creating them now if they see me making one up! And pouring things from container to container never gets old! (Even the kindergartner has fun!)

    Pinning to my sensory board!

  3. What a great resource, especially for those new to putting these together. I also love all your links to some of your favorite bins.

  4. Found your site through Pinterest. My son loves his rice play, and for whatever reason I have never even thought of trying different textures or themes. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for my preschooler. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
    I have a tip to share, too. For smaller children who may have trouble controlling the urge for bigger motions, you can place a fitted sheet on the floor and use gallon jugs filled with water in the corners to create a large, enclosed work surface with sort walls. We use a twin sized sheet in our kitchen for our little guy’s work space, but even a crib sheet would create a nice work area that helps contain the mess. We also have always given him two bins instead of one, because we found he likes to constantly transfer the rice from one bin to the other.

  5. May I just say sensory bins can be used for kids but the y are also used for mentally ill people so please don’t say it’s just for young children 🙂

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