Are you ready to make fantastic sensory bins with your kids? Our list of favorite sensory bin fillers has plenty of great ideas to suit your needs and your kids’ preferences. Check out how to use rice for sensory play or make homemade cloud dough and more. Explore the benefits of making sensory bins or sensory tables, and grab our free sensory play guide to get started!

Why Make A Sensory Bin?

Sensory bins or sensory tables are lovely hands-on fun for many ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners! Creating sensory bins for kids can offer a wide range of benefits, including:

  1. Sensory Exploration: Sensory bins allow kids to explore various textures, materials, and sensory experiences, which can enhance their sensory development.
  2. Fine Motor Skills: Activities within sensory bins often involve scooping, pouring, pinching, and grasping, helping to improve fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
  3. Cognitive Development: Sensory play encourages problem-solving, imaginative play, and cognitive development as children experiment and connect with different elements in the bin.
  4. Language Development: Sensory activities can lead to rich conversations and new vocabulary as children describe what they are feeling, seeing, and experiencing.
  5. Emotional Regulation: Engaging in sensory play can be soothing and help kids manage their emotions, especially when feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
  6. Creativity: Sensory bins allow kids to use their imagination and creativity to develop new ways to play and interact with the materials.
  7. Focus and Attention: Focusing on sensory experiences can improve a child’s attention span and concentration.
  8. Independence: Sensory bins can be set up for independent play, allowing children to engage in self-directed learning and play.
  9. Social Interaction: Sensory bins can also be used in group settings, encouraging social interaction and collaboration among kids.
  10. Sensory Integration: Sensory play can benefit children with sensory processing challenges, helping them adapt to and process sensory input more effectively.

Incorporating sensory bins into a child’s playtime can be a fun and educational way to support their overall development.

Also check out our list of 5 senses activities for young kids!

Cheap Sensory Bin Fillers

Do you have a favorite sensory bin filler?  We have gathered a collection of our favorite sensory bin fillers, that are easy to find or make, and inexpensive as well. 

I like sensory bin fillers I can easily store after playtime is done and are easy to take back out again. You can also use sensory bin fillers that are a bit messy, or can only be used once!  These ones listed below are my favorite sensory bin materials for easy storage and re-use.

Free Quick Start Sensory Bin Guide

Best Sensory Bin Fillers


Colored rice is number one on our list of favorite sensory bin fillers! Find out how to dye rice for beautiful colors to fit your themes. 

Here’s our resource for rice sensory bin ideas for all seasons. Rice has to be one of the quickest and easiest sensory bin fillers out there!

rice is ready to play with in a sensory bin


Simple staples from your pantry can make quick and easy sensory bin fillers.  Check out our simple recipe for how to dye pasta for a cheap sensory bin filler.

Check out our newest sensory bin with pasta – Butterfly Sensory Bin

add sensory bin fillers to your colored pasta


These brightly colored aquarium rocks make easy sensory bin fillers and are great for so many sensory play ideas! See how we used black aquarium rocks for this fun space sensory bin.

20 books and sensory play ideas


CAUTION: We no longer support using water beads for sensory bins and play. Water beads, if ingested, they can be fatal. Please do not use them.


Colored craft sand is a fun sensory bill filler that reminds me of outdoor sand box play!  Here we used our colored sand for a themed Valentine’s Day sensory bin and a sand sensory bin for spring.


Make use of the mounds shredded paper you may have on hand.  Grab some from the dollar store or make your own, shredded paper makes a fun but messy sensory bin filler.

See how we used green shredded paper for our pumpkin patch sensory bin.


Salt is another cheap and easy option for sensory bin fillers.  Find out how to dye salt to make beautiful colored salt for hours of fun sensory play!

salt makes a great sensory bin filler


Have you ever thought of water as a sensory bin filler?  No wonder water is one of our favorite choices for sensory play, and we reckon it makes for the cheapest sensory bin filler!  There are so many things you can do with water, including freezing it and creating a fun ice melt play activity.

Check out these fun sensory play ideas with water and ice:  

10 Water Sensory Bin Fillers


All kinds of household dried beans and peas make a great sensory bin filler.  Plus, they store well and keep for ages! Popping corn makes another easy sensory bin filler idea!

dried beans are great as a sensory bin filler


Cloud dough makes our list of favorite sensory bin fillers because it is so versatile for playing with.  It also keeps nicely for quite a while.

Check out our homemade Cloud Dough Recipe

Here are a few fun variations with cloud dough:

These sensory fillers make awesome any-day play and can be easily adapted to fit your themes, lesson plans or play ideas for toddlers, kindergarteners, and preschoolers.

Cloud Dough


Kinetic sand makes for another fun moldable sensory bin filler that you can use repeatedly. Here’s how to make your own DIY Kinetic Sand!

TRY: Dinosaur Sensory Bin or Tropical Summer Sensory Bin


What’s more fun than colorful rainbow spaghetti for young kids to dig their hands into! Find out how to dye cooked spaghetti for sensory play that’s taste-safe!


A colorful and inexpensive craft material that makes a fun sensory bin filler! See how we used it to make this colorful Ice Cream Sensory Bin.

Ice Cream Sensory Bin


We used wooden beads to create these fun fall theme sensory bins!


Fake snow is easy to make and perfect for winter theme sensory bin filler! See here how to make fake snow. Or you can easily purchase fake snow that simply needs water added!

Fake Snow


Craft and dollar stores often have bags of vase rocks, stones, or pebbles used as vase filler. This is a fantastic material to add as a sensory bin filler or to add to other sensory bin fillers. Go ahead and add water, too…maybe a few plastic frogs.


Try this easy garden sensory bin with simple materials from the dollar or craft store!

Garden Sensory Bin


An easy sensory bin filler, and you can make these birdseed ornaments when finished. This is a great sensory bin to bring outside for easy clean-up!

Backyard Birdseed Sensory Bin Play


Water makes one of the easiest sensory bin fillers to use. But what about soap foam as a fun alternative? Check out how to make soap foam.

Soap Foam


Create a squishy moldable sand dough for a fantastic non food sensory bin!


A little messy but a little clean! Learn how to make clean mud for a unique sensory play experience.

More Helpful Ideas For Sensory Bins

Sensory play is an amazing tool for young children. It’s the perfect hands-on play for early learning. Sensory bins are so versatile and easy to use and create. Make sure to check out the resources below for more on sensory bin and sensory play.

Extra Sensory Play Recipes To Try

Click on the image below or on the link for more fun sensory play recipes for kids. Learn how to make cloud dough, kinetic sand, homemade playdough, and more.


  1. These ideas are great! I feel like I’m always using rice and pasta, so it’s nice to have a list of other fillers to refer to. Thanks for the ideas.

  2. Well I guess that is really up for you to decide as a parent and how much supervision you are going to give. My son did not put things in his mouth very much. We gave him a mini rice bin on his 1st birthday because we were comfortable with it. We didn’t look back after that. You could try large fillers and closely supervise. I always hesitate to use food since I don’t want to encourage eating sensory bin fillers. If the child is still quite mouthy you could go the treasure basket route!

  3. Ooh yes I have wanted to try epsom salts too! Oatmeal is also a good one we will be using very soon for a baking bin 😉 Thank you for the reply!

  4. You have a good variety of filler ideas here! Our regular sensory bins have Easter grass, blue rice and lentils in them. We have also used wheat, sand, dirt and water beads and I made green jello for a sensory bin once. And, of course, water is always a favourite 🙂 I really have to work on finding a better storage system for my bins though. I like your idea of using the freezer bags. Thanks for sharing!

    I found your post on the Bee Crafty Kids blog hop.

  5. I have used shredded paper from our school paper shredder – there is always lots of that around… and it’s free!

  6. We have used that too! Very fun and easy clean up. Great free resources are always the best. We hid pom poms in ours and use tweezers to sort and count.

  7. Wow, this is the most comprehensive list of ideas for sensory bins that I’ve ever seen in one place! I especially like that there is so much stuff for boys. I have a 4 year old girl and 2 year old boy who is always wanting to copy what his big sister is doing! Thanks for the great ideas! Pinning and “liking”!
    (Stopping by from KBN FB hop!)

  8. I like the ones that you have to hydrate. I buy them in the floral sections of craft stores. The already hydrated ones are ok too but don’t get as big!

  9. Wal-Mart sells 2.5 gallon Ziploc bags. These are perfect for most items. Including the filler.

  10. Yes, zip lock bags have been my friend for so many things. What doesn’t stay in a bin gets put right into zip lock bags!

  11. My preschool class loves the fake plastic snow, I usually pick it up after Christmas for less the 25 cents a bag. We put it in our sensory table with plastic snowmen one week and article animals another week. They also like bird seed, was that mentioned? I don’t remember it. I also love to pick up some cinnamon in bulk or cheap at the dollar store and add it to the oatmeal when we use it especially in the fall

  12. Well we had success with one bag for a very long time and it was awesome. We moved and decided it would be time to clean out the bin and get a new bag. Well that bag hatched some sort of fly/insect and it was so gross. I tried another bag and it did the same. It may just depend on how fresh it is where you are. An associate built his kids a huge sensory bin in the house and filled it with corn. It did the same thing to him and it was a huge mess. Hope that helps!

  13. If you freeze the feed corn in your freezer for a few days to a week, it will kill the eggs inside the corn and that won’t happen.

  14. Just wondering why you recommend not using animal feed corn for the bin. I was looking for a cheaper way to purchase corn and I though maybe animal feed but then I read this. Can you explain?

  15. Oops! I just saw another person asked the same question and you already posted an answer. I missed that comment the first time through. Thanks!

  16. We have had issues with bugs hatching in several of the bags we have purchased. Some bags were fine but others not so much. It happens overnight and it’s pretty yucky. We had no idea that it was going to happen either.

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