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Sensory Bin Ideas: What They Are and How to Make Them

Preschool students enjoy discovering items in a sensory bin filled with rice and plastic insects.

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Trying to entertain small kiddos can get exhausting at times. But with our natural desire to give them our best and make sure they’re always learning, sometimes it feels like we don’t have a choice. If you’re looking for an easy way to keep your little ones occupied for a while that also helps them developmentally, you need to try sensory bins! What Are Sensory Bins and Why Are They So Great? Sensory bins are pretty much what they sound like: bins full of sensory-rich items. They offer a hands-on way for kids to experience different elements, work on important skills, and explore new ways to play. Any specifics beyond that are pretty much on a… Read More

Trying to entertain small kiddos can get exhausting at times. But with our natural desire to give them our best and make sure they’re always learning, sometimes it feels like we don’t have a choice. If you’re looking for an easy way to keep your little ones occupied for a while that also helps them developmentally, you need to try sensory bins!

What Are Sensory Bins and Why Are They So Great?

Sensory bins are pretty much what they sound like: bins full of sensory-rich items. They offer a hands-on way for kids to experience different elements, work on important skills, and explore new ways to play. Any specifics beyond that are pretty much on a bin-to-bin basis!

We’ll get to some ways to fill up your sensory bins, but first, let’s talk about WHY you should make one. Here are some of the benefits and ways kids can learn through sensory bins:

1. It works on their fine motor skills.

Typically there are different utensils and other tools for kids to engage within a sensory bin. This allows them to work on pouring, threading, grasping, and more!

2. Stimulates their senses without overwhelming them.

A major point of a sensory bin is for it to engage the senses. What makes them so great is that it’s simply a bin that children can use however they’d like. It allows them to focus on what feels good or interests them while avoiding overstimulation.

3. They help calm energetic or anxious children.

When kids start to get anxious or crabby, oftentimes it stems from feelings of overwhelm. Similarly, sometimes kids can get so amped up and energetic that it’s hard to transition to an activity that requires more calmness or focus, such as learning or going to sleep. Sensory bins are great for either scenario because it entertains them while also bringing them to a place of calm focus.

4. Helps them work on pretend play skills.

Of course, this one is a huge part of sensory bin play! Whatever theme or “world” you decide to create within your sensory bin allows your child to stretch their imagination.

5. They can be used as an educational tool by focusing on themes to learn from.

There are an unlimited amount of options for what to put in a sensory bin. You can create bins that focus on colors, letters, and other interests that they may want to explore.

How to Make Sensory Bins

The choices for how you create and use sensory bins are very open-ended, which is great for finding ones that are perfect for your child’s interests! They usually contain some sort of filler that covers the bottom and feels cool. This is the base of your sensory bin and the first part that you add to it.

Filler Ideas

Some ideas for sensory bin fillers are:

  • Beans
  • Corn kernels
  • Sand
  • Dirt
  • Rice
  • Snow
  • Water
  • Flour/sugar/cornmeal
  • Shaving cream
  • Grass
  • Water beads
  • Birdseed
  • Dry or cooked pasta
  • Easter grass

. . . And more! Anything that can fill the bottom of a bin and would feel interesting for kids to run their hands through. When applicable, it’s usually helpful to use a filler that makes some sense for the overall theme of your bin. For example, if you want to make a beach-themed bin, you could cover half the bin with sand and the other half with blue colored water to create a beach and ocean!

Once you have the base of your sensory bin poured out, you’ll typically want to add some tools for your kiddos to manipulate the filler. These are the items they’ll use for working their fine motor skills by pouring, displacing, filling, and otherwise exploring whatever is in the bin.

Tools

Here are some tools to consider using in your sensory bin:

  • Bowl
  • Cup
  • Spoon
  • Toilet paper roll
  • Measuring cup/spoon
  • Tongs
  • Funnel
  • Whisk
  • Beach toys – shovel, bucket
  • Ladle

So now you’ve got your filler and some tools, what’s left? Honestly, you could probably stop there, and your kids would love it. You’d be surprised how mesmerized kids (and adults) can get from simply watching rice pour out of a cup!

However, to really ramp up their play and imagination, as well as add more of a learning aspect to the sensory bins, it’s a lot of fun to add a few more things! This part is totally dependent on what the theme is for the bin.

Rather than list items, let’s go over some themes to work from. Once you have a theme decided on, it’s easy to see what you already have around the house to add! To help get you started, each theme will have a few ideas of bins other people have already made for their kids.

Sensory Bin Theme Ideas

Holidays:

Seasonal:

Animals/Bugs:

Letter/Color Recognition:

Ocean Life:

Via The Play Based Mom

Sensory Learning:

Via Iowa Homeschool Mom

Nature/Environmental:

Via The Play Based Mom

Miscellaneous Fun Themes:

There are so many ways to use a sensory bin, but hopefully, these ideas offer a good source of inspiration. Once you have your bin set up, just sit back and relax as your kiddo plays happily!