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

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

ParentingUpdated January 18, 2023

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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 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

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 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, it often stems from overwhelming feelings. Similarly, sometimes kids can get so excited 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.

See also: Sensory Self-Care: Using the Five Senses to Keep Kids Calm

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 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 unlimited options for what to put in a sensory bin. You can create bins focusing on colors, letters, and other interests they may want to explore.

How to Make Sensory Bins

The choices for creating and using 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 you add.

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 sensory bin, you could cover half the bin with sand and the other half with blue colored water to create a beach and ocean!

Once the base of your sensory bin is poured out, you’ll typically want to add 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 that you’ve got your filler and some tools, what’s left? 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 ramp up their play and imagination and 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 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 decided on a theme, 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 Sensory Bin Ideas:

Sensory Bin Ideas: What They Are and How to Make Them
Image via Fireflies + Mudpies
  • Halloween Sensory Bin (here)
  • Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin (here)
  • Christmas Sensory Bins (here)
  • 4th of July Sensory Bin (here)

Seasonal Sensory Bin Ideas:

Sensory Bin Ideas: What They Are and How to Make Them
Image via The Growing Creatives
  • Fall Nature Sensory Bin (here)
  • Snow Sensory Bin (here)
  • Spring Garden Sensory Bin (here)

Animals/Bugs Sensory Bin Ideas:

Sensory Bin Ideas: What They Are and How to Make Them
Image via Iowa Homeschool Mom
  • Bug Sensory Bin (here)
  • Dinosaur Swamp (here)
  • Dinosaur Fossils (here)
  • Feed the Ducks Sensory Bin (here)
  • Butterfly Sensory Bin (here)

Letter/Color Recognition Sensory Bin Ideas:

Sensory Bin Ideas: What They Are and How to Make Them
Image via The Play Based Mom
  • Letter Sensory Bin (here)
  • Red Sensory Bin (here)
  • Crayon Sensory Bin (here)
  • Alphabet Sensory Bin (here)

Ocean Life Sensory Bin Ideas:

Sensory Bin Ideas: What They Are and How to Make Them
Image via Living Life & Learning
  • Ocean Sensory Bin (here)
  • Seashell Moon Sand Sensory Bin (here)

Sensory Learning:

Sensory Bin Ideas: What They Are and How to Make Them
Image via The Play Based Mom
  • Oobleck Sensory Bin (here)
  • Washing Dishes Sensory Bin (here)
  • Colored Ice Sensory Play (here)
  • Glow-in-the-Dark Water Beads (here)

Nature/Environmental Sensory Bin Ideas:

Sensory Bin Ideas: What They Are and How to Make Them
Image via Iowa Homeschool Mom
  • Rainforest Sensory Bin (here)
  • Penguin Sensory Bin (here)
  • Arctic Sensory Play (here)

Miscellaneous Fun Sensory Bin Ideas:

Sensory Bin Ideas: What They Are and How to Make Them
Image via The Play Based Mom
  • Construction Sensory Bin (here)
  • Monster Truck Sensory Bin (here)
  • Pirate Sensory Bin (here)
  • Fairy Garden Sensory Bin (here)

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

Reference:
1. https://www.canr.msu.edu/

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