Sensory bins are so easy to make and don’t have to cost anything. In fact, there are sensory bin fillers already in you home just waiting to be used. Sensory bins are kind of my go-to sensory activity. They allow kids to really explore through their senses and discover the world around them. Kids from toddlers to teens can benefit from this method of exploration.
Sensory tables or bins are also great for use in the classroom. They can be centered around an educational unit or theme, can have a planned purpose such as the intention to improve fine motor skills, or they can just be for free play. Incidentally, all of these types are beneficial.
Whether you are creating sensory bins for your child to play in at home or needing sensory bin filler ideas for preschool, these lists will hopefully give you a place to start.
Sensory Bin Fillers:
I have linked to examples of sensory bins that include the fillers below to provide some additional inspiration.
- rice (plain or coloured)
- dry pasta noodles (plain or coloured)
- cooked pasta (plain or coloured)
- soapy water or soap foam
- kinetic sand
- leaves (real or plastic)
- cotton balls
- shredded paper
- foam or foam pieces
- Epsom salts (plain or coloured)
- packing peanuts
- soap shavings
- shaving cream
- water beads
- glass beads
- beans (plain or coloured)
- ribbon curls
- Easter grass
- lotion or gel
- baby oil
- building blocks (wooden, foam, or plastic)
- fabric scraps
- costume jewelry
- play puffs
- silk or plastic flowers
- silk or plastic flower petals
- dry beans (plain or coloured)
- corn silk
- play coins
- toys (especially things like small animals and vehicles)
Water Beads Rainbow MixPlay PuffsKidfetti Play PelletsDinosaur PastaZoo Animals PastaHappy Birthday PastaAlphabet PastaNeptune Table and Lid SetSand and Water Activity Play TableSplash N Scoop Bay Sand and Water TableSee-Thru Sensory TableSafari Ltd In The Sky TOOBSafari Ltd Coral Reef TOOB SetKinetic SandNatural Decorative Real Sand
More Sensory Bin Fillers:
- aquarium rocks
- cotton batting
- straws (whole or cut into pieces)
- dry oatmeal (plain or coloured)
- popcorn kernels (plain or coloured)
- pine cones
- dry chickpeas (plain or coloured)
- lentils (plain or coloured)
- number shapes
- letter shapes
- paper clips
- bottle caps
- cut up pool noodles
- dry cereal
- egg shells
- puzzle pieces
- salt (plain or coloured)
- coffee beans or coffee grinds
- fruits or vegetables (real or plastic)
- glitter gravel
- styrofoam balls
- bubble wrap
- edible water beads
Many sensory bin fillers can be coloured. You can find detailed instructions for how to colour each of these items in this helpful guide on how to dye sensory materials. Scents can also be added to some of them by adding a few drops of essential oil. Be sure to know whether the scent you are using is one that is calming or alerting and use accordingly. You wouldn’t want to have a child playing in a lemon scented bin just before bedtime as that is an alerting smell, but that would be a great sensory bin to use in the mornings!
When looking for materials for sensory bins, you want to consider factors such as the age of the children who will be using it, safety, the shelf life of the items, and if the bin will be played with inside or outside.
You wouldn’t want to put water in a sensory bin that was going to be used outside in below freezing temperatures because it would freeze and expand, possibly causing the plastic bin to break. You also wouldn’t want to use perishable food items in a bin that was being used in a warm temperature climate prone to bugs or you’ll get creepy crawlies in your home or classroom.
Sensory Bin Tools:
Sensory bin tools are additions to the sensory bins that are designed to further the experience for the child. Many of these tools provide an educational element or are designed to enhance fine motor skills.
- empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls
- sand shovels
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- chop sticks
- cookie cutters
- rolling pins
- potato mashers
- garlic press
- ice cream scoop or cookie dough scoop
- squirt bottle
- cupcake liners
- ice cube trays or silicone moulds
- watering can
Of course, as with all sensory play, adult supervision should always be used. Some of these fillers and tools are more appropriate for older children.
You know your child best, so if it’s a younger child who tends to put things in their mouth, be sure not to choose sensory bin fillers or tools that may pose a choking hazard.
How to Use Sensory Bins:
If your child is new to sensory bins, you’ll want to help them in the beginning. Model some ways to play by scooping, dumping, pouring, feeling, kneading, filling, measuring, and using your imagination. Talk about the textures and sensations you’re feeling to give them the vocabulary to speak to you about their experience.
There is no one “right” way to play with sensory bins. Allow kids the freedom to explore, create, imagine, and play.
With younger kids, you’ll want to remind them to try to keep the sensory bin contents inside the container. Some kids are better at this than others.
One of the common complaints that parents have about sensory bins is the cleanup. I’m not going to lie… they can get messy! But here are some tips that can help contain the mess and make cleanup easier.
Grab a free sample of our Sensory Play Recipes eBook full of great ideas. It includes recipes that can be used in sensory bins. Simply input your email below.