Sensory bins offer an opportunity for children to explore and learn through their senses. This increases their creativity, expands their vocabulary, and helps them better retain what they are learning about the world around them. They are also great for keeping kids occupied!Sensory bins have so many benefits that read far beyond play. Read more about the purpose of sensory bins.
Teachers and preschool teachers can set these up in their classroom as part of a learning unit or as a sensory station. Parents can use them to keep kids learning while keeping boredom at bay.
What items do you need to make a sensory bin?
The main thing you need is a plastic tub of some kind. An under the bed tub or plastic toy bin work well. Even an empty ice cream pail or box can be used in a pinch.
You can then add a filler and a few items. Be creative. Consider textures, smells, sounds, and other sensory elements such as changes in temperature.
It is sometimes easier to come up with ideas if you use a theme. You can find a list of over 100 ideas for sensory bin themes here.
Sensory bin fillers:
For the base of your sensory bin, you’ll need some kind of filler. There are so many options for this. The most common fillers tend to be pantry staple items such as dry rice or beans. Other common ones are sand or water. But the possibilities really are endless.
You can find a full list of sensory bin fillers and tools here. Some schools don’t allow food items to be used due to allergy concerns or waste. If you’re looking for non-food sensory bin fillers, you can find a list of item ideas here.
Sensory bin tools:
The more kids can explore through their senses, the more they can learn. This is why adding tools to the tubs that allow them to pinch, scoop, pour, measure, and fill expands the activity. It also helps kids work on their fine motor skills.
Tools such as grabbers, kid tweezers, measuring cups, measuring spoons, funnels, scoops or small shovels, squeeze bottles, magnifying glasses, and tongs make great additions to the bins. These items really take the opportunities for learning and growth to the next level.
Gator Grabber TweezersHandy GrabbersMini TongsSilicone Collapsible Funnel SetMeasuring Cups & Spoon SetPlastic ShovelsFlower Magnifying Glass
What age are sensory bins for?
Sensory bins can be used with all ages. Literally. From babies to seniors, the benefits of sensory play applies. Of course when using sensory bins with babies, you need to be aware of considerations such as avoiding choking hazards and perhaps using taste safe fillers. Babies explore the world through their senses, so even babies can benefit from sensory play.
Adults with dementia can also derive major benefits from sensory play. And all ages in between can derive learning and fun from this engaging experience.
Sensory bin ideas:
Get inspiration for making your own sensory tubs with these examples:
Get 175 sensory activity ideas in convenient printable lists which are ideal for using in the home, classroom or in a therapeutic setting. You’ll also be signed up for our free Sensory Activities and Solutions email series.