Sensory Bin 101

Why are sensory bins important?

Young children learn about their world by exploring and experimenting using their senses.

By observing a young toddler exploring  their environment you will see this in action. They look at,  touch, smell, and taste just about anything they come in contact with- this is how they learn. When their senses are stimulated, messages are sent to their brain which builds neural pathways that are needed for future learning.

Sensory Bin 101. What is a sensory bin and why is it important? How do you set up a sensory bin?

Sensory bins are a great way for children to learn using all 5 senses at once. Child development theorist Jean Piaget described the way children learn by calling them “little scientists“.

Through sensory play and sensory bins children are using the scientific method and are also building pre-math skills, fine motor skills, language skills, imaginative play, and much much more. Not only that but sensory bins are so visually appealing and fun!

For more reading Not Just Cute shares the Importance of Sensory Play for Young Children.

How do I create a sensory bin?

To create a sensory bin you must first have a container to put you sensory materials in. I use one similar to this clear plastic container, that is a 6 pack and you only need one. You can also do a mini sensory bin.

Next, you must decide on the theme of your bin and gather your supplies  You don’t have to have a theme but making themed sensory bins can be a lot of fun. I love doing them for holidays.

Most sensory bins have a base which is usually made with rice or another sensory material. Next you add other items including scooping materials such as spoons, measuring cups, etc for scooping and pouring.

What do I put in a sensory bin?

Here are a list of some possible bases:

  • rice
  • colored rice
  • cooked spaghetti or other pasta
  • dry colored pasta
  • popcorn kernels
  • oats
  • flour
  • cloud dough
  • snow dough
  • beans
  • shredded paper
  • water
  • sand
  • leaves
  • dirt
  • flour
  • cereal
  • marbles
  • water beads
  • cotton balls
  • easter grass
  • jello
  • pudding
  • shaving cream

Any of these would be great by themselves but it is fun to add manipulative items which adds extra learning and experimenting opportunities.

Here are a list of some manipulative items:

  • spoon
  • small shovel
  • tongs
  • measuring cups
  • spatulas
  • cookie cutters
  • pompoms
  • wire cleaner
  • themed objects depending on your theme
  • toys
  • small figurines for small world play
  • potato masher

For more great sensory bin ideas The Imagination Tree has wonderful sensory bins. Play Create Explore has a huge collection of beautiful and fun sensory bin ideas.

Sensory Bin Tips

1.Be mindful of choking hazards.

Sensory bins are supposed to be a closely supervised activity. Only put in what you are comfortable with your child handling. When I had a toddler I stick with things that are edible and that won’t be hazardous if ingested.

2. Take sensory bins outside or use a “mess mat” when indoors to contain the mess.

I use a plastic shower curtain liner for the dollar store as my “mess mat” that I put under the sensory bin.

3.Be creative!

Don’t worry, you can’t go wrong with a sensory bin. You can be as elaborate or as simple as you want to get and it will still be very beneficial for your child.

4. Get in on the fun

Help your child get even more out of sensory bins by playing with them! Some sensory bins I enjoy playing with just as much as my child. They can be very relaxing to run your hands through! You can help them expand their knowledge while exploring. Talk with that and introduce new vocabulary words.

5.Store the materials in a large ziplock bag until you want to get it out to play again.

Most of the materials can be stored for many months and used whenever you want.

Here are some of the themed sensory bins we have done. Just click on the picture to see the details!

Dinosaur Fossil Excavation with Edible Dirt

Dinosaur sensory bin


Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin 

Valentine's Day Scavenger Hunt for Kids

Christmas Sensory Bin

Christmas Sensory Bin

Witch’s Sensory Brew

Halloween Sensory Bin

Fruit Loop Colorful Sensory Bin

rainbow sensory bin

Winter Wonderland Sensory Bin

Winter Snow Sensory Bin

Easter Sensory Bin

Easter Sensory bin

4th of July Sensory Bin

4th of July Sensory Bin

Halloween Sensory Bin

Halloween Sensory Bin

You might also like The ABC’s of Learning Through Play

For more sensory activities, follow my sensory play board on Pinterest!

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3 thoughts on “Sensory Bin 101

    1. Thank you! When I was a new parent, I had no clue what they were and why they were so important and so I wanted to help the parents and educators out there who want to know more!

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