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Sensory Bin 101

Why are sensory bins important? 

sensory bin 101

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 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 I bought at Target.

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 possible bases:

  • rice
  • colored rice
  • cooked spaghetti or other pasta
  • dry pasta
  • popcorn kernels
  • oats
  • flour
  • cloud 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.

  • 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

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.


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. For my toddler I stick with things that are edible and that won’t be hazardous if ingested.

To contain the mess, take sensory bins outside or use a “mess mat” when indoors. I use a plastic shower curtain liner for the dollar store as my “mess mat” that I put under the sensory bin.

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.

Help your child get even more out of sensory bins by playing with them! You can help them expand their knowledge while exploring. Talk with that and introduce new vocabulary words.

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 Fossil Excavation activity


Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin 

Valentine's Day Sensory Bin

Christmas Sensory Bin

Christmas Sensory Bin for Children

Witch’s Sensory Brew

Halloween Witch's Sensory Brew

Fruit Loop Colorful Sensory Bin

Fruit Loop Sensory Bin

Rainbow Spaghetti Sensory Bin

rainbow spaghetti

Easter Sensory Bin

Easter Sensory Bin

4th of July Sensory Bin

4th of july sensory bin

Halloween Sensory Bin

Halloween Sensory Bin

Do you have a favorite sensory bin? I would love for you to share a link in the comments section!

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