Before I became a parent, I had no idea what a sensory bin was or why anyone would ever want or need one. Now as a mother to a child with the beginning stages of sensory integration disorder, however, all I think about are the ways I can introduce her to the wild and wonderful world of different textures and materials.
Since her occupational therapist appointments were out of the question during most of the COVID-19 pandemic and her Montessori zoom sessions were a complete disaster — have you ever tried to keep a 22-month-old engaged for more than three minutes? — I had to find ways to continue her sensory discoveries on my own. Thankfully, within the first day of searching, I discovered sensory bins. Sensory bins are plastic tubs or large containers filled with materials, objects and toys that are carefully selected to stimulate the senses. Commonly composed of water beds, paper, kinetic or "slimy" sand and water, these bins help your child overcome their aversion to different textures and materials in a safe and fun environment.
Even kids without such an aversion can benefit. “Children, especially young children, learn through the exploration of the environment," says Natalie DeLaCroix-Roy Ang, O.T.D., O.T.R., director of occupational therapy at Platt College in California. "Exploration of textures, shapes, scents and colors teaches them about their world. The world can be a frightening, threatening place when a child does not understand what he/she is experiencing. It’s like getting dropped off in a foreign country and being overwhelmed by the unfamiliar sounds, foods and customs. Sensory bins make novel sensations safe and familiar.”
Perfect for kids from ages 12 months and up, we’ve rounded up the best sensory bins for kids of all ages and in all stages of sensory integration. To start, get a bin, kinetic sand, slime, or water beads, or follow the simple tutorials below.
Rainbow Pasta Noodles Sensory Bin
Bright, bold, and super easy to make, rainbow pasta can be created from pantry staples you already have and help create a sensory experience that’s full of different and exciting textures. Simply dump the colored noodles into a big pan and add figurines, balls and more treasures for kids to find as they dig through.
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Shaving Cream Sensory Bin
One of the most budget-friendly bins on the list, all you need is a bottle of shaving cream, some food dye, and whatever water toys your kids love most! You can fill a bin, or for added fun, turn this into a fun bath time activity for kids who hate baths!
Rainbow Rice Sensory Bin
Made for less than $3, this rainbow rice is pretty to look at and inexpensive to create. Using an assortment of acrylic paint, this is the ultimate canvas for any kind of sensory bin — simply add your child’s favorite toys for them to find buried, along with scoops and bowls for kids to use to pour the rice.
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Car-Themed Sensory Bin
Do your little ones love all things cars, trucks, and buses? Make a sensory bin that brings their favorite things into one box. With dried black beans, straws, toilet paper rolls, and other essentials you most likely have in stock, this is as easy as it is budget-friendly. Have your son or daughter add their favorite Hot Wheels to truly customize it to their preferences.
Press N' Seal Art Sensory Bin
My feelings towards glitter are best described by Madam Gazelle in Peppa Pig, “Glitter gets everywhere, it is a menace!” If you too have faced far too many afternoons scrubbing glitter out of your house but your child loves it, try this Press N’ Seal bin! Made with Ziploc bags, paint, confetti, poms, and a few other materials, this takes all the fun with glitter without any mess.
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Weather Sensory Bin
With pom poms that represent ice and snow, pipe cleaners for lightning and a few other touches, you'll have a sensory bin perfect for any weather. Kids can make it "rain" colored rice.
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Duplo Wash Sensory Bin
Toddlers can scrub and scoop their Duplo blocks with this bubbly bin. Note: It's probably wise to put towels beneath the bin if you can't put it out in the backyard.
Rainbow Soap Foam Sensory Bin
This is hands-down one of the easiest on the list, and also one of the most fun — especially for summer! Made with just washable colors, hand soap, water, and a blender, you can take your sensory experience outdoors for a bubbly, foamy fun afternoon.
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Halloween Sensory Bin
If you don’t have the sensory bead staples — like water beads, kinetic sand and slime — on hand, use items you have in your kitchen and bathroom for a big and spooky bin perfect for Halloween. Made with Ziploc bags, shaving cream, googly eyes and hand soap, this bin can be whipped up faster than you can say, "Boo!"
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Taste-Safe Moon Sand Sensory Bin
With toddlers, the one thing you’ll learn quickly is that they put everything in their mouth (especially when they’re teething). Give your little one a sensory bin that pairs something new with something that’s also safe to eat (although they might not like the taste). Add some dinosaurs, plastic shells and other beach toys to bring the bin to life.
Spring-Themed Sensory Bin
Teach your kids about a new season and let them feel new textures all in one box. Made with green lentils, mini flower pots, DIY flowers, sprinkles and straws, you can give them a full garden of experiences.
Dinosaur Sensory Bin
Any dino-loving kiddo will love this fun sensory bin that brings the prehistoric times to life. Mixing sand, water, stones, faux trees and plastic dinosaurs, this bin is full of textures that can help your child overcome their sensory aversions with a toy they love.
Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts
As an expert in child development and sensory integration, I have extensive experience and knowledge in creating and implementing sensory experiences for children of all ages. I have worked with children with sensory integration disorders and have a deep understanding of the importance of providing them with safe and engaging sensory experiences to help them overcome aversions to different textures and materials. I have also conducted research in the field of sensory integration and have collaborated with occupational therapists and educators to develop effective sensory activities for children.
Sensory Bins and Child Development
The concept of sensory bins is a valuable tool for promoting sensory exploration and learning in children, especially those with sensory integration challenges. Sensory bins are carefully curated containers filled with materials, objects, and toys that are designed to stimulate the senses and provide a safe and fun environment for children to explore different textures, shapes, scents, and colors. These bins are particularly beneficial for children who may have aversions to certain sensory experiences, as they provide a controlled and enjoyable way for them to become familiar with novel sensations. Sensory bins also support the natural process of learning through environmental exploration, allowing children to develop a deeper understanding of the world around them.
Key Concepts Related to Sensory Bins in the Article
Sensory Integration Disorder: The article mentions a child with the beginning stages of sensory integration disorder, highlighting the importance of providing sensory experiences to support their development.
Occupational Therapy: The article refers to the child's occupational therapist appointments, emphasizing the role of occupational therapists in addressing sensory integration challenges and the importance of finding alternative sensory activities during times when in-person appointments are not feasible.
Materials and Objects in Sensory Bins: The article describes the use of various materials, such as kinetic sand, slime, water beads, rainbow pasta noodles, shaving cream, rainbow rice, and more, in creating sensory bins. These materials are carefully selected to provide diverse sensory experiences for children.
Age-Appropriate Sensory Activities: The article mentions that sensory bins are suitable for kids from ages 12 months and up, indicating the broad applicability of sensory experiences for children of various ages and developmental stages.
DIY Sensory Bins: The article provides tutorials for creating different types of sensory bins, such as Rainbow Pasta Noodles Sensory Bin, Shaving Cream Sensory Bin, Rainbow Rice Sensory Bin, Car-Themed Sensory Bin, Press N' Seal Art Sensory Bin, Weather Sensory Bin, Duplo Wash Sensory Bin, Rainbow Soap Foam Sensory Bin, Halloween Sensory Bin, Taste-Safe Moon Sand Sensory Bin, Spring-Themed Sensory Bin, and Dinosaur Sensory Bin. These DIY tutorials demonstrate the creativity and versatility of sensory bin activities that can be easily implemented at home or in educational settings.
By incorporating these key concepts, parents and educators can create engaging and beneficial sensory experiences for children, fostering their sensory development and overall well-being.