25 Awesome Sensory Bin Ideas - Little Bins for Little Hands (2024)

Our All About Sensory Bins Guide below is your best resource for getting started with sensory bins. Whether you are making a sensory bin for your home or a classroom, there are a few things to know. Learn about the benefits of sensory bins, what you can use in a sensory bin, and how to make a great sensory bin for toddlers and preschoolers. Sensory bins or sensory boxes for kids are much easier to make than you think!

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Easy Sensory Play for Kids

Over the past few years, we have learned a lot about sensory play and, specifically, sensory bins or sensory boxes. I am so excited to share our best sensory bin ideas with you below.

You will also want to check out our Ultimate Sensory Activities Guide, which includes more fun sensory play activities, including sensory bottles, sensory recipes, slime, and more.

These ideas comes from what I have learned from making sensory bins over the last few years. We began using sensory bins long before I understood why my son enjoyed them so much!

Sensory bins can also be part of a discovery table setup. You can see one here with our dinosaur discovery table, farm theme sensory table, and fall leaves discovery table.

I am confident that once you know all about sensory bins, you will create a new sensory bin each week. Learning about sensory bins and making sensory bins will open up a whole new world of sensory play for you and your kids!

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What is a Sensory Bin?

NOTE: We no longer support using Water Beads for sensory bin filler. They are unsafe and should not be used for play with small children.

To make your own sensory bin, you must know what one is! The simplest definition is that it is a hands-on tactile experience for kids in a contained area such as a storage container.

A sensory bin or sensory box is a simple container filled with a preferred filler in quantity. Our favorite fillers include craft sand, birdseed, colored rice, and water!

The container should be large enough to let your child explore without spilling the filler out. A sensory bin can be easily switched for a unique or novel experience whenever you want!

What Age Should You Start Sensory Bins?

The most common ages for sensory bins are older toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners. However, you must be very aware of the filler you choose and the habits of the kiddos you use it with. Heavy supervision is required for kiddos who may want to sample the filler (edible or non-edible).

Adult supervision is very important for safely using sensory bins with young kids!

However, this age group is also perfect for fully enjoying the tactile experience of scooping, pouring, sifting, dumping, and feeling! Note the benefits of using sensory bins below.

As kiddos get older, you can easily add a learning component to the sensory bin, such as our butterfly life cycle sensory bin below. Younger kiddos will enjoy exploring the materials.

Why Use Sensory Bins?

Are sensory bins worth it? Yes, they are worth it. The more basic you keep the sensory bin, the better off you are. Remember, you create a tactile experience for your kids, not a Pinterest image. While we have fantastic pictures of sensory bins, they only stay that way for a minute!

Sensory bins are awesome hands-on tools for children to learn about their world and senses! Sensory play may calm a child, focus a child, and engage a child. Read about the many benefits below.


Here’s what children can learn from sensory bins:

  • Practical Life Skills ~ Sensory bins let a child explore, discover and create play using practical life skills (dumping, filling, scooping) and learn valuable play skills.
  • Play Skills {emotional development} ~ For both social play and independent play, sensory bins allow children to play cooperatively or side by side. My son has had many positive experiences with other children over a bin of rice!
  • Language Development ~ Sensory bins increase language development by experiencing all there is to see and do with their hands, which leads to great conversations and opportunities to model language.
  • Understanding 5 Senses ~Many sensory play bins include a few senses! The five senses are touch, sight, sound, taste, and smell. Children can experience several at a time with a sensory bin. Imagine a bin of brightly colored rainbow rice: touch the loose grains against the skin, see the vivid colors as they mix together, and hear the sound of sprinkling over a plastic container or shaken in a plastic egg! Did you add a scent like vanilla or lavender? Please do not taste uncooked rice, but there are plenty of sensory play options that you use edible ingredients like our worms in magic mud!

What Should Be in a Sensory Bin?

It’s as easy as 1-2-3-4! Start with a container of your choosing, and prepare to fill it! Additional items on hand include themed books, games, and puzzles.

1. Container

First, choose a large bin or box for your sensory tub. I like clear storage containers the best, preferably 25 QT size with measurements of 24″ long, 15″ wide, and 6″ deep. Use what you have if you don’t have these exact measurements! We have used all sorts of sizes, but at least 3″ deep is preferable. See more tips on choosing a sensory bin below.

2. Filler

Then you want to choose a sensory bin filler. You will want to add a good amount of the filler as it will make up the bulk of the sensory bin.

Our favorite sensory bin fillers include:

  • rice
  • dry pasta
  • salt
  • sand
  • birdseed
  • water
  • aquarium rock
  • cloud dough
  • homemade kinetic sand
  • oobleck
  • pom poms and more!

3. Theme Items

Sensory bins are a great hands-on way to make early learning fun. Add letters for an alphabet sensory bin, pair it with a book for literacy, or change up the colors and accessories for seasonal and holiday sensory bins. We have tons of fun theme sensory bin ideas for you!

4. Play Accessories

Next, add a scoop or shovel and container.I save all sorts of things from the kitchen and collect fun containers from the dollar store! Funnels and kitchen tongs are great fun to add too. Often the kitchen drawers hold fun goodies to add.

Free Quick Start Sensory Bin Guide


How to Use a Sensory Bin

There is no wrong way to present a sensory bin! I usually put something together and leave it out for my son as an invitation to explore. Some kidsmay be especially curious and ready to explore, so stand back and enjoy watching! It’s ok to join the fun but don’t direct the play!

A sensory bin is also a great opportunity for independent play. Somekids may be reluctant to start or don’t know how to start and need your help modeling play ideas. Dig in with them to show them how fun exploring can be. Scoop, dump, fill, and pour yourself!

Talk about what you are doing, seeing, and feeling. Ask them questions too! Play cooperatively or individually with your child. You know your child best!

TIP: It can be easy to feel like you should add more things to the sensory bin while your child is playing with it, but try to resist the urge! Too many items can be overwhelming, and you may end up disturbing your kiddo’s play flow if you interrupt them. Sit back and enjoy your coffee and watch them play!

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The Best Sensory Bin, Tub, or Sensory Table To Use

Please note I am sharing Amazon Affiliate links below. I may receive compensation through any purchases made.

What containers are best for sensory bins?

You want to start with the right sensory bin or tub when creating a sensory bin for kids of all ages. With the right size bin, kids will be at ease playing with the contents, and the mess can be kept to a minimum.

Is a sensory table a good choice?

A more expensive, heavy-duty sensory table, such as this one, allows one or more kids to stand and play comfortably. This was always my son’s favorite sensory bin, and it works just as well for home use as it does in the classroom. Roll it right outside!

If you need a sensory bin set on a table, make sure the sides are not too tall so kids do not feel like they are struggling to reach into it. Aim for a side height of around 3.25 inches. If you can place it on a child-size table, that makes it much better.

Under the bed storage bins also work well for this. Grab a plastic kitchen sink dish pan from the dollar store if you need a quick, cheap alternative!

Unless you have space restrictions, try to pick a size that gives your kids room to play around without continually knocking the contents out of the bin. These more compact sensory bins with lids are a good alternative.

Sensory Bin Tips and Tricks

TIP: Due to various sensory needs, some kids may feel more comfortable standing to engage in the activity. Sitting on the floor or kneeling in front of a sensory bin may also be uncomfortable. My son’s sensory needs made standing the best choice for us.

TIP: When designing a themed sensory bin, consider how many items you put into the bin versus the size of the bin. Too many items may feel overwhelming. If your kid is playing happily with the sensory bin, resist the urge to add just one more thing!

Control the Mess!

TRICK: It’s important for the adult to model the appropriate use of sensory bins and to keep a close eye on young kids who may want to throw the filler and items. Keep a kid-size broom and dustpan handy to help them learn how to clean up spills.

Sensory Bin Ideas That Are Easy To Make

Below you’ll find ideas for various sensory bin themes for older toddlers, preschool, and kindergarten. You can easily switch out the filler with one that works better.

Apple Pie Sensory Bin

You will surely want to dig your hands into this fun apple theme sensory bin! Cloud dough is an awesome and simplesensory play recipethat is quick to whip up. Ourapple pie scented cloud doughis also taste safe!

Apple Sensory Bin

Here is an easy apple sensory bin idea you will want to set up this fall! Easy to make, and great for fine motor practice, counting, and more.

Dinosaur Volcano Sensory Bin

Thedinosaur volcano sensory binprovides an opportunity for kids to learn about dinosaurs, volcanoes, and the natural world in a hands-on way. Not only can kids explore dinosaurs, but they can also dive into facts about volcanoes and observe a simple chemical reaction!

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Dinosaur Sensory Bin

Create a dinosaur sensory bin with moldable sand and your favorite dinosaur toys. This sensory bin is a super fun theme for year-round play! Plus, check out the resources to help you assemble an entire dinosaur theme unit.

Ice Cream Sensory Bin

Various size pompoms, silicone baking cups, plastic ice cream scoops, and fun plastic ice cream cone dishes make for a delightful ice cream theme activity. Omit the beads if they are not practical for your age group!

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Butterfly Sensory Bin

Set up a butterfly sensory bin to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly for a fantastic way to combine hands-on learning and a tactile experience. Different types of dry pasta mimics some of the life stages of a butterfly!

Colored Spaghetti Sensory Bin

What’s more fun than colorful rainbow spaghetti for young kids to dig their hands into! Find out how to make rainbow spaghetti for sensory play that’s taste-safe!

Lemon Scented Sensory Bin

Lemon-scented rice is quick and easy to make and is perfect for Olfactory Sensory Processing Input!

Ice Castle Play

Fill the bin with kinetic sand, add in some trees and construction blocks to make your own “ice castles”.

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Ocean Sensory Bin

Read more about this ocean sensory play idea and grab the free ocean animals coloring book!


Penguin Sensory Bin

Combine sensory play, books, a little math, and animal habitats all rolled into one for a fun activity for toddlers to preschoolers.

Pumpkin Sensory Bin

Grab a few simple supplies and turn a sensory bin into a pumpkin patch young kids will love exploring for fall.


Rainbow Rice Sensory Bin

Kids love to play with rice, and this colorful rainbow rice sensory bin is easy to put together yourself!

Space Theme Sensory Bin

Moon sandis another favorite fillerto play with and make! We could also call this space sand as we added a fun space theme to our play.

Space Sensory Bin

Here is another easy idea for space theme sensory play! This sensory bin uses black aquarium rocks as the filler.


Tropical Summer Sensory Bin

Create a tropical summer sensory bin with play sand and summer theme play items.

Watermelon Rice Sensory Bin

Use our how to dye rice tutorial to make a batch of green and a double batch of red rice! Leave one batch of rice uncolored. Grab a packet of watermelon seeds and a small bowl! You can also add tongs and a small scoop. Super simple and fun. Enjoy a snack of watermelon too!

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Farm Sensory Bin

Supplies Needed:

  • A great book! We chose My Little People Farm.
  • Sensory bin filler. We chose rice. See more non food filler ideas here.
  • Items that fit with the book. Such as paper or plastic farm animals for a farm book.
  • Add a bucket and scoop for simple sensory play.

Simple Sensory Bin Play Ideas

  • Sing a song such as Old MacDonald and use the props too!
  • Act out the story with the props.
  • Count! We counted the farm animals.
  • Sort the animals.
  • Play hide and seek with the animals.
  • Work on animal sounds.
  • Feed the animals.
  • Enjoy dumping and filling.
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Water Sensory Bin Ideas

Sponges, colanders, strainers, food basters, and an aquarium net! All of these are fun items to add to a water sensory bin. Try some of these additions:

  • Add a few plastic animals to wash and soap bubbles!
  • Add plastic Easter eggs to a quick sensory bin.
  • Make a letter wash with dollar store letter and number styrofoam puzzles.
  • Add cotton balls to water and explore absorption!
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How Do You Control the Mess?

Everyone asks about the mess! Toddlers especially can’t resist dumping things. We have had sensory bins in our house for so long that the mess is minimal. The younger the child, the more challenging it will be to teach the proper use of the sensory bin. But with time, patience, and consistency, it will happen.

I treat sensory bins as any other toy in the house. We don’t throw our toys; we respect them. We don’t scatter them around the house just because we feel like it; we use them and put them away. Of course, there are accidents! We still have them, and it’s OK!

We also have a small dustpan and broom handy, and it is great for fine motor work picking up loose beans or other fillers! If a child gets into the habit of throwing for fun, your sensory bin play will be less productive and more frustrating.

READ MORE: Easy Clean-Up Tips For Messy Play


More Sensory Bin Ideas

Ok, time to put together a sensory bin. Check out this list of sensory bin ideas. Click on the links to find out how to set up each one.

  • Valentine Sensory Bin
  • Easter Sensory Bin
  • LEGO Sensory Bin
  • Spring Sensory Bin
  • Spring Garden Sensory Bin
  • Fall Sensory Bins
  • Earl The Squirrel: Book and Bin
  • Halloween Sensory Bin
  • Halloween Sensory Ideas
  • Christmas Sensory Bins

More Helpful Sensory Bin Resources

  • How To Color Rice For Sensory Bin
  • How To Make Hot Cocoa Sensory Bin
  • How To Make Snow For Sensory Bin
  • How To Make Sensory Bin Mud

Click on the image below or on the link for more fun and easy sensory activities for kids!


Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts


As an expert and enthusiast, I have been trained on a wide range of topics and have access to a vast amount of information. I can provide accurate and informative responses based on the text you have provided. Let's dive into the concepts used in this article.

Concepts Used in the Article

This article is titled "All About Sensory Bins Guide" and provides information on sensory bins, their benefits, what to include in a sensory bin, and how to use them. Here are the key concepts used in the article:

  1. Sensory Bins: A sensory bin is a hands-on tactile experience for kids in a contained area, such as a storage container. It is filled with a preferred filler, such as craft sand, birdseed, colored rice, or water. Sensory bins provide opportunities for children to explore, discover, and play using their senses.

  2. Age Appropriateness: Sensory bins are commonly used with older toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners. However, adult supervision is essential, especially for young children who may be tempted to sample the filler. As children grow older, sensory bins can be used to incorporate learning components tailored to their age, such as themed bins or activities related to specific subjects.

  3. Benefits of Sensory Bins: Sensory bins offer numerous benefits for children, including the development of practical life skills, play skills, language development, and understanding of the five senses. They provide opportunities for children to explore, discover, and create while engaging their senses.

  4. Components of a Sensory Bin: To create a sensory bin, you need a container, a filler, theme items (optional), and play accessories. The container should be large enough to allow exploration without spilling the filler. Common fillers include rice, pasta, sand, birdseed, water, and various sensory materials. Theme items and play accessories can be added to enhance the sensory experience and tie into specific learning themes.

  5. Using a Sensory Bin: There is no wrong way to present a sensory bin. It can be set up as an invitation for exploration or used for independent play. Adults can model appropriate play ideas, engage in conversations, and ask questions to prompt learning and language development. It is important to resist the urge to add more items to the bin while children are playing, as it can be overwhelming.

  6. Choosing the Right Container: When selecting a container for a sensory bin, it is recommended to choose a size that allows for comfortable play and minimizes mess. Clear storage containers are often preferred, and sensory tables can be a good option for more structured play. The height of the sides should be considered to ensure easy access for children.

  7. Controlling the Mess: Sensory bins can be messy, especially with younger children. It is important to model appropriate use and supervise children closely to prevent spills. Having a kid-sized broom and dustpan handy can help teach children how to clean up spills.

  8. Sensory Bin Ideas: The article provides several sensory bin ideas, such as apple pie sensory bin, dinosaur volcano sensory bin, ice cream sensory bin, butterfly sensory bin, colored spaghetti sensory bin, and more. These ideas offer a range of themes and materials to engage children's senses and promote learning.

The concepts mentioned above cover the main points discussed in the article. If you have any specific questions or need further clarification on any of these concepts, feel free to ask!

25 Awesome Sensory Bin Ideas - Little Bins for Little Hands (2024)


What containers are best for sensory bins? ›

You could also use dish tubs or shoebox storage containers. Water tables would be perfect outside if you are using messy materials and want easy clean-up. You can even find sensory tables that have two side-by-side tubs that would be good if more than one child at a time is using it.

What age is sensory bins good for? ›

Sensory bins are good for children over 18 months of age. Before they're 18 months old, sensory bins are not developmentally appropriate because the possible hazards outweigh the benefits.

What is the best container to keep things in? ›

Best food-storage containers overall

Pyrex came up most among experts, too. “The glass containers don't absorb the smell or color of the food stored inside of them,” says recipe developer and cookbook author Jessie Sheehan.

How do you make a sensory Ziplock? ›

Here's how: Fill a resealable plastic bag with tactile materials like hair gel, pumpkin seeds, shaving cream, or marbles. Reinforce the seal with strong tape, then use painter's or washi tape to secure the edges of the bag to the floor or a table where your baby can play.

How do you make a simple sensory toy? ›

A plastic bowl and Tupperware containers with dried pasta and/or dried rice in. Put the pasta or rice in the bowl for your child to move their hands through with you assisting and encouraging them hand over hand if required.

What is a sensory menu? ›

At a glance

A sensory diet is a tailored plan of physical activities and accommodations designed to meet a child's sensory needs. This type of treatment has nothing to do with food. The goal is to get kids in a “just right” state.

How to make a sensory box for adults? ›

Create sensory bins by using a plastic storage container filled with various sensory items such as rice, beans, or sand. Add small toys or objects for individuals to explore and manipulate, such as small plastic animals or scoops and funnels.

Can you use beans for sensory bin? ›

These foundational benefits will serve your children well into adulthood. However, the sensory materials used within the bins can either be helpful or harmful for children. For example, sensory bin beans are unsafe because raw or undercooked beans are toxic, while the benefits of rice sensory play are numerous!

Can kids play with coffee beans? ›

Sensory Play

Coffee beans (not ground coffee, that would be super messy) are actually an amazing material to use as the base of the sensory box. The beans are large, and yet can easily flow through your child's hands. They allow your child's sense of smell to be activated, while also using their sense of touch.

Is it safe to play with rice? ›

Rice is a safe, fun, and easy thing to play with that has almost universal appeal - I know I still enjoy getting down and playing with it as an adult! So long as you are not eating your rice or getting it wet, it stores for quite a while.

What size bin should I use for sensory bin? ›

Our favorite sensory bin container has always been the Sterilite 25-quart container (bottom), just high enough to contain the filler but not high enough that it hinders play. We also like the 6 quarts for smaller bins or to take with us. I do try to buy a few of the same size/style, so our sensory bins stack well.

How do you keep sensory bins contained? ›

I always like to set down a vinyl tablecloth first and then set the plastic bin on top. It helps contain any mess that might spill out. You could also do sensory play outside if you are worried about a mess.

What is better than plastic containers? ›

Glass doesn't leach chemicals

Food, drinks, cosmetics, and other things packaged in plastic may contain traces of chemicals found in the packaging, and these chemicals can be toxic. The same isn't true of glass containers, since glass contains far fewer toxic substances that won't leach out of the glass anyway.

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