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Sensory bins are fun but they have so many benefits. Did you know that sensory play help with language development, help develop fine motor skills, provide opportunity to practice for social skills, help develop math and reasoning skills and provide sensory information to their little bodies. In fact, if you have a child who is hyperactive, sensory bins and sensory input can have a calming effect.
Sensory play does NOT have to fancy, it’s easy to pull things out of your closet and pantry to make your own amazing sensory bins. I will show you 11 of my most favorite sensory bins materials and how we use them. The best thing is, you may already have many of these items in your home.
I bought my sensory table off Facebook Marketplace for a steal, but here are some similar bins if you’re in the market for one. But a good sensory bin does not have to be fancy, you can easily use a big storage tote. Below, I’ve linked some of the best I found.
This is the most similar to mine and made from wood https://rstyle.me/+zd-83xUg98DIXji4YVQOVg
Best Budget Friendly option https://rstyle.me/+DHjS95N8qKK1dxjzCnREbA
Double bins https://rstyle.me/+AK4mJE4rRfRWimDHyyddpg
Kinetic Sand-kinetic sand is so much fun! If you have never played with it, you need to try it! It’s sand that doesn’t fall apart and is definitely mesmerizing! Alone, it’s a great sensory activity, but it’s also a great canvas for several different activities.
Salt-huge containers of salt are sooo cheap which makes it an easy thing to pull from the pantry but have tons of fun. My kids love to pretend it’s snow, grabbing dolls (hello, Elsa, Anna and Sven) and trucks/plows. If you do not want to buy enough salt to fit in your sensory bin, you can pour one container onto a sheet pan for a morning full of fun. Just make sure you don’t have any small cuts on your fingers or rub your eyes during this activity (ouch).
Easter Grass After Easter, I grab bags of this stuff when it’s on major sale. Word to wise, only grab the paper stuff though, because the plastic and metallic stuff is a huge pain to clean up! Trow in plastic shovels, planting containers and faux flowers and make a faux garden!
Water-Water MIGHT be our favorite way to use our sensory bin. Obviously its cheap and easy to get. When I’m in a really good mood, I might even color the water with food coloring for more fun. I add in kitchen utensils, measuring cups and spoons, and other random cups and my kids can pour for days!
Soap is another fun add in to water. By adding brushes, paint brushes and wash clothes, we have made an animal bath and car wash!
Fill squeeze bottles with water, colored with different colors of food coloring, and let your toddler/preschooler, squeeze the colored water into the water. This creates a great opportunity for vocabulary (i.e., colors) as well as fine motor development (i.e., squeezing the bottles).
Rainbow Rice-Rainbow rice is sooooo easy to make and just brings your sensory bin a little life! Rice is another mesmerizing item. I feel like it calms me down! I add other kitchen utensils such as funnels, strainers, measuring cups and jars to fill over and over again.
If you don’t want to take the time to make rainbow rice, there is nothing wrong with plain old white rice. A fun addition, to plain white rice, is dry beans ,of all kinds, I add whatever I have in the pantry or whatever is on sale at the store. Add small cars/trucks or construction vehicles for a fun “ground moving” activity or add fake bugs for a creepy crawly experience!
Water Beads-Water Beads can get a little messy, so I suggest outside for this activity. We usually make our own but you can buy then in bulk if you don’t want to wait for them to “grow”. These are fun on their own, but adding little plastic animals, especially sea animals, makes these even more fun. We like to play “save the animals”, digging them out with plastic shovels.
You can freeze water beads as well! This is REALLY fun on those hot afternoons, when you don’t know what else to do. This of course, takes time for prep, as you need to first make the water beads and then pop them in the freezer in enough time to freeze them!
DIY Magic Foam is one of our absolute favorites! It’s so simple to make and the kids love to help. You combine 1/4 c of water with 2 tablespoons of dish soap in your mixer and mix on high for 1-2 minutes. Add in a couple drops of food coloring and you have colored magic foam! It stays fluffy for a while, but is easy to clean up by running water over it. And an added bonus, if you kid decides to rub it all over themselves (not that I would have experience with that), you can put them in the tub for an easy bath!
Sand-Good old, plain play sand is such a fun sensory bin addition! In the middle of the winter, you can pretend you’re at the beach by adding buckets, shovels and shells. Cheap, easy and oh so much fun!
Snow-This one is a little bit limited based on region and time of year, but snow makes a great sensory bin addition. Coloring the snow with watercolor paint it’s also a lot of fun when you add spoons, measuring cups and an ice cream scoop! This is also a great time to add in trucks/construction vehicles too. My kids love when we add miniature trees (I try to pick these up on sale after Christmas).
If you live in an area that does not get snow, check out this homemade recipe:
Homemade Play Snow
- 3 cups baking soda
- 1/2 cup hair conditioner
Mix to combine…easiest recipe ever
Shaving Cream– is another outside addition for us because, man, does it get messy! We love adding food coloring and ice for even more fun.
Playdough-Playdough is a fun addition to any sensory bin. It’s cheap, easy and kids can let their imagination run wild. Here is a link for making soft playdough at home and if you want a premade kit, here’s a link for kits shipped to your door!