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Sensory Bin Tub Table Classroom Ideas List

Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.

Sensory bins enable preschool and kindergarten age children to develop cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional, and physical skills. As they use their senses to engage with new and familiar objects, they learn more about their world and how to question it and interact with it. As sensory bins are inexpensive and easy to assemble with affordable, readily available materials, there is no reason not to start using them at home or in the classroom today.

If you are interested in putting together any kind of themed sensory bin, make a list of potential items and keep your eye out for them wherever you go. It can be exhausting searching for everything at once. Instead simply be on the lookout during shopping trips. You never know when you'll find just what you're looking for in the dollar section at Target or at your favorite thrift store when you're shopping for something completely unrelated.

 Sensory Bin Ideas 




Ocean / Beach

Books / Stories

Themes for Classroom Units

Scent / Lighting Considerations

Cater to Student Interests

Birthday Tub


Mix Up the Base Material


 Items to Include All Year Round 

Cookie Cutters

Kitchen Utensils and Tools


Pom Poms

Colored Stones

Pipe Cleaners

Popsicle Sticks

Wood or Plastic Beads

Cardboard Tubes

Containers in Varying Sizes



Beaded Necklaces

Blocks / Duplos / Legos


An ice cream themed sensory bin is a great option for summer.

An ice cream themed sensory bin is a great option for summer.

  • Fall. Pumpkins / gourds, apples, farm equipment / farmers, scarecrows, leaves, unpopped popcorn kernals, bare sticks / twigs, pine cones, scented candles.
  • Winter. Cotton balls, foam snowflakes, blue and white pom poms or colored stones (i.e. vase fillers), silver stars, small snow globes, polar bears.
  • Spring. Easter grass, real or fake flowers, dandelions, birds nests, watering can, gardening tools, rubber insects, miniature birdhouse.
  • Summer. Pretend flip flops, sunglasses, sand toys, miniature umbrellas, plastic fish.

You can also theme a sensory bin around a specific aspect of a season, such as a garden for spring or a pumpkin farm for fall.

Pintober#7- Fall Sensory Bin (Cornmeal)

You can theme a sensory bin around virtually any color. There are resources out there for red, orange, yellow, green, and blue bins as well as multicolored / rainbow bins. Don't be afraid to explore additional options as well.

Color sensory bins can lead to great discussions about the emotions that colors evoke (i.e. "How does the color blue make you feel?")

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  • Halloween. Candy corn, pumpkins, plastic / rubber spiders and other bugs, plastic bats, fake eyeballs, stuffed owls, plastic ghosts, witch hats, fake witch fingers.
  • Thanksgiving. Leaves, pumpkins / gourds, pilgrims / pilgrim hats, turkeys, ears of dried corn.
  • Christmas. Pom poms, ornaments, Santas, miniature wrapped presents, pine branches, bows, cotton balls, candy canes, ribbons, tinsel, nutcrackers, holly branches.
  • Valentine's Day. Paper hearts, fake flower petals, heart ice cube trays.
  • St. Patrick's Day. Clovers / shamrocks, leprechauns / leprechaun hats, pots of gold, rainbows, gold coins.
  • Easter. Plastic eggs, Easter grass, empty egg cartons.

Ocean / beach is one of the most popular sensory bin themes out there and seemed to require some special recognition. Of course it makes a great seasonal bin for summer, can be used for ocean / beach related books, and can be customized to fit specific student interests.

Think about including: seashells, plastic fish and other ocean / sea creatures (i.e. dolphins, starfish), sand toys, sunglasses.

Sand and water are natural base material choices for an ocean / beach sensory bin, but of course you don't have to feel limited to these options.

A sensory bin is a perfect addition to any favorite classroom story or larger book unit. Before you start building a book bin from scratch, look online to see if anyone has posted ideas for it already that you can use as inspiration. I've included just a few available options here.

Plastic animals are perfect for a wide variety of animal themes, including a farm theme.

Plastic animals are perfect for a wide variety of animal themes, including a farm theme.

On a similar note, a sensory bin is a great component of virtually any preschool or kindergarten classroom unit. Think about language arts, writing, math, science, and social studies themes. If you can't find ideas for a specific theme, take the challenge to put a bin together on your own.

DIY: Lighted Sensory Bin - Tactile Play for Autism

There are so many creative, simple ways to add scents and/or lights to sensory bins from adding submersible lights to building your own light table to scenting the rice base. Think about customization options to fit different themes (i.e. red and green lights for Christmas, a strawberry scent for summer).

Cater to Student Interests

Every parent and teacher has encountered at least a few kids that fixate on particular items or subjects to the point of it being an obsession. While you cannot tailor every aspect of their lives to these fixations, making a few special materials around those interests can make a big difference.

Dinosaur Sensory Bin

What better way to celebrate a young child's birthday than with a fun bin filled with birthday related items? You can customize the items to fit a kid's preferences or you can simply keep the same birthday tub set aside as a special treat for birthdays. Here are just a few items that you may want to include:

  • Birthday candles
  • Ribbons and bows
  • Cupcake tins
  • Birthday hats
  • Noisemakers
  • Plastic number with the age
  • Multicolored pom poms
  • Not yet blown up balloons
  • Small party favor items (i.e. metal or plastic cars, wrapped candy)
  • Other fun colorful items
Polymer beads that you use as vase filler are an awesome tactile material.

Polymer beads that you use as vase filler are an awesome tactile material.

Colored rice with plastic dinosaurs.

Colored rice with plastic dinosaurs.

One of the simplest ways to give new life to an old sensory bin or revive the sensory bin idea is to change up the base material. Here are just a few popular options.

  • Water (with or without soap)
  • Rice (plain, colored, and/or scented rice)
  • Spaghetti
  • Dried bean, corn, or split peas
  • Shaving cream
  • Playdough or cloud dough
  • Easter grass
  • Fabric or felt
  • Sand
  • Rocks / pebbles / vase filler stones
  • Unpopped popcorn kernels

Sensory Bin Play!

Are you struggling to find items for sensory bins in local stores? Pick up components or pre-made sets on Etsy!

More educational resources from the author.

© 2014 Rose Clearfield


Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on April 12, 2014:

A sensory bin would be perfect for your little one, prestonandkate! Have fun with it. :)

Preston and Kate from the Midwest on April 12, 2014:

These are some great ideas for us to consider as we are looking for more entertainment for our 1 year old. He LOVES discovering new things, and he is at that age where we don't have to watch him every second. He would really enjoy a tub full of new textures. Thanks for some great ideas.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 20, 2014:

vespawoolf, there is definitely a lot of information out there on this topic! You can tailor sensory bins is so many different ways. They're a really neat tool. :) Glad you enjoyed.

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on January 20, 2014:

I like the idea of sensory bins for encouraging childhood development. I've seen them before but didn't know what they were called. I can see there is a lot of information out there and ideas for tailoring them to the needs of the children and teachers. Thank you for sharing.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 13, 2014:

jpcmc, thanks! Best of luck.

FlourishAnyway, I know, right? Kids definitely enjoy these kind of activities.

twoseven, the timing worked out perfectly! I'm sure that your son's preschool class will enjoy the bin. I hope that you get to try out some of these ideas out at home, too.

twoseven from Madison, Wisconsin on January 13, 2014:

Thank you so much for this! It's as if you knew that I had just signed up to bring materials for the sensory table in my son's preschool class and had no idea what to bring! :) I will definitely use some of these ideas for his school table, and now you have me wanted to do one at home too.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 13, 2014:

Why couldn't it have been this fun when I was a kid? This looks like kids would really love it. Voted up and pinning.

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on January 12, 2014:

Very creative ideas. I'll try to do this at home and see ho it pans out. My daughter will definitely love this.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 12, 2014:

Thanks, Bill! Have a great week.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 12, 2014:

Cool idea; nice hub!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 12, 2014:

Thanks so much! That's an awesome point that children will benefit the most from these ideas. I appreciate the pin!

RTalloni on January 12, 2014:

A neat look at putting sensory bins together! Parents and teachers can benefit from the ideas you've shared here--well, I guess children would benefit most. :) Pinning to Home Education/Schooling board.

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