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 Bins - The Chaos and the Clutter
- A Handful of Fun: Why Sensory Play is Important for Preschoolers | Not Just CuteNot Just Cute
- Developing & Cultivating Skills Through Sensory Play . Child Development | PBS Parents
Learn why sensory play is important for child development.
- Earlychildhood NEWS - Sensory Experiences Can Be Messy Fun
|Sensory Bin Ideas|
Ocean / Beach
Books / Stories
Themes for Classroom Units
Scent / Lighting Considerations
Cater to Student Interests
Mix Up the Base Material
|Items to Include All Year Round|
Kitchen Utensils and Tools
Wood or Plastic Beads
Containers in Varying Sizes
Blocks / Duplos / Legos
- 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.
- 10 Fall Sensory Bins | The Jenny Evolution
- handmade beginnings: Sensory Bin: Autumn
- Mom's Heart: Winter Sensory Tub
- DIY Spring & Summer Sensory Bins For Babies & Toddlers | Disney Baby
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?")
- And Next Comes L: Search results for color sensory bins
Yellow, green, blue, and purple as well as additional sensory bin ideas.
- Reformed Ragamuffin: Kids: 2 More Sensory Bins : Farm and Orange
- Giant Colour Themed Sensory Tub - The Imagination Tree
Yellow and blue.
- 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.
- The Pike Fam: Halloween Sensory Bin 2011
- Nurturing Naters with learning activities at home: Thanksgiving sensory tub, Thanksgiving sensory bi
- 10 Delightful Christmas Sensory Bins | The Jenny Evolution
- Christmas Sensory Bin Play with Trains
- IT'S TEEA TIME PLAYSCHOOL: Sensory Tub for Valentine's Day
- Creative and Curious Kids!: St.Patrick's Day Sensory Bin
- Easter Egg Sensory Bin ~ Learn Play Imagine
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.
- At home with Ali: Big and Little..... Explorers sensory play
- Play Create Explore: Peter Rabbit Small World Sensory Bin
- book & craft: Little Pea Sensory Bin - mama♥miss
A fun & unique sensory bin celebrating Amy Krouse Rosenthal's book "Little Pea".
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.
- Desert Sensory Bin - The Chaos and the Clutter
- Tot School - Letter D - Wildflower Ramblings
Includes lots of details about putting together a duck sensory bin.
- Two Steps Behind Six Little Hands: March Sensory Bin - What's the Weather?
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).
- A Light Box / Light Table for Sensory Play
Great ideas for purchasing and making light box / light tables.
- Strawberry Scented Sensory Basket - The Imagination Tree
Create a beautiful, scented and textured sensory basket themed around strawberries, for some open-ended play and exploration for preschoolers.
- Play Create Explore: Black Light Sensory Bin
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.
- Football Sensory Bin
Fun football sensory bin. Made to go along with the book Little Granny Quartback by Bill Martin Jr. Also great for football theme or game day kids activity.
- Happy Early Learning: Sensory Bin : Pets (Letter C for Cat)
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
- 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
- Birthday Sensory Bin ~ Growing A Jeweled Rose
- Totally Tots: Birthday Sensory Bin - What's in the Tub?
- Happy Birthday Sensory Activity Bin
A special sensory activity bin for your child's birthday! Filled with fun, bright and colorful birthday objects for kids to explore!
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)
- Dried bean, corn, or split peas
- Shaving cream
- Playdough or cloud dough
- Easter grass
- Fabric or felt
- Rocks / pebbles / vase filler stones
- Unpopped popcorn kernels
- How to Make Play Dough (Play Doh)
- Flour + Baby Oil = Cloud Dough | Kids Crafts & Activities for Children | Kiwi Crate
- Making colorful and scented rice for preschool | Teach Preschool
Making colorful and sweet smelling rice for sensory and art experiences in preschool.
Sensory Bin Play!
Are you struggling to find items for sensory bins in local stores? Pick up components or pre-made sets on Etsy!
- Looking for sensory bins/boxes? Check out our selection of sensory bins/boxes at dapperhouse's shop.
- Early Learning Collections for Children by SmartybyDesign on Etsy
Sensory bins, playsets, preschool activities, teacher tools and more.
More educational resources from the author.
- Free Lego Math Activities, Games, and Lessons for Kids
Are you looking for free games, activities, worksheets, lesson plans, and printables for your students or your own children? Consider Lego math!
- Teaching Sight Words to Kids: Strategies, Games, Activities, Worksheets, and Printables
Are you looking for resources for teaching sight words? There are numerous strategies, activities, worksheets, and games that will keep the process engaging for students.
- Preschool Painting Ideas
In this article, I describe 16 preschool painting ideas. This is a wonderful, comprehensive resource for teachers and parents. I also including painting resources.
© 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.