Sensory Bin for Play-Based Learning

Follow the steps below to make a sensory bin that stimulates a child's senses. 

Sensory Bin for Play-Based Learning

Sensory Bin for Play-Based Learning

Sensory bin play activities are crucial for child development, and they establish the foundation for all learning and development for preschoolers and school-aged children. 

When done right, sensory bin play activities promote primary senses development, self-regulation through body awareness, language development, motor skills development, and creative and imaginative skills.

In this guide, we’ll elaborate on everything you need to know about sensory bins for toddlers and how to make them.

Sensory bin for preschoolersSource

What is a sensory bin?

Simply put, a sensory bin is any container like a plastic tub, box, tray, or bucket filled with materials to stimulate a child’s senses. Sensory bins vary in size; however, the most critical considerations are choosing a large enough container and child-friendly sensory play materials.

Sensory bin play activities are an excellent way to introduce children to different textures for exploration. A sensory bin can contain one or different filler varieties. What you decide depends on your goal. Examples of filler materials to include in a sensory bin include:

  • Colored rice
  • Water
  • Snow
  • Birdseed
  • Craft sand
  • Shredded paper
  • Water beads
  • Dry pasta 
  • Ice
  • Mud
  • Rocks
  • Marbles
  • Dry beans

Why is a sensory bin important?

A sensory bin is a great way to introduce sensory play, allowing toddlers to explore objects and develop sensory skills through tactile play. They also promote the development of other crucial skills for a child’s development. 

The best part is that they have unlimited use. You can use sensory bins at home or school to promote child development. Below are the benefits of sensory bins.

1. Facilitates sensory exploration

A sensory bin allows preschoolers to explore primary senses like touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. This technique works since sensory bins can stimulate multiple senses simultaneously. 

You should consider filling a sensory tub with all types of filler objects of different textures. It helps children understand that objects can be smooth, rough, warm, or cold. 

2. Promotes body awareness

Body awareness is crucial for self-regulation. Sensory bin play activities allow children to know how different body parts like limbs, eyes, and ears relate. They also need self-regulation to control emotions and maintain a steady balance.

For example, sensory play activities are calming and excellent for regulating a child’s emotions. Try different sensory play activities to find what calms your children when their emotions are high.

3. Supports learning and language development

Sensory bin play activities support learning and language development by stimulating multiple senses simultaneously. Sensory activities can help teach concepts like “empty and full”, “up and down”, “sort and pour”, or “above and below”. 

Learning through sensory play is descriptive and depends on what you tell your children. How well you instruct them determines their success. The sensory play activities should be clear and easy to understand. 

4. Fosters motor skills development

Motor skills are crucial for a child's physical strength and movement. Children use motor skills to crawl, run, walk, jump, eat, write, or draw. There are two types of motor skills: fine and gross motor skills.

Fine motor skills involve small muscle movements and are responsible for writing, drawing, zipping, and unzipping. On the other hand, gross motor skills involve large muscle movements and are responsible for walking, running, or jumping.

Sensory bin play activities are one way to promote motor skills development. For example, playing with mud, play dough, or rice in a sensory bin helps develop fine motor skills. Also, moving from one sensory bin station to another helps develop motor skills since children mostly explore through hands-on activities.

5. Aids math skills

Preschoolers should learn math concepts like counting, sorting, volume, and shapes. A sensory bin aids math skills development as children play with different filler materials. They can learn to count by taking or putting marbles into the bin.

They can also learn about sorting and volume by separating similarly shaped objects and filling or unfilling a sensory bin.

6. Encourages social skills development 

Social skills set the foundation for how children relate with their peers at school, siblings, educators, and caregivers. Sensory bin activities promote social skills development in many ways. 

These activities teach children how to take turns and work as a team, especially when playing with peers or siblings. They also learn how to coexist peacefully and respond to social situations.

7. Supports cognitive development

Sensory bin play activities for toddlers and preschoolers promote cognitive development. Some activities, like sorting objects, require creativity since the child has to identify similarities and differences to separate similar objects.

For example, you can ask them to sort out objects based on color and shape. This exercise stimulates their creative mind, helping to develop it further.

Types of sensory bin activities

There are two primary types of sensory bin activities: wet and dry sensory bin activities. The type of sensory bin activity determines what fillers you use. Wet sensory bin activities use wet or sticky fillers, while dry sensory bin activities use dry fillers.

Wet sensory bin play activities use the following fillers:


On the other hand, dry sensory bin play activities use the following filters:

  • Gardening soil
  • Beads
  • Corn meal
  • Sand
  • Dry pasta
  • Dry beans
  • Rice

How to make a sensory bin

Making a sensory bin is fun, easy, and affordable since you can use materials you already have in your home. It’s more exciting when you involve the children in making one. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to make a sensory bin.

Step 1: Choose a sensory bin container 

You can use a variety of containers like boxes, trays, or buckets. The container shouldn’t be too big or too small; instead, the number of children playing should determine the size. 

Step 2: Pick a theme 

Consider a theme your children are passionate about as this will make them more engaged in the learning process.

Step 3: Choose sensory bin fillers

Sensory bin fillers are also known as base materials. They should be relevant to your preferred theme and should also be interesting to look at and touch. This way, children are engaged while playing.

The most common sensory bin fillers are:

  • Rice
  • Dry pasta
  • Lentils
  • Oatmeal
  • Mud
  • Sand
  • Water beads
  • Aquarium stones
  • Shaving cream

Step 4: Add more fun tools and objects

Adding tools, toys, and other child-friendly objects to the sensory bin makes the play more interesting. Examples of tools and objects you can add to a sensory bin include:

  • Natural materials like leaves, sticks, stones, pinecones, and sea shells.
  • Tools like tweezers, tongs, scoops, and small spoons.
  • Toys like dinosaurs, turtles, cars, fish, and snails.

Sensory bin ideas

Sensory bin ideas are based on the two types of sensory bin play activities. To support holistic development, you should consider dry and wet sensory bin ideas. Below are five different sensory bin ideas to help you get started.  

Dinosaur sensory bin


plastic dinosaurs and trees on sandSource

The dinosaur sensory bin is a messy sensory play activity full of fun. You’ll need:

  • Plastic bin
  • Sand
  • Plastic dinosaurs and trees
  • River rocks
  • Scoopers

Fill the plastic bin with sand. Arrange the rocks and plastic trees around the bin. Add the toy dinosaurs! Sort or count the dinosaurs or make dinosaur tracks in the sand. Try burying the dinosaurs and digging them out with the scoopers.

Dishwashing sensory bin


a child pretending to wash dishes in a plastic bin of soapy waterSource

You’ll need:

  • Plastic container
  • Dish soap
  • Plastic dishes, cups, utensils
  • Scrub brush


Put down a beach towel on the floor. Fill the plastic container with warm water and dish soap. Stir to make soapy water. Place the container on top of the beach towel to catch any water spills. Add the dishes, cups, utensils, and scrub brush. Let the children play and splash in the water and “wash” the dishes!

Weather sensory bin


weather sensory bin with rice, cotton balls and pipe cleanersSource

This is a great sensory bin for preschool and can be paired with other activities focused on the weather theme. You’ll need:

  • Dyed blue and white rice
  • Large cotton balls (for clouds)
  • Small white/silver poms (for snow)
  • Medium blue poms (for rain)
  • Wooden craft sun
  • Wooden craft rainbow
  • Golden pipe cleaners (bent for lightening)
  • Plastic bin

To dye jasmine rice blue, fill a gallon plastic ziploc bag with rice and a few drops of blue food coloring. Seal the bag and shake around to coat the rice with the dye. Open the bag and allow the rice to air dry for 10 minutes before pouring into the plastic bin. Add the cotton balls, poms, pipe cleaners and wooden craft sun and rainbow to your bin.

Shaving cream sensory bin


child playing in a shaving cream sensory binSource

The shaving cream sensory bin is budget-friendly and easy to make. You’ll need:

  • Shaving cream
  • Pool noodles
  • Large tub

Cut different colored pool noodles into slices and place in a large tub or container. Fill the tub with shaving cream and mix the noodle slices around. Have children sort or count the noodle slices or stack them into a tower. 

Car-themed sensory bin


car sensory bin with black beans and toy carsSource

You’ll need the following materials:

  • Black beans
  • Yellow straws
  • Scissors
  • Red, green and yellow pom poms
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Toy cars
  • Plastic bin

Pour dry black beans into a plastic container or bin. Cut up the yellow straws and place them in the bins to represent lines on a road. Add red, yellow, and green pom poms to look like traffic lights. Stick toilet paper rolls into the beans and add the toy cars!

These five sensory bin ideas are enough to get you started. Other sensory bin ideas you may consider:

Sensory bin play rules

Sensory bins for toddlers and preschoolers have many benefits and are a great way to incorporate a fun, hands-on activity into daily learning.  But, before you get started, you need to exercise caution. Here are some sensory bin play rules to familiarize yourself with:

  • Be wary of choking hazards.
  • Check sensory items' shelf-life to ensure you don’t use expired materials.
  • Focus on the sensory bin activities that children love and enjoy.
  • Have towels nearby, especially when indulging in messy sensory bin activities. The children can use the towels to wipe off their hands when they’re done playing.

Wrapping up

Sensory bin play-based learning is a fantastic way to support children's growth and development. The sensory bin facilitates sensory exploration, promotes body awareness, supports learning and language development, and fosters motor skills development.

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