Sensory Bins


By Rachel Wells

Looking for an inexpensive activity that will keep your kids busy for hours? Yes, I said hours and not minutes! Try out a sensory bin. Sensory bins allow children to explore, imagine, create, and learn while engaging their senses.

Sensory bins help build nerve connections in the brains pathways and support language development, motor skills, social skills, and cognitive growth. Sensory bins also help children understand cause and effect, improve their hand-eye coordination, and help develop problem solving skills.

Stimulate the body’s senses – The sense of sound, touch, and sight are all used.

Supporting language development – Children use words to describe their play and name objects, colors, shapes, and sizes. Children also have opportunities to make comparisons and use descriptive words.

Improved motor skills and hand-eye coordination – Children manipulate, pour, scoop, dump, mix, and bury objects.

Improved social skills – Provides opportunities for sharing, playing, and communicating with others.

Cognitive growth – Using different sizes of scoops and cups gives children a chance to practice measurement, sizes, and estimating.

Understanding of cause and effect – By manipulating sensory materials children see reactions to the actions.

Develop problem solving skills – Children figure out how to fix problems, work together, and manipulate materials.

Sensory bins don’t require a lot of space, and are easy and inexpensive to make. All of the bins featured here cost less than $5 to put together. The dollar store and your own pantry are the perfect place to start looking for ideas. Colored rice or pasta, beans, popcorn kernels, and water beads all make perfect fillers. If you are afraid of messes, place your bin on top of a towel or blanket on the floor. It will make clean up quicker and easier!

To make colored rice, pasta, or beans, pour the dry ingredients into a Ziploc bag along with a few drops of food coloring. Seal the bag and squish it around to mix and coat all of the pieces. Pour beans and dried pasta onto paper towels to dry. The rice will be dry and ready to play with right away. Add in some manipulatives and scoops, and your child will be ready to explore their new sensory bin.



This dinsouar themed sensory bin was made with brown beans, plastic eggs, fake greenery, and dinosaur figurines.

Insects and Dirt

Kinetic dirt, fake grass, plastic bugs, magnifying glasses, and silk flowers cut off the stems make up this creepy crawly bin.


Green colored rice, plastic garden tools, and pretend vegetables were used to create this super fun sensory bin. You can also add in some cute bunny our animal figurines as well!


This construction themed bin was created with brown beans, construction trucks, and large rocks.


For an ocean themed bin use blue vase filler rocks, kinetic sand, seashells, and ocean animal figurines.


Celebrate Halloween with this sesory bin containing black beans, small pumpkin pails, Halloween themed erasers, and large craft googly eyes.

Outer space

To create an outer space themed bin combine black beans, alien finger puppets, felt space cutouts, and glow in the dark stars.

Ice Princess

This bin is a current favorite at home, and was made with white rice, snowflake ornaments, sparkly craft pom-poms, and gem stones.

Gingerbread cookies

This bin was made by cutting gingerbread cookies out of brown felt, and added ribbons, buttons, rickrack, googly eyes, cotton balls, and pom-poms in order to create different varieties of cookies.

Rainbows and Unicorns

This bin was created with rainbow colored beans, gemstone flowers, silk flowers cut off the stems, and unicorn and fairy figurines. I also included a medicine sorter with colored felt glued to the top for sorting beans.

Merry Christmas

Celebrate Christmas with red and green colored macaroni, felt gingerbread men, and lightweight plastic ornaments.

Valentine’s Day

This bin was made with multiple shades of red, white, and pink colored rice and rubber duckies with hearts on them.


Spice up a regular puzzle by placing the pieces in a sensory bin! Fill a bin with beans and hide the puzzle pieces throughout. Children can use tools (an unused toothbrush is a fun choice!) to dig until they find all of the pieces of the puzzle. Be sure to match the pieces to the puzzle board at the end.


Popcorn kernels, straw, and farm animals are all you need for this sensory bin.

Water beads

Fill a bin with water beads and add some ocean animals. These are bouncy, so a big bin is best!  

Give one of these sensory bins a try, and see just how engaging they really are. You may end up wanting to take them out for yourself, and playing for hours too (I have!). Let us know if you come up with any other fun sensory bin themes at home!

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