The Beginner’s Guide to Sensory Bins - Active Littles (2024)


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The Beginners Guide to Sensory Bins

Oh! Sensory bins, sensory bins! How I love myself a nice sensory bin.

You’ve heard about them and you might be thinking what is that?! Oh! you are in for a treat!

  • It is a fun, creative and engaging bin made of infinite possibilities in conjunction with your child’s imagination 🙂 The play possibilities are endless and in some instances, mama can get stuff done around the house! Two thumbs up for that!

Below are five sensory bins I have come up with:

What is a Sensory bin?

Sensory bins are just as its name states: a bin used to stimulate the senses.

  • It is a tangible experience in a contained area such as a storage bin, bottle, tub, or bag. These receptacles can be filled with specific objects such as rice, sand, beans…
  • Our absolute favorite fillers are plain ol’ h2o and/or dyed rice! If you want to add a scenery or a theme to it, it makes it all the better! You can add tiny amounts of food grade dye to learn colors, or a farm with your child’s favorite figure toys including a tractor. The possibilities are endless. It can be anything you and/or your child want it to be. That is the beauty and creative expression of the open ended sensory bin. There are hundreds upon hundreds of different types of ways you can go about creating a bin for your child.
  • If you’ve never made one before, get ready! It is awesome.

Why make a Sensory bin, sensory bottle, or sensory bag?

If you’re like me a few years back, you probably would’ve thought this is way too simple to keep my child engaged. How is this going to keep my child engaged?! Hear me out:

  • Sensory bins, sensory bottles, or sensory bags, bring about amazing benefits! Some of which are creativity, fine motor development, stimulation of hearing, touch, and sight {senses}.
  • Sensory bins help a child to learn, calm down, and engage in their own creativity using their imagination. The sensory component in their engaging play allows your child to keep playing as it fills that void for them. The rice falling in between their fingers, the scooping of beans into a bowl, or the splashing of bubbles and water are all wonderful stimulating sensory play.
  • Sensory bottles are amazing as well! The glitter and glue moving around slowly inside almost like a lava lamp. Or how about the sensory bag filled with a different colored dye and glitter in each for stimulation of touch or sight senses. Its all about the senses becoming stimulated!
  • These all play a very important role in allowing children to explore, create, imagine, and learn new ideas as they engage in play. Sounds awesome right?! I think so too. Here are some we created: Here are other ones we love:

The Beginner’s Guide to Sensory Bins - Active Littles (1)

How to get started with a sensory bins, sensory bottles, and/or sensory bags

  • Sensory bins are very simple to create. You most likely have supplies in your kitchen cupboard, that would be engaging for your child. If you are looking for inspiration to create your very own sensory bin, sensory bottle and/or sensory bag, here is the method I use:
    • Choosing a bin, bottle, or bag
    • Fillers such as manipulatives, rices, beans…
    • Scoopers, Shovels, Buckets:
    • Theme (Optional)
  • I have created the ultimate list of Sensory Bin ideas below.

Here are over ‘101 Sensory Bin Ideas‘ with all kinds of themes: (Please keep in mind some of these items may be choking hazards for little ones, so please always supervise.) Hope you enjoy!

    1. Princess Sensory Bin
    2. Shaving Cream Sensory Bin
    3. Cooked Pasta Sensory Bin
    4. Dried Pasta Sensory Bin
    5. Rice Sensory Bin
    6. Beans Sensory Bin
    7. Foam Sensory Bin
    8. Wash the fruits Sensory Bin
    9. Wash the Vegetables Sensory Bin
    10. Sponge Play Sensory Bin
    11. Paint Sensory Bin
    12. Themed Sensory Bin
    13. Water Play Sensory Bin
    14. Funnel Sensory Bin
    15. Oats Sensory Bin
    16. Super Hero Themed Sensory Bin
    17. Birthday Themed Sensory Bin
    18. Affirmations Sensory Bin
    19. Printables Sensory Bin
    20. Educational Sensory Bin
    21. Learn Colors Sensory Bin
    22. Learn Numbers Sensory Bin
    23. Hide and Seek Sensory Bin
    24. Find the Letters Sensory Bin
    25. Corn Meal Sensory Bin
    26. Farm House Sensory Bin
    27. Animals Sensory Bin
    28. Sea Animals Sensory Bin
    29. Bugs Sensory Bin
    30. Beads Sensory Bin
    31. Water Beads Sensory Bin
    32. Cooked Beans Sensory Bin
    33. Cooked Garbanzos Sensory Bin
    34. Pudding Sensory Bin
    35. Dyed white pudding Sensory Bin
    36. Whipped Cream for fun Sensory Bin
    37. Whipped Cream for educational Sensory Bin
    38. Cooked Oatmeal Sensory Bin
    39. Snow Sensory Bin
    40. Faux Snow Sensory Bin
    41. Cotton Balls Sensory Bin
    42. Easter Sensory Bin
    43. Easter Egg Sensory Bin
    44. Easter Grass Sensory Bin
    45. Mothers Day Sensory Bin
    46. Fathers Day Sensory Bin
    47. Fourth of July Sensory Bin
    48. Valentines Sensory Bin
    49. Thanksgiving Sensory Bin
    50. Christmas Sensory Bin
    51. Hanukkah Sensory Bin
    52. Food Sensory Bin
    53. Nature Sensory Bin
    54. Gift wrap paper Sensory Bin
    55. Empty Paper Roll Sensory Bin
    56. Craft Sticks Sensory Bin
    57. Craft Feathers Sensory Bin
    58. Pieces of Fabric Sensory Bin
    59. Pom Pom Sensory Bin
    60. Dyed water Sensory Bin
    61. Water with Pom Poms Sensory Bin
    62. Pouring water Sensory Bin
    63. Shred the Corn Sensory Bin
    64. Peel the Fruits Sensory Bin
    65. Wash the Pumpkins Sensory Bin
    66. Dinosaur Sensory Bin
    67. Marbles Sensory Bin
    68. Kinetic Sand Sensory Bin
    69. Ocean Sand Sensory Bin
    70. Dirt Sensory Bin
    71. Popcorn Kernels Sensory Bin
    72. Jelly Beans Sensory Bin
    73. Sea shells Sensory Bin
    74. Mermaid Sensory Bin
    75. Acorns Sensory Bin
    76. Bird Seed Sensory Bin
    77. Lentils Sensory Bin
    78. Dried Split Peas Sensory Bin
    79. Foam Paper Sensory Bin
    80. Ice Sensory Bin
    81. Craft Beads Sensory Bin
    82. Cereal Sensory Bin
    83. Slime Sensory Bin
    84. Clear Rainbow Slime Sensory Bin
    85. Foam Slime Sensory Bin
    86. Under the Sea Sensory Bin
    87. Galactic Sensory Bin
    88. Gel Enclosed Sensory Bags Taped shut for Babies
    89. Butterfly Garden Sensory Bin
    90. Fairies Sensory Bin
    91. I spy Sensory Bin
    92. Shredded Paper Sensory Bin
    93. Pet Shop Sensory Bin
    94. Wash the Toy Dog Sensory Bin
    95. Frozen Water Beads Sensory Bin
    96. Threading Station Sensory Bin
    97. Pool Noodle Sensory Bin
    98. Muddy Cocoa Powder Sensory Bin
    99. Marshmallow and Pretzel Sticks Sensory Bin
    100. Shaving Cream and Water Beads Sensory Bin
    101. Construction Site Sensory Bin

So there you have it! 101 Sensory Bin ideas for Sensory Play! Do you have an idea you may want to add? Please leave me a comment down below. I’d love to include your sensory bin idea in this list!

Tips for Success in Sensory bins 101

How do you present a sensory bin to your child? After you’ve thought out a theme with or without your child, you can set up an invitation to play.

  • Encourage them to use their imagination to come up with creative stories or explorative play ideas. You can go about asking them, “what do you feel/see/hear?” Some children will jump right in and explore independent play. Some may be shy in the beginning but slowly with a little help watching you scoop and pour, they’ll get it and finally come up with their own form of play.
  • Sensory Bottles are also a great form of sensory play. My favorite is filled with glitter, water, and glue. The glue mixed with the water slows down the movement which makes for slow glitter movement and fascination. The measurements are approx. 1/2 of water and 1/2 of glue. Check out all our sensory bottles here…
  • Sensory Bags are also great and very easy to make. I use a ziplock bag secured with duct tape (especially for the littles). They can be filled with so many different types of fillings. Check out here for more.

Sensory items and fillings aren’t very costly. Your very own kitchen cupboard probably has some sensory fillings waiting to be used. I find most of my sensory fillings at the Dollar store or Target Dollar Spot.

Common Questions/FAQ About Sensory bins

  • What about the mess made from Sensory bins

    • The mess is one of the main questions I hear all the time.
    • Yes, some rice may escape the bin but there are a couple options. You can place a sheet, blanket or towel under the bin. Once your children are done playing, the rice can be poured back into the bin by the towel. You can also allow it only in the yard or front porch.
    • Remember, a sensory bin is almost like a toy. I teach my children not to throw toys, but rather engage with it. They don’t scatter the toys around the house but rather play with it grounded in one place. Once they finish up with a toy, they put it back where it belongs. It’s the same for sensory bins. They know to play with the sensory bin in a controlled setting without throwing it everywhere.
    • The youngest child will probably be the most challenging only because they are still learning right from wrong.
    • Consistency and repetition will be in favor here. Accidents will happen and thats okay! If your anything like me, I love to vacuum. If some falls Ill just vacuum it right up. Its therapy for me. It stimulates my senses :). You can also use a broom or mop which may leave your floors shinier than they were before. Bonus points for that!
  • Can I make a sensory bin for multiple aged children?

    • Yes! My children are 3 and soon to be 6. Both can definitely benefit from the engagement and exploration of a sensory bin, but my challenge lies here: I want to be able to provide a more challenging sensory bin for my 6 year old while my 3 year old is still in the learning fine motor stage and wanting to be ‘big’ like her older sister. If you have a third sibling who may be a baby, supervision is a must in this instance as babies tend to put items in their mouth while exploring. Definitely challenging! So, how do I alter the bin to meet the needs of each child.
      • For Babies:
        • Grasp and transfer items. Adding small buckets, scoopers, spoons, and/or containers.
        • Vocalize their experience. You can say, “The school bus is yellow” or “Is that a toy cow?”.
        • Contain it in a sensory bag. This is great for a baby because they like to put things in their mouth. Make sure to tape around the edges that open for extra security. **Supervision is a must.
      • For Preschoolers:
        • Add Manipulatives.Wooden toys, toy chest toys, themed toys, foam letters/numbers.. The possibilities are endless.
        • Unique Grasp and transfer items.You can add tongs, funnels, kitchen utensils, muffin tins, whisks along with the items mentioned for baby. These are great for fine motor skills.
      • For Grade school children:
        • Subject learning bin. Including science/math based flashcards or wooden dinosaur bones.. get creative!
        • Completing puzzles.You can add puzzle pieces or words that make up a sentence for them to find!
        • Game it up!You can create a game with a dice and manipulatives through the corn kernels, or a game of i spy something .. red!
    • Sensory bins, sensory bottles and sensory bags can be both fun and/or educational!
  • How can I make my own rice sensory bin?
    • A sensory rice bin is a very inexpensive and fun way for children to enjoy exploring their senses. So how do you make one? There are a ton of different kinds, unique in their own way. A rice sensory bin has got to be the easiest and most common sensory bin. Heres how to create an easyrice sensory bin for your children in 3 easy steps.Here we go:
      • Step 1: You will need a bin.Do you have an empty bin you don’t use? Use this or purchase one. We buy ours at Target. The container should be shallow enough but large in width for play. We use different sets of bins. Our most common ones that we use are Sterilite brand 28qt, Room Essentials brand 16’11’7 or a small 6.3qt.
      • Step 2: Add rice. If you have plain rice at home, great! If not you will need to purchase rice.You can just use rice as is or if you’d like to go the extra mile, you can dye it! This is considerably great if you have a specific theme you’d like to implement. For example, if its Valentines Day, you may want to dye pink rice. If its Christmas, you may want to dye your rice the colors red and green.
      • Step 3: Fill your bin.I like tofill my bin to a 1/3 portion. 1 rice to 3 bin. If you prefer different, that is okay! You can add scoopers, spoons, and/or grasp and transfer tools. You can add manipulatives such as pom poms, themed erasers, rocks, foam letters, small toys your children already play with… Keep in mind, you may already own simple items already in your home! Setting up a sensory rice bin can be a very inexpensive set up!
  • How do I dye rainbow rice or noodles for a sensory bin?

  • There are many different options when it comes to dyeing rice for sensory bins and Ill get into them here.
    • The way we dye our rice: I dye our rice with alcohol. It is the only way I have dyed it and it worked out well. I like the idea of it sanitizing the rice. Here are our measurements:
      • 1 cup of white rice
      • 8-10 drops food coloring of your choice
      • 1 tsp of rubbing alcohol
      • ziplock bags
      • paper towel and tray for drying
      • Instructions:
        • I simply insert rice in a ziplock bag
        • Add the food coloring and rubbing alcohol.
        • I then shake and move it around.
        • Once I see that the rice is fully coated, I remove the rice and place on paper towel and tray for drying.
        • Once dry, {usually the next morning because I like to make mine at night before bed} it is ready for a sensory bin!
    • A different approach to dye rice: Dyeing rice with vinegar in replacement of rubbing alcohol is also very common. Dyeing rice with paint instead of food coloring is also very common.
      • 1 cup of white rice
      • 1 teaspoon of vinegar
      • 1-2 blobs of paint (use best judgment)
      • ziplock bags
      • paper towel and tray for drying
      • Instructions:
        • Insert plain white rice into sensory bag. If you are creating different colors, double, triple… the ziplock bags as each will be for a different color.
        • Add a glob or 2 of different colored paint in each ziplock bag filled with rice.
        • Once completed, zip the bag right up {make sure there is no air inside}.
        • Shake and squish the rice all around inside the bag until you see the rice change color right before your eyes! Make sure it is evenly dispersed.
        • Remove the rice and lay out on towel/tray. The drying stage will usually last about 1 hour. If you have essential oils, you can add a few drops of those to make for a yummy smelling experience.
  • Both options bring about the most beautiful vibrant and colorful rice!
  • Sensory bin ideas I LOVE from other bloggers

    • Sensory bins are just plain awesome! Here are a couple of my favorite sensory bins from top bloggers I love!

The Last Thing You Need to Know about Sensory Bins

  • Sensory bins are a wonderful way for your child to explore their imagination. Have fun with it! They may be into dinosaurs or butterflies. Take this as a cue to set up a dinosaur or butterfly sensory bin! Remember, let them take the lead and watch as they engage in such a wonderful activity.
  • If you like my take on sensory bins, please make sure to share this with someone who may be interested in sensory bins! Don’t forget to leave a comment below letting me know some of your favorite sensory bins. Have you created one your child absolutely loved? How did it go? If you’d like to check out more of our activities, follow us on instagram: activelittles 🙂

All activities to be done with adult supervision.


The Beginner’s Guide to Sensory Bins - Active Littles (2)

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  1. The Beginner’s Guide to Sensory Bins - Active Littles (3)Corisa says

    These are some great sensory bin ideas! I love doing the rice bin with my kids. I’ll have to try the rainbow bins. Since my daughter says, “all of the colors are my favorite,” I feel like she will really like that one.

    • The Beginner’s Guide to Sensory Bins - Active Littles (4)ActiveLittles says

      Thank you so much! I am so happy you enjoyed the sensory bin ideas! Haha, thats so wonderful she loves all of the colors. Mine love rainbow sensory bins 🙂 She will love it! 🙂


    • The Beginner’s Guide to Sensory Bins - Active Littles (5)Linda says

      This is awesome. So many ways to keep the kids engaged. Thanks for sharing.


  2. The Beginner’s Guide to Sensory Bins - Active Littles (6)Ayushi says

    Wow! You have provided some great and valuable information. 100+ ideas! Thank you!


    • The Beginner’s Guide to Sensory Bins - Active Littles (7)ActiveLittles says

      Thank you so much! This comment made me smile from ear to ear! I am so happy you enjoyed my list of over 100+ kids activities ideas 🙂 You are very welcome 🙂


  3. The Beginner’s Guide to Sensory Bins - Active Littles (8)Andrea says

    WOW! These are great ideas. I am going to bookmark this post and share with other moms. Thank you for the information.


  4. The Beginner’s Guide to Sensory Bins - Active Littles (9)Rachel Clark says

    My little one is only a year but I could see her really enjoying some of these sensory play ideas. Thank you for such a big list of ideas!


  5. The Beginner’s Guide to Sensory Bins - Active Littles (10)Shayla Thiessen says

    I’m always searching for new ideas to entertain my little boy, so this is amazing!


  6. The Beginner’s Guide to Sensory Bins - Active Littles (11)Jess says

    Thank you for all of the wonderful ideas, I’m excited to get started! One question, after the rice is dry does the color transfer to little hands at all? Thanks!!


    • The Beginner’s Guide to Sensory Bins - Active Littles (12)ActiveLittles says

      In our experience, it has not transferred to our littles hands. I think it may have a little to do with the amount used (We don’t overdue the color). I hope this helps! 🙂


The Beginner’s Guide to Sensory Bins - Active Littles (2024)


What age should you start sensory bins? ›

Sensory bins are good for children over 18 months of age. Before they're 18 months old, sensory bins are not developmentally appropriate because the possible hazards outweigh the benefits.

What are the learning outcomes of sensory bins? ›

A sensory bin aids math skills development as children play with different filler materials. For example, they can practice counting by adding things like marbles to a bin. They can also learn about sorting and volume by separating similarly shaped objects and filling or emptying a sensory bin.

Are sensory bins appropriate for kindergarten? ›

Sensory bins in Kindergarten are an amazing way to combine academic center activities and hands on play. But knowing where to start and how to use sensory bins effectively in Kindergarten can be overwhelming. I'll be the first to admit that I resisted using sensory bins in my kindergarten classroom for years.

Do 4 year olds like sensory bins? ›

Sensory bins are great fun for young children, they love to scoop, pour, dig and explore many different materials.

Are sensory bins safe for 2 year olds? ›

Short answer: yes. Creating sensory bins for toddlers allows them to build skills and understanding through play-based, hands-on learning. Sensory bins are easy, in-expensive, and effective for supporting toddler in their growth and development – but (spoiler alert) they don't have to be messy to be fun.

Are sensory bins good for autism? ›

Sensory bins are growing in popularity—and for good reason! Parents are realizing sensory play is crucial toward enhancing child development. Sensory play is great for neurotypical children and children with sensory processing disorder and autism.

How do sensory bins help children? ›

Sensory bins provide children with the opportunity to explore and learn through hands-on tactile play that engages their senses. These bins encourage and support various types of development and are great activities to have in your home. Sensory bins can be themed for holidays, seasons and academic skills.

What children learn from sensory activity? ›

Sensory play encourages learning through exploration, curiosity, problem solving and creativity. It helps to build nerve connections in the brain and encourages the development of language and motor skills.

Are sensory bins necessary? ›

Children learn so much during unstructured free play – problem solving, emotional regulation, imitation, social skills, language, fine motor skills, the list is endless. So giving them new experiences in the form of a sensory bin will help them develop and hone so many new skills, all while having a blast!

Are sensory bins good for 6 year olds? ›

The basics of using a sensory bin

I wouldn't be as worried with a 6 year old, but if you are using them with younger children, you will need to teach them the expectations and how to play with the supplies in the bin instead of spilling/throwing/etc.

How do you know if a child is sensory seeking? ›

Common symptoms of sensory seeking include:
  • Watching as others move around the room.
  • Constantly touching people or objects.
  • Being unable to sit still.
  • Constantly being on the go.
  • Jumping, spinning, or rocking.
  • Fidgeting with anything within reach.
  • Frequently picking at fingers.
  • Taking risks on the playground.
Dec 27, 2021

Why do some children not like sensory play? ›

Sensory processing issues happen when kids have trouble handling the information their senses take in. Kids may also have trouble being aware of their bodies, or struggle with balance and coordination. Different kids are affected by sensory issues in different ways. Some may be very sensitive to sensory stimulation.

Do children with sensory issues grow out of them? ›

Sometimes they resolve on their own, but even when they're severe and continue for many years, sensory processing issues do improve. Often, this improvement can be enhanced by skills learned in occupational therapy or by providing the child with environmental accommodations.

Are sensory bins good for babies? ›

Sensory bins can support cognitive development as children sort hidden items by size or color. Putting number and letter shapes into the sensory bin can provide children the opportunity to learn the alphabet, their numbers and gain practice with counting and spelling.

Are sensory bins good for 3 year olds? ›

Children learn so much during unstructured free play – problem solving, emotional regulation, imitation, social skills, language, fine motor skills, the list is endless. So giving them new experiences in the form of a sensory bin will help them develop and hone so many new skills, all while having a blast!

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