What Is a Sensory Bin for Children? (2024)

Sensory bins let children learn through hands-on play. With just a few common household materials, you can make a toy that will keep your child entertained for hours and help them develop their motor, social, literacy, math, and science skills.

What Is a Sensory Bin?

A sensory bin is a shallow container that combines filler material and various small odds and ends. You fill the bin with a filler material such as sand or rice, then add items from around the house such as spoons or measuring cups. Let your child explore the items and have fun playing.

You can encourage them by demonstrating how to scoop and pour and talking to them about what they're doing. You'll encourage their literacy skills by talking to them while they're playing and hone their math skills by letting them measure and pour.

Sensory Bin Benefits

Sensory bins support your child's development in several ways:

Improve fine motor skills. Digging, pouring, stirring, and scooping can strengthen your child's hand muscles and improve their fine motor skills. Include oversized tweezers, spoons, and funnels to encourage your child to practice the type of grasping skills they'll need to feed themselves and write.

Sensory exploration. Sensory bins provide opportunities for your child to explore multiple senses, including sight, sound, touch, and smell. They'll enjoy running their hands through the filler material and watching what happens as they pour it out. Many materials you can put in a sensory bin provide a wonderful tactile sensation.

Intellectual development. Although it might seem like they're just playing, your child is learning a lot of cognitive skills when they're using a sensory bin. You can ask them to sort items by size or color. Meanwhile, using measuring cups can help them understand volume. Putting plastic letters or numbers in their sensory bin and discussing them can help develop literacy concepts.

Calming experience. Playing with a sensory bin is a very relaxing and calming experience. If your child is getting overstimulated, bringing out a sensory bin may help head off a meltdown. You can encourage independent play with sensory bins so you can have a little quiet time, too.

Language development. Sensory bins provide many opportunities for you to talk to your child and encourage their language development. You can discuss concepts such as more and less, talk about hidden objects, and ask your child to tell you what they're doing.

Encourage cooperative play. Using a sensory bin with friends or family members will encourage your child to play cooperatively. They'll learn concepts such as taking turns, sharing, and working together. Playing with others will help your child learn to communicate better.

What Ages Are Sensory Bins Good for?

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.

Safety Tips for Using Sensory Bins

Toddlers and preschoolers should always be supervised when using sensory bins to discourage them from eating the materials. Here are some more safety tips for making sensory bins:

  • Don't use items that pose a choking hazard, either as filler material or odds and ends.
  • All sensory bin materials should be nontoxic.
  • Use a tube to test if objects are a choking hazard, particularly if they're round or elliptical in shape.
  • Don't use raw kidney beans, since swallowing as few as four or five can cause severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Don't use flour in your bin because it can be aspirated and affect breathing.
  • Only use sterilized sand such as the type sold as play sand.
  • Avoid using styrofoam peanuts since they are a choking hazard.

How to Make a Sensory Bin

As long as you follow the safety guidelines above, you're only limited by your imagination when it comes to making a sensory bin. Just make sure that the materials you use are age-appropriate: Avoid choking hazards if you have a younger child.

Here are some sensory bin ideas to get you started:

  • Pick a seasonal theme for your sensory bin, such as a beach bin for summer or a snow bin for winter.
  • Use cooked, cooled pasta as your filler material and a strainer and measuring cups for your odds and ends.
  • Put a small toy in an ice tray and freeze it, then add it to a water bin on a hot day.
  • Use cotton balls or pom poms for a fluffy sensory bin.
  • Fill a bin with water beads or frozen water beads if it's hot outside.
  • Put your bin in an area that's easy to clean up or take it outside.
  • Fill a bin with shredded newspaper and hide plastic letters in it.
  • Make a sensory bin that reinforces what your child is learning in school. Fill it with feathers if they're learning about birds.
  • After you carve your pumpkin, use the guts to fill up a sensory bin
  • Put nontoxic shaving cream in a bin and add a few drops of food coloring so your child can practice mixing colors.
  • Mix cornstarch and water to give your child a fun chemistry lesson.
  • Never force your child to touch the materials in a sensory bin if they don't want to. Instead, demonstrate how much fun it is by playing with it yourself.
  • For some messy fun, fill a sensory bin with gelatin and cookie cutters.
What Is a Sensory Bin for Children? (2024)


What Is a Sensory Bin for Children? ›

What Is a Sensory Bin? A sensory bin is a shallow container that combines filler material and various small odds and ends. You fill the bin with a filler material such as sand or rice, then add items from around the house such as spoons or measuring cups. Let your child explore the items and have fun playing.

What do kids do with sensory bins? ›

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.

What is the purpose of a sensory box? ›

Essentially, a sensory bin is a container filled with materials specifically chosen to stimulate the senses, allowing the child to explore and interact with the items as they choose. Sensory play is a great way to expose your child to a variety of textures, facilitate communication, and actively engage with your child.

What are the rules for the sensory bin? ›

Use visual supports to help your learners remember the rules for the sensory bins (use hands only, put on lid when finished, complete seek and find, raise hand if you need help, keep the materials in the box.) Use a visual timer to help your students transition when the time comes.

What age should you start sensory bins? ›

At the toddler stage, from ages 2 to 3, kids are typically ready to engage with more toys. A great place to start are sensory bins—literally, a bin or box filled with various materials meant to stimulate the senses.

Are sensory bins good for kids? ›

Sensory bins are a great way to allow children to explore multiple senses at the same time in a fun way. This includes touch, smell, sight, and even sound. Learning to engage with and stimulate several senses at once in a healthy way is incredibly beneficial and loads of fun!

Why do children need sensory activities? ›

Sensory play has an important role in your child's development. Not only does it help your child engage their five senses—sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste—but it also boosts their language skills and motor skills. Sensory play also promotes exploration, creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving.

How do you fill a sensory bin? ›

What You'll Do
  1. Lay out a sheet, tablecloth or towel. Not only does this protect the floor, but it makes cleanup much easier.
  2. Fill the bin or bowl with dry pasta, rice or beans.
  3. Add spoons, scoops, toys and whatever else you have on hand into the bin.
  4. Play!

How do you use a sensory bin for a toddler? ›

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.

What are the benefits of sensory items? ›

Playing with sensory toys help:
  • Reduce stress levels.
  • Improve self-awareness.
  • Refine gross and fine motor skills.
  • Learn cause and effect.
  • Improve communication skills.
  • Develop social skills.
  • Increase self-confidence.

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.

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.

Are sensory bins Montessori? ›

While not technically Montessori, you can find sensory bins in many Montessori classrooms.

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.

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.

Why are sensory bins good for autism? ›

Another benefit of sensory bins for children with autism is that they allow kids to explore their senses and creativity. Your child can stimulate multiple senses at once while running their hands through the filler materials and playing with the various toys.

What can you do with sensory bins? ›

A sensory bin is a shallow container that combines filler material and various small odds and ends. You fill the bin with a filler material such as sand or rice, then add items from around the house such as spoons or measuring cups. Let your child explore the items and have fun playing.

What are the life skills of sensory bins? ›

Practical Life Skills: Sensory bins provide a safe and controlled environment for children to practice practical life skills. Pouring and scooping materials like liquid or grains using cups, spoons, or tongs helps develop hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and concentration.

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