50 Sensory Bin Ideas for Kids from Craft Supplies, the Pantry, Nature & More! (2024)

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29 May

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Get ready for fun with over 50 sensory bin ideas that we’ve curated for you to have the absolute most fun with your toddler or preschooler.

There are a lot of benefits to sensory activities. They encourage hands-on learning, fine motor skills, exploring, and imaginary play. And they can be a lot of fun!

Sensory bins are one of those activities I have always hesitated to use. They can be quite messy. But I have learned they are worth the mess and they don’t have to be super messy. Check out these 10 tips for cleaning up the mess after fun activities and 10 messy play ideas and tips to keep it clean for ideas to keep the mess (somewhat) contained.

Exploring with the Senses

Sensory bins are often child-directed and lead to independent play. Kids can see how fast objects drop, hear how the objects sound, touch the different textures, and smell some of the objects. Some sensory bins are even filled with edible objects (such as dry cereal) that kids can taste.

Please keep in mind that sensory bin fillings can be choking hazards, so parent supervision may be required. You know your kids best and may even choose to have a rule of not putting anything from a sensory bin into mouths, even if it is an edible object. These sensory bags may be a good alternative for little ones who can’t keep things out of their mouths.

There are so many unique options to try. Reuse a bin for different themes and materials. Cotton balls work great for a wintery snow theme. Dry black beans look like dirt. Perfect for spring planting!

I have combined a list of 50 sensory bin ideas for kids for more inspiration. Many of the fillings for these sensory bin ideas can be found in a craft cupboard, pantry, or in nature. See what you have and try at least one sensory bin today.

I’m sensing an afternoon filled with creative fun!

Craft Cupboard Sensory Bins to Encourage Creativity

Grab some supplies from your craft cupboard to use as filling for these sensory bins. These craft sensory bin ideas can lead to some serious fun and exploration. Let their imaginations take them to new levels.

  • Dump pom poms in a bin of water for this pom pom sensory bin shown on Happy Toddler Playtime. Dry the pom poms after playing to use again. You could even leave the water out for another fun alternative.
  • Stay warm indoors with a cotton balls sensory bin as seen on Hands On As We Grow. Fill a snowman bottle to practice fine motor skills.
  • Reuse ribbon scraps for a ribbon sensory bin found on My Bored Toddler. Great for weaving practice!
  • Learn about the letter Y with this yellow yarn sensory bin. Go on a scavenger hunt to find small yellow objects to add to this bin and practice fine motor skills by cutting the yarn. Yay!
  • Don’t fly away with this feather sensory bin shown on Kindred Inspiration. Sort the feathers by color and explore the way they flutter in the air.
  • Create a threading station with a straws sensory bin as seen on Little Learning Club. Pipe cleaners are great for little fingers to thread.
  • Incorporate the sense of smell with this silk flower sensory bin found on The Chaos and the Clutter. So beautiful!
  • Reuse paper for this shredded paper sensory bin shown on Little Bins for Little Hands. A great introduction to static electricity! (At least in my experience.)
  • Search for treasure in a crinkled paper sensory bin as seen on Hands On As We Grow. Arrr, matey!
  • Strengthen fine motor skills with this button tree sensory bin found on Hands On A We Grow. All you need is a bin, some buttons, and pipe cleaners.
  • Explore senses with a shaving cream and pool noodles sensory bin shown on Parenting Chaos. Have fun building towers, sorting colors, and writing letters. What scent of shaving cream will you choose?
  • Play with a giant water beads sensory bin as seen on Teaching Mama. This is a great way to teach small versus big.
  • Celebrate with a birthday sensory bin found on Hands On As We Grow. Use bright colored objects like pom poms and feathers, large candles, bows, ribbon, and measuring cups.
  • Build a gift wrap sensory bin shown on Pre-K Pages. Scrap pieces of wrapping paper, miscellaneous bows, bells, tissue paper pieces, and gift bag filler work great for this.
  • Play detective with this guess the object sensory box as seen on Hands On As We Grow. This involves a little prep work but can be used over and over again. And it isn’t that messy!

Pantry Sensory Bins to Utilize Expiring Foods

These sensory bins use fillings found in the kitchen pantry. Please keep in mind that not all of the fillings are edible and could potentially be a choking hazard. It’s up to you to decide if you will allow any tasting of foods that are safe to eat.

While you may not agree with using food in your play, I get that! This choice is up to you and you can completely skip this section if you, we have a ton more sensory bin ideas, just keep scrolling.

  • Thread cereal with a Cheerios sensory bin found on Hands On As We Grow. So many Os!
  • Sort colors with a Fruit Loops sensory bin as seen on Entertain Your Toddler. Just provide a bin filled with fruit loops, some measuring spoons and cups, and plastic bowls.
  • Search for a rainbow in a Lucky Charms cereal sensory bin shown on B Inspired Mama. No Lucky Charms, no problem. Try some other cereal as a filler.
  • Mix together a colorful rainbow rice sensory bin found on Busy Toddler. The directions for dyeing the rice can be found here on Happy Hooligans.
  • Gather a few additional supplies for this caps and rice sensory bin as seen on Happy Toddler Play Time. Tape cardboard tubes to the side of the bin for added learning.
  • Hide some objects in an oatmeal sensory bin shown on Busy Toddler. Seal the bin and use again and again.
  • Add some color with a dyed oats sensory bin found on And Next Comes L. Dye the oats and let them sit in the sun to dry. Then dump them in the bin and draw letters, shapes, and numbers.
  • Listen to the sound of a pasta sensory bin as shown on Hands On As We Grow. Shake, rattle, and roll!
  • Cook noodles for this spaghetti sensory bin shown on Glued to My Crafts. How does it feel? Throw in some red balls or ornaments to complete the spaghetti and meatballs look.
  • Uncover letters in a dried beans sensory bin as seen on Days With Grey. A is for alphabet. B is for beans. C is for combine them together for this fun sensory activity.
  • Scoop and explore with a dried beans, peas, and lentils sensory bin found on Learning 4 Kids. Add water to a few of the dried beans, peas, and lentils for an added activity. Do they feel, sound, and look different?
  • Create a farm scene like this farm food sensory bin shown on Fun With Mama. Great for free play!
  • Play in pretend sand with a brown sugar sensory bin as seen on Twin Mom Refreshed. Pretend you’re on the moon exploring moon sand or on a beach building brown sugar castles.
  • Explore sea creatures with a Jello sensory bin found on Natural Beach Living. Ooey, gooey, sticky, messy, delicious fun!
  • Dig in a pudding sensory bin as shown on Powerful Mothering. Mud has never been so tasty!

Nature Sensory Bins for Kids to Explore

Nature activities encourage outside exploration. Go for a nature walk and have fun filling these nature themed sensory bins. You could even bring nature indoors if desired.

  • Smell the pine cones, cinnamon sticks, and the peels of clementines in a nature sensory bin as seen on How We Learn.
  • Till some rows in a dirt sensory bin like the one on Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails. What happens when you add a little water?
  • Create a sand sensory bin shown on Buggy and Buddy. Add a few shells, pebbles, and small plastic shovels to some sand in a bin. And voilà, you have your own private beach!
  • Gather some sticks for a sticks sensory bin as seen on The OT Toolbox. S is for sticks and super simple!
  • Go for a walk and find some leaves for a leaves sensory bin found on Twin Mom Refreshed. Compare big leaves to small leaves.
  • Add color to a pine cone sensory bin shown on Preschool Tool Kit with some poinsettias and red pom poms. Don’t toss the pine cones when you are done. Use them to make a snowy owl pine cone craft or cute pine cone monsters.
  • Paint some acorns and fill an acorn sensory bin as seen on Keep Calm and Mommy On. The squirrel tongs from The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game are perfect for this sensory activity.
  • Find some dry corn to create a corn sensory bin found on Still Playing School. Indian corn adds beautiful colors.
  • Build a bird seed sensory bin as seen on Fantastic Fun and Learning. Talk about birds and nests while exploring. Then use the bird seeds to feed birds with a homemade heart bird feeder.
  • Dig in a rocks sensory bin shown on Mama Papa Bubba. Are the rocks rough or smooth?
  • Grab some toy trucks for a pebbles and rocks sensory bin as seen on Modern Preschool. Write letters on some small rocks for alphabet practice.
  • Keep things basic with a water sensory bin found on Biscuits and Grading. Just add a few water toys to some water in a bin and play! Do the toys sink or float?

More Sensory Bin Ideas

What other fillings can be used for sensory bins? Here are eight more ideas.

  • Splash around in a bubbles sensory bin as seen on Hands On As We Grow. Warm water and dish soap make great bubbles and cleaning fun!
  • Construct towers in a foam block sensory bin found on Parenting Chaos. Little construction workers may also enjoy these 25 ways to build towers without blocks.
  • Decorate a shaving cream cake box shown on Hands On As We Grow. Use shaving cream as icing and a box as the cake. Silly!
  • Uncover some lost items in a treasure hunt sensory box as seen on Must Have Mom. This one recommends kinetic sand but other types of sand or brown sugar could also be used.
  • Create a blue moon sand sensory bin found on ABC’s of Literacy. This sand is made using flour, coconut oil, and blue candy food coloring. Add a few shells and pebbles for an ocean theme.
  • Chill with an ice sensory bin as shown on Toddler Approved. Find a few penguins or other snowy animals for imaginative play.
  • Count money with a coins sensory bin like the one on Laly Mom. C is for coins and cling, clang, cha ching!
  • Sort squares and cubes with a square sensory box found on Everyday Chaos and Calm. What other shape-themed sensory bins could you create?

DISCOVER More with 5 Weeks Planned for You!

Explore more with 5 weeks of activities that are perfect for your one year old in our eBook pack, DISCOVER.

These 5 weeks focus a lot on sensory activities since one year olds aren’t ready to craft and the fine motor skills aren’t there yet for some of the more advanced activities that you’ll find in PLAY (our activity plans for 2 year olds).

Explore all of our activity plans here.


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About Brigitte Brulz

Brigitte Brulz is a homeschooling mom of two daughters, wife of her high school sweetheart, and author of Jobs of a Preschooler and Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles. She offers free coloring pages and activity ideas on her website at BrigitteBrulz.com.

More Hands on Kids Activities to Try

  • 11 Fun Ways for Preschoolers to Clean Up
  • 48 Quick Sensory Bags to Make for Your Kids
  • A Sample Weekly Plan of Sensory Activities
  • 3 Activities in One! Homemade Colored Rice
  • 24 Simple Sticker Activities for Sticky Play Without the Mess

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