Simple Under The Sea Ocean Sensory Bin For Kids (2024)

Use water beads to make this ocean sensory bin for kids! Learn all about how to use water beads and how to make your own ocean-themed sensory bin.

Simple Under The Sea Ocean Sensory Bin For Kids (1)

Much like my colored rice sensory bin, this ocean sensory bin is the perfect tool to let kids learn with their senses of touch, sight, sound, taste, smell, and hands-on activity! It’s also terrific for building fine motor skills!

Toddlers, preschoolers, and even young elementary-aged kids will love this fun ocean sensory experience. Young children will delight in digging, scooping, squishing, and manipulating the fish and other items through the sea of water beads.

Whether or not you live near the beach, you can bring the beach and ocean to your kids and explore different areas of ocean life!

If you and your kids love sensory play, be sure to also check out my DIY Rainbow Spaghetti For Sensory Fun!

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What are water beads for sensory play?

Water beads are the craziest thing! You just put tiny beads (the size of peppercorns) in water and watch them “grow” over time. They will absorb water and become MANY times their original size to give you a bin full of squishy, slippery balls.

They’re made with a water-absorbing polymer and were originally created to help hydrate plants. But they also double as a fabulous sensory material.

I have never seen a kid who doesn’t love water beads. They keep kids of all ages (and adults too) busy for hours with an inexpensive, low-mess activity!

Safety Note: **USE WATER BEADS WITH PARENTAL SUPERVISION**Because they’re so small, adults should supervise small children who play with water beads. to make sure they aren’t swallowed.

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What are sensory bins with water beads?

My kids love goodsensory bins and will happily stay occupied all morning (or afternoon) long. They’re just so much fun – especially this ocean sensory bin!

This ocean sensory bin is also a terrific learning lesson for younger children who don’t live near the beach because you can combine fun with learning about the ocean and ocean animals.

Just add mini sea turtles or other sea creatures of your choice for an ocean sensory play activity perfect for a hot summer day.

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How to make a sensory ocean bin with water beads

Here’s everything you need to know about making your own ocean-themed sensory bin with water beads to encourage sensory development.

Supplies needed


Just follow this process to create your own ocean sensory bin experience for little hands!

Step 1

Prepare the water beads. Follow the directions on your water beads packaging (but learn more down below).

I used 1 tbsp. of water beads in ½ gallon of water and added a little more water as the beads expanded.

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Step 2

Once the beads are full size, pour them into a colander and allow the excess water to drain before proceeding with your ocean sensory bin.

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Step 3

Pour the water beads into the sensory bin.

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Step 4

Add palm trees, starfish toys, other sea life toys, and seashell scoops to the bin.

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Step 5

Now here’s my favorite part – let your kiddo play with the ocean sensory bin!

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Sensory play ideas with sensory bins and water beads

Besides creating an ocean-themed sensory bin, there are tons of ways to play with water beads. Here are a few of our favorite ideas!

  • Create different themes with different types of figurines!Some ideas include dragons, dinosaurs, jungle, insects, farm, and more!
  • Make it a learning (and fun!) experience!The animals you put inside this sensory bin can help you create fun and educational hands-on play along with the best sensory experience!. For example, using the animals in anOcean Toobwill make it easy to talk about ocean habitat! Or get a different set of small toys withtons of different ocean animals.
  • Add tongs or a scooperSmall scoopers are fantastic for kids who could use fine motor practice or are hesitant to dive in with their hands.
  • Bowls, cups, measuring cups, muffin tins, silicone molds, etc.Mix, match, pour, stir, swish, and more!
  • Add shaving cream for a cool sensation addition!
  • Smashing themwith a hammer, your hands, or other items when you’re ready to throw them out. It’s fun!
  • Experimentwith your water beads. Check out how much they shrink and expand – let your kids come up with creative ideas!
  • Math skills –practice adding, subtracting, counting, sorting according to color, etc!
  • Turn it into a sensory bottle!Just add small figurines (if they’ll fit) and your water beads to a clean liter bottle (or other size if that’s what you have) to create a home play activity you can take on the go! With a sensory bottle, there’s always a fun surprise to find!
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How to hydrate water beads for your ocean sensory bin

Although the package directions on ours says to use 1 gallon of water for each tablespoon of dry water beads.

However, I’ve found that when we use that ratio, we have too much water, so I use 2 tablespoons of beads for each gallon of water. You’ll need to let the beads sit for several hours (around 4) to hydrate.

Sensory Table Ideas

If you want something a little more sturdy and less portable (and tippable), there are several routes you can go. You can start with abasic sensory kit. Or upgrade toadjustable bin tablesthat can actually hold water and sand!

If you want something more, I absolutely LOVE thisadaptable 3-in-1 picnic tablewith an umbrella to keep the kids shaded! And the Cadillac of all sensory tables would be thissee-thru sensory box table.

Just think of all the great ocean activities you can create with any of these tables – from a simple ocean sensory bin to a sandy beach and more! Just add your favorite ocean theme items, some squishy water beads (or actual water), and a variety of sensory tools to create hours of imaginative play for your kiddos!

If you want to make this ocean sensory tub be more like the beach than just the blue water of the ocean, add play sand to one side of the bin before you add the water beads to the other side of the bin. Then give your kiddo a sand sifter and some sand molds in addition to the fun ocean animal toys!

I hope your kiddo loves this fun ocean sensory bin and all the hands-on activities you can do with it as much as mine have!

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I often see lots of questions about making a kids sensory bin ocean-themed. Here are some of the most common ones!

Are water beads toxic?

NO, they aren’t toxic and ARE biodegradable. BUT, they aren’t edible. You don’t need to worry about your kids playing with them (unless they’re likely to put them in their mouths).

How long does it take water beads to hydrate?

It takes several hours for ours to fully hydrate – typically around 4 hours. Then they’re ready for your ocean sensory bin!

Can you reuse water beads?

Yes! Once your kids finish playing with the water beads, let them dry on a towel or tray. After they reach their original size, keep them in an airtight container with a lid. Then simply rehydrate them when you’re ready to use them again!

Do water beads shrink back down?

Yes, if you let them sit out in the air with no water around, they will shrink to their original size.

How often should you replace water beads?

Once you see mold, it’s time to throw your beads out. The timing will vary on how you use the beads. If you let them dry out every time you use them for an ocean sensory bin, they could last as long as 6 months. However, if you just put the lid on your container without letting the beads dry out, they may only last a couple of weeks.

How do you disinfect water beads?

Simply soak dry beads in water and vinegar. Allow them to dry completely again, then add clean water to use next time.

Do water beads need warm or cold water?

They will work with either warm or cold water. However, warm water will help them grow faster.

What happens to water beads when they dry?

They will shrink to their original size. Store them in an airtight container.

How do you dispose of water beads?

You can throw them out in the trash or add them into the soil of indoor plants to water the plants as they dry up. Do NOT put water beads down the drain or in the sink or sink garbage disposal.

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More fun activities for kids

If you love this ocean sensory bin, check out these other ideas too!

  • Fork Flower Painting For Kids
  • Egg Carton Painting Activity
  • Drip-Painted Flower Pots
  • Lion Fork Painting Activity
  • How To Make Outdoor DIY Puffy Paint
Simple Under The Sea Ocean Sensory Bin For Kids (2024)


How to make an ocean sensory bin? ›

Creating an Ocean Sensory Bin
  1. Large plastic bin or container.
  2. Sand, aquarium gravel, or vase filler gems.
  3. Assortment of aquarium plants or seashells.
  4. Water or blue sensory fillers to simulate water (like Playfoam Pluffle)
  5. Blue food coloring (if desired to color water)
  6. Sea Life Figurines.
Aug 12, 2022

What are the benefits of the ocean sensory bin? ›

Sensory Play is so important for younger children. It enhances all their senses and provides incredible independent play time. Other benefits include greater creativity, improved fine motor skills, and it really helps with your child's self-esteem and confidence.

How do kids play with a sensory bin? ›

Encourage your children to sort and categorize items by color, shape, and size. Play I-spy with the sensory bin and have your children search for hidden items. Create a counting game by counting the amount of items in the bin.

What is the sensory material for under the sea? ›

With sand, water beads, and other ocean-themed objects, children will have the chance to engage in both sensory and dramatic play. The Ocean Sensory Bin creates an excellent opportunity for water fun while minimizing the mess, making it the perfect summer activity!

What are the learning outcomes of the sensory bin? ›

Sensory bins promote math skills.

You can also use measuring cups to introduce fractions. By adding some objects to the filler, your child can practice counting or sorting. Playing with different numbers of objects helps with visual-spatial skills, where they can learn about greater than or less than.

What age are sensory bins good for? ›

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.

How to use a sensory bin? ›

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.

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.

How does sensory play help learning? ›

Sensory play refers to activities that excite a child's senses such as touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. It is essential for child development since it improves sensory awareness, fine motor skills, language development, cognitive growth, and problem-solving abilities in an enjoyable and engaging manner.

How to make sensory bins less messy? ›

The basics of using a sensory bin

I always like to set down a vinyl tablecloth first and then set the plastic bin on top. It helps contain any mess that might spill out. You could also do sensory play outside if you are worried about a mess.

What are 5 facts about ocean animals for kids? ›

Sea turtles have been alive since dinosaurs lived on our planet. Most sharks are cold-blooded, but some, like the great white shark, are warm-bloodied. Mammals like sea lions, seals, and walruses are called pinnipeds as they have winged feet. Dolphins have excellent hearing and vision.

How do you make sensory sea foam? ›

In a large bowl, combine 1/3 cup water, 1/3 cup dish soap, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and a few drops of food coloring. Using your mixer on high to blend the ingredients together until a foam is created. Put the foam in the plastic bin and repeat process until you have the desired amount.

What can I put in water for sensory play? ›

Water Sensory Play Bathtub Activities
  1. Oobleck in the Bathtub. Try some oobleck in the bathtub! ...
  2. Bath Crayons. Bath crayons will let your littles draw on the walls of the shower or bath in fun colors! ...
  3. Bath Spray Bottle Painting. ...
  4. A Bath Bomb. ...
  5. Water Toys. ...
  6. Water Painting. ...
  7. Ice Painting. ...
  8. Water Sensory Bin.
Sep 2, 2023

How to make water sensory toys? ›

How to make a themed sensory bottle with glitter
  1. First, squeeze corn syrup into an empty water bottle. ...
  2. Add warm water until it's about three-quarters full.
  3. Add a few drops of food coloring and sprinkle in some glitter.
  4. Put the lid on the water bottle and shake to mix the ingredients.

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