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Sensory Bins: How and Why You Should Make Some

Have you ever heard of a sensory bin? I ask because my sister-in-law’s house has the best toys that aren’t even toys, including these sensory bins!

We often share ideas of what to do with our same-aged little boys, and after a favorite Instagrammer posted about sensory bins and how much fun her littles had with them, my favorite sister-in-law built her own and shared with me how to make some for our house too!

First off – WHAT is a sensory bin? 

sensory bins

A sensory bin is a tub or large container filled with materials (beans, rice, corn meal) and objects (toys, bowls, measuring cups) to stimulate the senses. Many pre-schools use sensory play, but this is an easy and inexpensive way to bring it home.

When you’re looking for a way to entertain your kiddo without electronics, this is a great place to start! Sensory bins encourage practical skills, play skills, and using the body’s senses, and as your kiddos get older they also encourage sorting, counting, and matching skills. 

What you need:

sensory bins


You can work it several ways, using one or two large bins and storing your material in large ziplock bags. Or, you can use smaller bins and keep each material stored in the bin.

This is going to be more about what your home and storage looks like. If you’re in a smaller home it may be easy enough to use a shoebox-size bins and keep them in a closet or under the bed.


sensory bin materials

Rice, pinto beans, corn meal (not to be confused with CORNSTARCH), water, Orbeez water beads, bird seed (perfect for outdoor playing!), or any other items that are age-appropriate and inexpensive.


sensory bin objects

Take a quick trip to the dollar store and you will find a TON of objects. Ice (yes seriously!), bowls, measuring spoons, and cups are great, along with small toys like mini dinosaurs or other animal figurines and cars. Egg cartons are also great to encourage sorting.


This one is optional, but it helps for easy clean up for indoor play. A cheap plastic shower curtain or sheet laid out are easy options you likely have at home already.

That’s it. 

Play doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming. One of my favorite things about sensory bins is that you can make it as multi-sensory – or simple – as you want.

There are a TON of theme ideas for sensory bins (summer, fall, gluten free, snow, animals, alphabet), so it is SO easy to change things up! Getting out one “theme” at a time keeps interest (which we all know can be so difficult). Also if you have a teen babysitter and are looking for a fun and easy-to-clean activity for them to do together, this is a great option!

Finally, I want to be very clear: this is not just a toddler activity. It is a ton of fun for all ages; my oldest child is just as happy to play with the bins as my littlest one is! 

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