3 Easy Steps To Make A Sensory Bin

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I’m sure you’ve come across a sensory bin activity you’ve been encouraged to try. You may have even been overwhelmed by the time needed to create and set up the bins. I myself have come across some very elaborate sensory bin set ups. But I am here to tell you its much simpler than you think.

There are 3 basic steps to making a sensory bin. If you choose to add more detail and make an elaborate set up then go for it. However it doesn’t need to be complicated so don’t let that stop you from doing it at all. Sensory bins can have a huge impact on development and they are definitely worth a try.

How Sensory Bins Benefit a Child’s Development

Sensory bins are so beneficial to a child’s development. Children learn through their senses. Babies begin to explore the world by looking, touching, and of course by putting things in their mouth.

This sensory exploration continues throughout the early years. By creating an activity that allows them to explore and learn through their senses in a safe manner you are able to fulfill this sensory need children have.

sand sensory bin

Keep in mind all children develop differently and children can have varying sensory needs. Some children will enjoy sensory play more than others, this can be especially true for messy sensory play. Avoid small objects that are potential chocking hazards for young children still putting things in their mouths. You know your child best and you can use this simple 3 step process to create a sensory activity suited to your child’s developmental needs.

How to Make a Sensory Bin

Stop overthinking it and stick to these 3 simple steps to create a sensory bin.

1. Choose a Container

It doesn’t have to be a bin, trays work great as well, or even a designated spot on the table if your trying a less messy sensory activity such as play dough. For water play it can even happen in the tub or sink. If you still have a baby tub this works great for a water sensory bin or other messy play. Check out your local dollar store, they usually have a variety of container options that can be used for sensory play.

2. Add a Base

There are so many options; water, sand, play dough, rice, chickpeas, flour, dirt, grass, rocks, shredded paper, scraps of fabric, different textured fabrics, polyester fibrefill. Basically anything that can provide a tactile experience for your child to explore. The possibilities are endless.

pond sensory bin

3. Add Toys

Choose toys to go with your base. Spoons/scoops, other kitchen items, cars, animal figurines, loose parts, and items from nature are some of my favourite things to add. What I choose usually depends on what else I have in the sensory bin and what my child is interested in at the time. Animal figurines are our go-to addition to any sensory bin. We have a variety of Safari Ltd. Toob animals, they come in both small and large sizes so you can find something appropriate for all ages.

Sensory Bin Ideas:

Here are a 30 ideas to get you started. They are quick and easy to set up but offer tons of fun and learning opportunities.

Water Sensory Bin

  1. Add cups and scoops.
  2. Pour from one pitcher to another.
  3. Explore with ocean animal figurines.
  4. Play with boats.
  5. Use whatever toys you already have that are safe for water play.
  6. Try items from nature. See which sink and float for a simple STEM activity.
water sensory bin

Sand Sensory Bin

  1. Play with animal figurines.
  2. Add rocks and construction trucks.
  3. Explore with twigs and other items from nature.
  4. Use shovels and buckets.
  5. Try Kinetic Sand with cookie cutters.
kinetic sand

Dry Food Sensory Bin (Rice, beans, flour, etc.)

  1. Explore with cups, spoons, and other kitchen items.
  2. Add animal figurines.
  3. Play with toy letters or numbers.
  4. Try rice with “treasure” (this can be any small items that can be covered by the rice and they can dig through to find all the treasure – we use decorative gems from the dollar store).
  5. Use flour with cups and scoops.
  6. Try flour in a bowl with a mixing spoon.
  7. Transfer flour using two bowls and a scoop.
rice sensory bin

Play Dough Sensory Bin

  1. Play with a rolling pin and cookie cutters.
  2. Add animal figurines.
  3. Explore with cars to make tracks in the play dough.
  4. Use with a muffin tray or other dishes.
  5. Try with twigs and other items from nature.
play dough

Other Sensory Bin

  1. Try pom poms with animal figurines.
  2. Pom poms with cups and scoops.
  3. Add toy letters or numbers with pom poms.
  4. Use polyester fibrefill with arctic animals.
  5. Explore twigs and leaves with animal figurines.
  6. Play using shredded paper with animal figurines.
  7. Coloured fabric strips with a variety of toys for colour matching.
construction sensory bin

Don’t forget about natural sensory bins. Bring some toys outside and play on the grass. Or get some shovels and explore in the garden.

For infants you can start simple and skip step 3. Just offer a bin with water to explore with their hands. This is a great starter sensory bin for babies as it is taste safe. Even a tray with a small amount of flour is an easy first sensory bin just be sure to check the safety tips below to make it taste safe.

flour sensory play

For older children try to follow their interests when creating a sensory bin to make it more engaging for them. You can even invite them to make one with you.

Tips for Cleanup

  • Be prepared for a mess. I like to have towels ready before they start with water play or have the broom nearby for dry sensory bins like rice or flour.
  • For indoor sand sensory play we use Kinetic Sand. It offers a similar texture but is so much less messy than regular sand.
  • If the weather permits you can even take your sensory bin outside to minimize the mess and cleanup.

Sensory Bin Safety

  • If using flour in your sensory bin be sure to cook it first to kill off bacteria in order to make it taste safe, this is especially important for children still exploring with their mouths. Preheat your oven to 350 F, take 1 cup of flour and spread it out evenly on a baking tray. Bake for 5 minutes. Make sure to let it cool completely before giving it to your child for play.
  • For children still mouthing toys be sure the base is taste safe and any additional toys you add are not a choking hazard.

I highly recommend trying out a sensory bin if you haven’t done one before. They are a great way to support a child’s overall development and are so easy to adjust to fit the developmental level of all ages. While elaborate sensory bins are very eye-catching I find it is the simple ones that can hold a young child’s attention for longer.

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