6+ Sensory Bins for under $30 – with tons of other ideas!

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The teacher in me is back out.

D needs sensory stuff. And since we are inside, waiting for baby to arrive, I knew he needed a sensory bin day.

I could not WAIT to get to Dollar Tree and try all of these sensory bins. I went armed with a list – HA! That was funny that I actually thought I would follow a list. The list also was for under $20. Again – HA! Mine was $40, BUT I bought some stuff that didn’t pertain to this activity and since everything was $1, it was easy for me to take it out of my total and get a new total. Here is how I started:

Here was my supply list (I’m going to break it all down, too):
*6 bins (I know I said that this would make 6+ – sit tight, we’ll get to that)
*2 bags of cotton balls (I ended up using only 1)
*2 bags of dry beans (again, I ended up using only 1)
*1 bag of pasta (I bought Ziti)
*1 bag of creepy crawlies
*1 bag of lizards / frogs (obviously these and the previous ones can be switched out with anything – this is just what D likes)
*2 sets of 3 rubber ducks
*1 set of play kitchen tools
*1 set of tongs (D calls these “pinchers”…he loves to play with ours at home)
*1 box of baking soda
*1 bag of decorative rocks
*1 bag of decorative sand
*1 bag of decorative pebbles
*1 set of coffee scoops
*1 set of 3 toothbrushes
*1 container of oatmeal
*1 bottle of vinegar
*1 set of funnels
*2 cans of shaving cream
*1 foam alphabet set

Again, you can pick other stuff. If you have a girl and want fake jewelry, whatever. Use your imagination! ๐Ÿ™‚

Here is a breakdown of my sensory items:

The shaving cream is part of the “+” of my bins. I will get into that also ๐Ÿ™‚

Here are the items that will be in the bins:

And then here are the tools that he’ll use (he LOVES tools):

So first I am going to show you the 6 bins that I made, then I will give you ideas for the “+” bins. I will have to run to the Dollar Tree again and pick up 1 or 2 more bins that will act as “messy bins.” The bins that need to be switched out and can’t hold certain stuff (ie, clean mud, shaving cream, water, etc).

The first one I tackled was rocks and sand. I was super excited about this one because of the pretty colors I picked out. ๐Ÿ™‚

I let D pick out which toy he wanted to put in this one and he chose the creepy crawlies.

In true boy, sensory seeking fashion, he could not WAIT to get his hands in there. His imagination went wild with this one. They were all on a mission together to save the good guys and fight the bad guys! Kids can learn colors, numbers, get their sensory output fix for the day, whatever.

Next one was the rocks and D actually had the idea of what to add to the rocks. I have to admit, those construction vehicles were not purchased at the Dollar Tree. But how could I say no, when it was his idea to toss them in after seeing the rocks? I just couldn’t.

Next, we loaded up the bin with dry oatmeal. You could very well use wet oatmeal, but don’t reuse it. You would have to toss it out after you played with it but I bet it would be very fun.

I was going to write numbers under the creatures bellies but there just wasn’t enough time with this guy digging in.

Next up was beans! I don’t know why, but beans are my favorite sensory item. Maybe it’s because it was one of the first that I used when I was a developmental therapist? They are heavy but not too heavy and they’re cold. I even like playing in the bean bin! We added the toy kitchen utensils and a scoop in this one. D loves the kitchen utensils so he enjoyed this bucket.

Next was cotton balls and rubber duckies. I wrote numbers on the bottom of the rubber ducks because we’ve been having some problems with a few numbers. He wasn’t too thrilled with this one, (probably because it makes the least amount of mess) but he’ll come around ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Finally, we did dry pasta and a mini foam board I found that he could put the letters into. I love this one! We are trying to learn the difference between numbers and letters and this one is awesome because it has letters and numbers.

 

As for my “extras….”

*Baking soda and vinegar is just awesome together. I’ve never shown D before but I will. It’s a really cool reaction, so this will be in my “messy bin” (the bin that needs to be cleaned out after every use!)
*Shaving cream is also awesome and will be a part of the messy bin.
*The toothbrushes will be in a soapy water messy bin with his cars so he can wash them.
*The funnels can really go into any bin. D found a home for them in the oatmeal bin!

Other things we will do in the messy bin:
*Clean mud (shaved bar soap and torn up toilet paper mixed with water)
*Baking soda and water (3:1)
*Play dough (homemade or otherwise)
*Water beads (these are found at most craft stores and some dollar stores)
*Pumpkin guts
*Hair gel
*Cooked spaghetti noodles

The opportunities for sensory play are ENDLESS! You can also add any small plastic toys really to these messy bins. I could go on for hours on sensory activities.

For more sensory ideas, check out my Ultimate List of Sensory bin Fillers.

Also, if you’re into educational activities at home with your kiddos, sign up for my mailing list to hear about my NEW Subscription box – coming soon.

Please feel free to ask questions about sensory items / activities. It was my FAVORITE part of teaching.

Enjoy!

 

35 thoughts on “6+ Sensory Bins for under $30 – with tons of other ideas!

  1. I love your simple ideas! Thanks for sharing. It was mostly reminders for me after childcare for 35 years but now it is saved on pinterest! Thanks again!!๐ŸŽˆSusie

      1. I work with children as B.H.S. many having sensory needs. I found flatter containers with locked lids at big lots 4″deep by 12″long 8″wide. They really stack well in my in the back of my car. I also used dollar store finds in them……rice w/ measuring cups &set measuring spoons, green sand and fairies and a few fairy decor items (from big lots), white sand with frozen mini figures, water beads clear and a box of growing your own bth from dollar tree. Like you it provides sensory play while economical. I also have one filled with kenetic sand and mini molds that I used 50%and 60% off coupons to keep cost down.

      2. Love your ideas with the sensory bins. I teach Kindergarten and these would be awesome for my kiddos. Thank you!

      3. Hi melanie
        I might reading your wonderful post.
        My 3 n half year son is borderline high functioning autism with sensory issues.
        I m not able to understand how to use these bins to teach or play with him. Can u post some videos or suggestions at my drshikhadeep@yahoo.com
        Will b really grateful for ur help
        Deepshikha

  2. Sensory bins are one of my favorite tools to engage and stimulate students. I always have some sort of containers on the side to sort or collect items in. Great ideas! Thank you!

  3. With the numbers on the bottom of the duckies, what activity did you do with them? I’m working on number recognition with my 2.5 year old. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Sonya! Sorry for my late reply! We talked about the number or we would pull a duck, and then pull that many cotton balls out ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I am going to be teaching in an early childhood life skills room (3 โ€“ 5 years old) next year after being a 2nd grade teacher for 9 years! I am looking for these type ideas! Thanks!

  5. There are great ideas! I too am starting to teach 3-4 old and will be doing these! I was wondering how to do these in a classroom setting do you do one bin and kids rotate using it or 2 at a time? Not quite sure how to do that any suggestion would be wonderful! Thank you!

    1. I use them at home, but when I taught, I would do 2 kids at each bin if they are the smaller ones. And maybe 2 bins at a table, if you trust they won’t mix stuff from one bin to the other ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. I love these ideas. I teach special education and these bin ideas will be a great addition to my classroom for my younger grade students. Thanks for sharing!!

  7. I never knew this was a therapy approach but I have been making plastic shoe boxes of themes.So far I have made a seascape โ€œsandboxโ€ with shells, small plastic sea creatures, sand, rocks and some blue flat marble-like gems for โ€œwaterโ€. My next idea is to do woodland Box with some woodland animals, plastic plants, sand or some sort of โ€œdirtโ€ item and some different sized pieces of branch cut into โ€œlogsโ€. Then another spin off of that is to just cut up various slices of tree discs from different trees with the various colors, bark, rings, sizes, and weights and sand them down and maybe put them in a wood box of some sort which can double as a play space to stack them. Other themes might be insects, fake leaves, branches etc. These are more playscapes but similar idea. My granddaughters ask to come play with their โ€œsandboxesโ€ all the time.

  8. Thanks for these awesome ideas and economical finds. With a class of say 12-14 how would you organize/ schedule your sensory bins to accommodate that number of children using them at one time and/ or as I have my classroom set up into centers, would you simply make it a center activity? What sensory bin would you assign to what specific academic center if at all?
    Thank you

  9. I LOVE these ideas. I too would like more info on how to incorporate into my TK class of about 25 students. I’m going to try and go shopping tomorrow and see what I can find. I’ll have my niece play with what I get to test them. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thank you.

    1. It can be a “learn as you go” kind of thing, really. Kids like to direct their own play, and that’s ok! See where they take it!

  10. I love these ideas! I have a three year old and went shopping today for this. I wondered if the โ€œdryโ€ bins with beans and macaroni need to be cleaned out after each use or can they just be covered and stored?
    Thank you!

  11. I have a daughter with sensory integration disorder. She is 14 but this will be awesome for her! Thank you for sharing!!

  12. Thanks for your inspiration! I feel a trip to Dollar Tree coming on. I work with 2 and 3’s and have been looking for something different for our sensory box. Ours currently has rice in it with construction vehicles. When I first set it up, I dyed the rice brown to look like dirt. (I know, they do sell brown rice). I do hesitate on beans and rocks since they so nicely fit into ears and up noses. I’ve also used paper shreds in my bug/lizard box.

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