Sensory bin ideas; your ultimate guide – from infants through preschool!

Sensory bin ideas are in so many different places. You got here from Google or Pinterest, right? Right. I’m going to help you keep all your sensory bin ideas in one place.

Child's hand in a bin of oatmeal with colored bugs with text overlay that reads The ultimate guide to making and using sensory bins.

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This post is going to simplify the sensory bin process! The best part – it’s all wrapped up in a pretty little bow in this free printable below!!


What can I use as a sensory bin?

This is where you can have fun! You can use anything from a zip top sandwich bag to a giant 50 gallon tote! The sky is the limit! I’ve even seen people use the bathtub with really messy sensory play like shaving cream.

You can also use empty and dried out water bottles for sensory bottles for babies. I’ve done sensory balloons as well (as long as there’s no latex allergy!)

Want 50 sensory bin ideas? 50 sensory bin ideas right at your fingertips! Stop mindlessly scrolling Pinterest for sensory bin ideas and take action!

What are the benefits of sensory bins?

Oh my goodness, so much! You can sit nearby and finish your hot coffee, get a few minutes of work in while they play, start dinner while they’re close by on the floor or at the table.

Also there’s lots of educational benefits! Kids learn through play! And when you offer them play over flash cards – (read more about why I don’t love flash cards here) and workbooks, they’re more likely to absorb the information.

How do you make a sensory bin?

Don’t overcomplicate it – you need a few things:

  • A bin/bag/bottle: As stated above, you need a container. Something to contain the mess. You can do a bag or bottle for babies, a bin or table for toddlers/preschoolers. I would also grab a floor mat to contain the mess as well.
  • You’ll need to start with a filler/base: This is going to be the sensory aspect of it. Cotton balls, beans, dry pasta, gravel, dry oatmeal, flour, cloud dough, etc. Here is a great list of sensory bin fillers.
  • Then, you’ll need a toy or learning tool. Plastic animals, Duplo blocks, people, kitchen dishes, trucks, boats, etc. Something that will go nicely with your bin filler. You can make this educational or add an educational toy as well. Plastic letters/numbers, sight words, etc.
  • Finally, grab a tool for a little extra fine motor challenge. Tongs, serving spoons, children’s tweezers, etc. Here is a list of great sensory bin tools to keep on hand.

What age are sensory bins good for?

You can start sensory PLAY at any age, but please, please be smart about what you are giving your kiddos. This is why I recommend sensory bags and bottles for the first year.

After that, if you give your child a bin (just like with any toy), you should stay within arms reach of your child. It’s a very helpful play type for all ages!

Check out this post on 10+ sensory play benefits by age.

I you want to know the ins and outs of sensory play but you do not want to come up with the bin ideas, I have a sensory activities playbook that does all of that for you.

Want 50 sensory bin ideas? 50 sensory bin ideas right at your fingertips! Stop mindlessly scrolling Pinterest for sensory bin ideas and take action!

Sensory bin ideas

  • Infants (put all supplies into a gallon zip top bag and seal it – double seal with duct tape. You can also put it all in a dried out water bottle and super glue the lid on)
    • Hair gel, glitter and foam shapes.
    • Water, soap, baby oil
    • Dry oatmeal, apple pie spice, apple cut outs
    • Fake leaves, water, baby oil
  • Toddlers (put items into a bag like infants or into a bin – use your best judgement)
    • Snow, kitchen utensils/tools, cups, bowls spoons
    • Dirt (or brown pom poms), fake flowers, kids’ shovel, plastic pots
    • Water, soap, rags, plastic dishes
    • Pinecones, water, magnifying glass, serving spoons
  • Preschool (add plastic letters or sight words for an extra challenge)
    • Cloud dough with cinnamon or ginger spice, gingerbread men cookie cutters, cups, bowls, spoons
    • Grass, plastic bugs, kids’ tweezers, magnifying glass, twigs
    • Play dough or cloud dough, ice cream scoopers, spoons, bowls, sprinkles, red pom poms (for “cherries”)
    • Hay, toy horses, craft sticks, leaves, twigs

Sensory bin filler ideas

  • Decide how messy you want to be! It’s okay to start off with something not so messy: Cotton balls, water, pom poms, crinkle paper, large pieces of dry pasta. Some more messy items include: shaving cream, dry beans, dry rice, cornstarch/water. Here are lots of sensory bin fillers.
  • Do you want something edible? Cool whip, yogurt, crushed cereal.
  • Take into consideration how closely you can monitor them during play when choosing your sensory bin filler.

Sensory bin container ideas

  • Infants:
    • Gallon zip top bags
    • Empty, dried out water bottles
    • A bathtub
  • Toddlers/Preschoolers:
    • Any of the above ideas
    • A sensory table
    • A shoe box sized bin
    • Washing tub
    • Large 32+ gallon tote

Making sensory play educational

You can easily make sensory bins educational! For toddlers, add foam shapes of different colors and begin to introduce the concept of shapes and colors. Talk about spatial awareness by using words like “next to” and “on top of.” You can also start teaching sorting.

For preschool aged kids, introduce letters and numbers with plastic letters and numbers in their bins. After age 4, you can introduce sight words in the sensory bins.

Want 50 sensory bin ideas? 50 sensory bin ideas right at your fingertips! Stop mindlessly scrolling Pinterest for sensory bin ideas and take action!

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