“Diamond Dig” – A Snowy Sensory Bin

When snow days or freezing temperatures make it impossible to get out to play in the snow, a snowy sensory bin is a fun indoor winter activity for toddlers and preschoolers.

Goodness knows this has been a long, cold winter!  Temperatures in the -20s and even -30s have made it difficult to get out and play in the snow for any length of time.  If you’re like me, you’ve had enough!  It’s tricky to keep coming up with  indoor winter activities for your toddler, isn’t it?  Especially when they’ve grown tired being inside, and they just want to play in the snow.

diamond dig - a snowy sensory bin by happy hooligans

  Well, here’s a solution for you:  

When it’s too cold to play outsidebring the snow inside!

toddlers digging for "diamonds" in a snowy sensory bin

Find your container:

For smaller activities like our “snow and watercolours” activity, a baking dish or cookie tray will do, but for larger set-ups like this one and our Snowy Construction Bin, a shallow storage container is best.

Supplies and materials to make our Diamond Dig sensory bin:

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spoon and craft gems in a bin of snow

  • large, shallow storage container
  • scoops, ladles, spoons
  • plastic gems and jewels  (I got mine in the craft section of the dollar store)
  • bowl(s) of warm water
  • cloths or hand towels (for drying hands as they play)
  • plastic table cloth (to protect your floor or table)
  • SNOW!

Easy so far, right?

Pulling your snowy sensory bin together:

Fill up your container with snow, and toss in the gems and jewels.  Give it a good stir, burying most of the “diamonds” so the kids will have to work to find them.

harvesting gems from our snowy sensory bin

I set my bin on the floor and placed a couple of bowls of water beside it.  I’d intended for this to be a place to simply rinse off their “diamonds” as they un-earthed them, but they had other plans.

scooping snow out of the sensory bin and into bowls of water


After dropping a few jewels into the bowls, they discovered that it was much more fun to scoop heaping spoonfuls of snow into their bowls.  They would stir the snow around until it melted, and then they’d fill it up again.

scooping snow into bowls of water

As the water grew colder, the melting slowed down, and they noticed that the snow became “sticky”, and eventually turned to slush.

At one point, we turned the large, wet clump of snow over, and we were surprised to see that there was no water in the bottom of the bowl.

snow turning to slush and ice in a bowl of water

I explained how the snow had absorbed the water like a sponge, and they felt it, and observed that it was quite icy.  All of the jewels that had been in the bottom of the bowl were embedded in the ice, and they picked and pried those out.

drying hands while playing with the snow sensory bin

When most of the diamonds had been found, I brought out the farm animals, and little people, and they enjoyed some snowy small world play while I prepared lunch.

If you make a snowy sensory bin for your hooligans, I’d love it if you’d share a photo and the details on my Happy Hooligans Facebook page!  It doesn’t look like winter will be over any time soon, and I’m sure we’ll all be looking for fun indoor winter play ideas for a while yet!

If you liked this activity, check out these sensory bins.  They’ve been known to keep the hooligans entertained for hours:

Deep Blue Sea Bin
Polly Pool Party
Dinosaur Sensory bin
Dino Dig
Cloud Dough
Fairy Mud 


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  1. says

    It sure has been a long cold winter. Just recently I brought our water table in the house and filled it with snow. I have to say I totally underestimated the interest the kids would have in it. I thought with all the snow we have to play in outside, what really would be the difference. But they loved it. They were so engrossed in play that there was total silence for half an hour. That’s pretty unheard of around here. Love the idea of hunting for gems. Will definitely try that.

    • happyhooligans says

      Isn’t it amazing how a new venue or a change of scenery can put such an exciting spin on an old idea? Like you said – they’re surrounded by snow outside, but bring it inside, and it’s a whole new ballgame!

  2. Hailey says

    I live in Australia an was thinking about doing something like this with crystals and fools gold but as we don’t have snow excep for high in the mountains of NSW or in Tasmania…. I was thinking of using that Cloud stuff (Flour and Oil) and turning into a gold and gem dig… do you think that will work??

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