Learn how to make a sensory bin for stimulating sensory, imaginative and fine motor play.
Sensory bins are easy to make, and can be put together quickly, for very little cost, using items that you have around the house.
If you’ve never made a sensory bin before, you and your child are in for so much fun! A sensory bin can provide hours of imaginative, open-ended play and skill development. Sensory bin play is great for strengthening fine-motor skills, introducing new vocabulary, exploring new and unfamiliar materials, and of course, a sensory bin is awesome for engaging your child’s senses.
How to make a sensory bin:
First, you’ll want to think about:
- what kind of container to use for your sensory bin
- a theme for your sensory bin
- what to use as a base for your sensory bin
- toys/materials to fill your bin with
- tools and instruments to provide with your sensory bin
I’m going to talk about all of those things, and I’ll share photos of many of the popular sensory bins that I’ve made for the hooligans here in my home daycare. Feel free to duplicate them in your home, daycare or preschool classroom.
Ok! Let’s get started!
Start with a container:
First you need a container to make your sensory bin in. The size of your container will depend on how many children will be playing with it.
If just one child will be playing at the bin, your container can be fairly small. I often use:
- a shallow cardboard box
- a foil roasting pan
- a small baking dish
- a shallow Tupperware container
A small baking dish serves as a tiny ocean
A construction site sensory bin in a foil roasting pan
A dinosaur small world in a dollar store plastic saucer
For 2 or more children, you’ll want a larger container so the kids can gather around it comfortably. Some of my favourite containers for larger sensory bins are:
- a new, un-used litter box
- large, shallow cardboard box
- shallow storage container
Children gather around a new litter box filled with cloud dough
A shallow storage container makes a great sensory bin
Choose a theme for your sensory bin:
For your theme, it’s always fun to choose something that your child is passionate about. You can always choose a theme that is new to your child too, as that will offer lots of opportunity for learning. Dinosaurs, farm, ocean, and construction themes are always popular here.
Construction Sensory Bin in a cardboard box
I scour the toy room and my craft cupboards to find the items for our sensory bins. Animals, vehicles, characters and small accessories are always great. The dollar store and thrift shops are great places to find interesting items too.
“Frozen” Sensory Bin with White Rice, Cotton Balls and Plastic Gems
It’s also fun to make sensory bins to match the season.
Choose a base material for your sensory bin:
For your sensory bin base, items and substances that are interesting to look at and touch. Textured items that make a nice sound when you run your fingers through them are wonderful.
Some of my favourite sensory bin bases are:
- coffee beans
- dried coffee grounds
- corn kernels
- shredded paper
- water, coloured water, soapy water
- shaving cream
Coffee grounds make an excellent base for a construction site bin.
Sensory Play with Corn Kernels and Chestnuts
Snow Sensory Bin with Little Tykes Characters and Vehicles
Sensory Bin with Shaving Cream and Glitter
Add lots of interesting items to explore:
To make your sensory bin intriguing, add lots of small, interesting items. Along with little toys and accessories, I often incorporate natural materials into our sensory bins because they’re wonderful for the senses, and they help children to connect with nature.
Some of my favourite natural materials for sensory bins are:
- small gourds
- flower petals
- sea shells
Other items that add interest to a sensory bin are:
- dollar store gemstones
- artificial flowers/fruit/vegetables
- pom poms
- small wooden blocks
- foam shapes
- magnetic letters
I Spy Sensory Bin with Coloured Rice and Random Small Items
Add tools and instruments to your sensory bin:
In a construction bin or a farm or ocean bin, you may not want to add tools and instruments, because the vehicles and animals may be enough, but for more experimental bins, provide your child with tools that will allow them to examine and explore the contents of the bin. Some of my favourite tools and instruments for sensory play are:
- small spoons
- small bowls
- measuring cups
- ice cube trays
- muffin tins
- baby food jars
These tools and instruments are all great for strengthening fine-motor control and co-ordination.
Adding an assortment of scoops, tongs, small jars and containers will take your sensory bin to a new level as children pour, sort and sift the contents of the bin!
The best thing about a sensory bin is all the entertainment, skill-development and learning it provides. The next best thing, is that you can create countless sensory bins using items that you already have on hand.
You know what that means… hours of good, old-fashioned play without spending a dime!
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