A sensory bin is essentially a hands-on tool for a child to explore the world through his/her senses, or tactile learning. They see how the corn moves, hear the way rice sounds when it pours, and touch all parts of the sensory bin. It can be fun to just put interesting sensory items into a bin for play, but it can also be fun to create themes for creative play. (Parents need a creative outlet, too, right?)
Here are 25 of our favorite sensory bin themes and filler ideas to get you started on your own.
Beach: Kinetic sand, seashells, fish figures, and sand shovels.
Cereal: Colored cereal, colored cups, and kid-friendly tweezers for color sorting.
Circus: Popcorn (popped and un-popped kernels), toy trains, and circus animals.
Colors: Stick with 1-2 colors and gather pompoms, dried food, beads, and small toys to match.
Construction: Small construction vehicles, sand, rocks, and scoopers.
Dinosaurs: Dry lentils, dry garbanzo beans, rocks, sticks, and dinosaur figures.
Fall: Leaves, acorns, sticks, pinecones, orange/yellow/red dyed dried pasta, pumpkin seeds, and scoopers.
Farm: Corn kernels, farm animal figures, hay, oats, corn, rice, tractors, and mini scoops.
Food: Dried pasta, colored rice (dyed with food coloring), dried beans, dried peas, measuring cups and spoons.
Garden: Dirt, flowers, rocks, toy insects, vegetable erasers, and shovels.
Halloween: Black yarn, orange dyed rice, plastic spiders and other bugs, googly craft eyes, mini pumpkins. If you’re really ambitious, swap out the yarn for cooked and dyed spaghetti!
Insects: Green dyed rice, shredded green paper, bug figures, magnifying glasses, and flowers.
Letters: Sand, magnetic or puzzle letters, play tweezers. Consider having a letter chart or objects on the side to match the letters with.
Ocean: Blue water beads, seashells, and ocean animal figures.
Pasta: 3-5 different shapes of dyed, dried pasta, cups and scoopers. Simple!
Pompom Sorting: Different color and sized pompoms, kid-friendly tweezers, and an ice cube tray or egg carton for placing the pompoms in.
Pond: Green water beads, grass, sticks, lily pads made from cut paper of foam sheets, frogs, dragonflies, fish figures.
Rainbow: pompoms, feathers, beads, and small toys – anything you can find for the colors of the rainbow.
Space: Dried black beans, coffee beans, miniature planets (e.g. University Games 3-D Planets in a Tube Glow-in-The-Dark, $14), and star-shaped beads.
Spring: Flowers, grass, bird seed, butterflies, and green-dyed rice.
Summer: Water, fish, flowers, grass, and nets for scooping.
Treasure Hunt: Shaving cream, hidden objects like plastic coins, beaded necklaces, craft gems, or even toy cars. (Note: keep a bowl of water nearby to wash hidden treasures that have been found.)
Water beads: Available in a rainbow of colors, just these alone with a variety of scoops and cups is enough.
Wildlife: Green-dyed rice, dried beans of various colors, grass, rocks, wild animal figures.
Winter: Ice cubes, arctic animals, fake snow (combine 6 parts baking soda with 1 part hair conditioner), blue craft gems, water.