10 Sensory Bin Ideas for Busy Toddlers (2024)

Toddlers and young children are notorious for getting into everything, especially with their hands. They grab, lunge, and just generally stick their hands into whatever you don't want them to, right? That's one of the reasons I love creating sensory bins for toddlers. It's a nice way to redirect all that crazy toddler energy into something totally fun and (mostly) contained.

Besides, it's a great way for little kids to learn, by actually touching and experiencing something. I've gathered up 10 sensory bin ideas that parents can easily create at home using basic household items. Some employ water, others use soft things or even items that make a sound. Once you discover which sensory bin most appeals to your kid, you might also just have discovered some new free time and a little independent playtime for your youngster.

For more tips on dealing with sensory issues, see our posts on 99 Sensory Activities for Toddlers, Infants, and Kids of All Ages, DIY Sensory Activities for Babies, and Sensory Savvy Snacks for Kids.

Preschools and occupational therapists use sensory bins to create experiences for young children, so they can learn how to talk about the world. They learn what textures and sounds they like or don’t like, how to describe how something feels, smells, looks or sounds, and how to differentiate between soft and hard, small and large, liquid and solid, and even warm or cold. In addition to all of that, sensory bins can be great fun.

Parents can build their own sensory bins at home by finding a large, preferably clear, nonbreakable container, and filling it with various items, along with a spoon, measuring cups, buckets, and other small toys that kids can play with along with the sensory filler. Read on for 10 sensory bin ideas for toddlers, preschoolers, and honestly, any kid that loves to be hands-on with their playtime!

RELATED: 30 Toddler Activities to Keep 'Em Busy At Home

10 Sensory Bin Ideas for Busy Toddlers (1)
Let little ones splash and discoverin a water sensory bin.

1. Water Sensory Bin

We started out by filling a giant clear plastic bin with water from the hose. Then wedropped indifferent toys in it to see if they would float or sink. Classic science experiment! My 2-year-old son was so enamored with the splashing that I eventually gave him a bucket so he could take the water out of the bin and splash it onto the patio, creating puddles, which were also ideal for splashing. The bin was eventually empty enough that both kids got in it themselves. Water can also lend itself to creating a toy or doll washing station with just a few drops of soap.

10 Sensory Bin Ideas for Busy Toddlers (2)
Make yourown snow and let the kids create a winter scene.

2. Snow Sensory Bin

This is another free material that makes a great sensory bin item because it adds another sense outside of the five you usually think of: temperature. Those who don’t live in cold weather climates can buy a can of make-your-own snowbut beware of its ingredients if you still have kids that put things in their mouths. We shoveled a scoop of the fresh stuff into a clear container and gave each kid a spray bottle filled with water and a few drops of food coloring (avoiding yellow, because my grandma always told me to beware of where the huskies go). Little People Elsa and Anna enjoyed being in their natural habitat, complete with a snow palace made using measuring cups.

3. Ice Sensory Bin

This one takes a little more planning ahead. Find some small toys (we used dinosaurs) and a container in your desired shape:muffin tins, Easter eggs (without holes), or water balloons if you’re doing just one toy, or a cardboard ice cream or milk carton if you want to use multiple toys. Place the toys in the containers and cover them with water. After about two hours, you’ll have a chilly sensory bin or item. You can talk to kids about what might make the ice melt faster (pouring water on it, playing in the sun, putting it on a dark-colored surface), or just enjoy the cold slippery feeling.

10 Sensory Bin Ideas for Busy Toddlers (3)
Make a spooky Halloween sensory bin with black beans that kids can scoop and measure. Photo by Sandy Fredricks

4. Dry beans or pasta

Dried items are different from wet in that they can create a satisfying sound and they’re generally easier to clean up. Beans come in a variety of colors, so you can use black beans for a space or Halloween theme, red beans for fall, and white beans for winter or Valentine’s Day. Pasta can be dyed to match various themes as well. Parents can mix in dollar-store toys like plastic spiders, heart or star beads, or fake leaves to match various themes.

10 Sensory Bin Ideas for Busy Toddlers (4)
Bring the beach home with a sand bin where kids can dig and discover buried treasures.

5. Sand or Cornmeal Sensory Bin

Beach or dinosaur-loving kids can enjoy getting dirty and digging with sand, and cornmeal is a great alternative to sand for those kids who still want to taste everything. Hiding seashells or dinosaurs in the table leads to a great sense of discovery for kids as they dig through the grit.

10 Sensory Bin Ideas for Busy Toddlers (5)
Slippery slimy water beads are a fun and newish addition to the sensory bin world.

6. Fun with Water Beads

These slimy, colorful ballsslide in between little fingers and can be fun to spoon into different containers. Add water to make them grow, then let them dry out to return to regular size. This can create a fun beginning science lesson along with a satisfying finger feel. Grown-ups should beware of kids putting them in their mouths as they do expand.

7. Caps and/or Rice Sensory Bin Ideas

The tops from squeeze pouches of yogurt or applesauce always seem like a waste to throw away. They are often used to play paper football in our house, but a collection of them combined with rice can make a fun sensory bin. Kids can use the caps to scoop rice, or they can sort them by color. Grown-ups can even make rainbow rice by combining white rice, vinegar and food coloring Like pasta and beans, the rice makes an interesting sound. Just be sure to monitor their use, and any of the sensory bin items, with very young toddlers.

RELATED: 12 Sensory Playtime Ideas for Babies

10 Sensory Bin Ideas for Busy Toddlers (6)
Draw pictures, practice letters and numbers, or just smash up shaving cream in a sensory bin.

8. Shaving Cream Sensory Bin

Like a lighter version of Play-doh, shaving cream is a substance thatkids can mold to sculpt their own creations. We have hidden various small objects in the shaving cream to see if they can tell what is hidden without seeing it, or even dyed the cream into various colors to see what happens when you mix them together. Shaving creams come in many different scents these days, so pick one that is light and doesn’t overwhelm tiny noses. Not every kid loves the sticky feeling on their hands, so have plenty of towels at the ready for squeamish little ones.

10 Sensory Bin Ideas for Busy Toddlers (7)
Take a walk to collect items to make your own nature sensory bin. Photo by Elizabeth Wollensak

9. Nature Sensory Bin

Scavenge your own backyard to find a variety of textures, colors, and scents to add to your nature bin. This is a great fall activity when many different plants are dropping leaves and seed pods. Look for pine cones, acorns, flower petals, sticks, and leaves. In the winter, fill the bin with artificial flower petals to create a fun Valentine’s Day-themed box to hide treats or tiny toys.

10. The Fluffy Sensory Bin

This is a good one for kids who don’t like getting wet or sticky. Choose pom-poms or even just plain ol'cotton balls to fill up your bin. Pom-poms allow kids to sort different colors and can fit into a seasonal theme, while cotton balls are a little cheaper and can be a fun stand-in for snow. Plus, cotton balls can be fun to pull apart and reshape.

Unless noted, photos by the author

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts


As an expert in the field of sensory play and early childhood development, I can provide you with valuable information about sensory bins for toddlers and young children. My knowledge is based on extensive research, practical experience, and a deep understanding of the subject matter. Let's explore the concepts mentioned in this article.

Sensory Bins for Toddlers and Young Children

Sensory bins are a fantastic way to engage toddlers and young children in hands-on learning experiences. These bins provide opportunities for children to explore different textures, sounds, and sensory stimuli, which can enhance their cognitive, physical, and emotional development. Here are some key concepts related to sensory bins:

1. Sensory Experiences: Sensory bins allow children to touch, feel, and experience various materials, such as water, snow, ice, dry beans, sand, water beads, and more. These experiences help children develop their sensory processing skills and learn about different textures, temperatures, and properties of materials.

2. Learning Through Play: Sensory bins provide a playful and interactive way for children to learn. By engaging their senses, children can develop important cognitive skills, such as problem-solving, creativity, and critical thinking. They can also enhance their language and communication skills by describing the sensory experiences they encounter.

3. DIY Sensory Bins: Parents can easily create sensory bins at home using basic household items. A large, preferably clear, nonbreakable container serves as the base for the sensory bin. Parents can then fill the container with various items, such as water, snow, ice, dry beans, sand, water beads, or even shaving cream. Adding spoons, measuring cups, buckets, and small toys further enhances the play experience.

4. Sensory Exploration: Sensory bins offer children the opportunity to explore different materials and engage in open-ended play. They can experiment with pouring, scooping, measuring, and sorting, which helps develop their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and spatial awareness.

5. Sensory Bin Ideas: The article mentions several sensory bin ideas that parents can try at home. These include water sensory bins, snow sensory bins, ice sensory bins, dry beans or pasta sensory bins, sand or cornmeal sensory bins, water bead sensory bins, caps and/or rice sensory bins, shaving cream sensory bins, nature sensory bins, and fluffy sensory bins. Each of these ideas provides unique sensory experiences and learning opportunities for children.


Sensory bins are a wonderful way to engage toddlers and young children in hands-on learning experiences. By creating sensory bins at home, parents can provide their children with opportunities to explore different textures, develop fine motor skills, enhance cognitive abilities, and have fun while learning. Remember to always supervise children during sensory play and choose materials that are safe and age-appropriate. Enjoy the journey of sensory exploration with your little ones!

10 Sensory Bin Ideas for Busy Toddlers (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Last Updated:

Views: 6265

Rating: 5 / 5 (80 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Birthday: 2001-07-17

Address: Suite 794 53887 Geri Spring, West Cristentown, KY 54855

Phone: +5934435460663

Job: Central Hospitality Director

Hobby: Yoga, Electronics, Rafting, Lockpicking, Inline skating, Puzzles, scrapbook

Introduction: My name is Clemencia Bogisich Ret, I am a super, outstanding, graceful, friendly, vast, comfortable, agreeable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.