Do you know the value of sensory play? Think for a moment about how we learn. We use our senses! These senses can be so important for children to make sense of the world around them. Sensory play is any type of activity that engages any of the senses to help a child learn while playing. Sensory play also teaches children to solve problems. Plus, it’s screen-free! In this article, I will show you how I made 6 DIY sensory bins at home.
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What are sensory bins?
Sensory bins, (or baskets, tables, buckets, etc.) are a form of sensory play in which you have a collection of objects that engage a child’s creativity and senses. They are just one great example of a way to incorporate sensory play into your child’s routine. In this post, I will show you 6 ideas for easy DIY sensory bins that you can make at home.
Boxes for storage
For our sensory boxes, I decided to purchase a 6 pack of Sterilite containers that have the snap-on lids. However, if you are on a tight budget, you could use any kind of box you have lying around or even some basic plastic shoeboxes.
I really recommend using a container that is somewhat waterproof if you’re planning on using a material that isn’t totally dry (see: water beads).
The next thing you will need for your sensory bins (or boxes, or table) is a filler. The possibilities of what you can use as a filler are almost limitless. Be creative! I have several ideas down below, but other good ideas for a sensory filler include oatmeal, shaving cream, pasta (raw or cooked!), corn, water, crinkle paper, marbles, and more!
Please bear in mind choking hazards if you have smaller little ones in the house as well! Although many of these sensory bin contents are great for a variety of ages, some things may not be suitable for very little ones.
In each bin, I included some toys to encourage imaginative play. These toys don’t have to be anything fancy. You can just use things you already have. While I did purchase some toys for this project, many of the toys I used were things I already had at home.
In addition to toys, I like to add tools to my sensory bins. These are items that the child can use to manipulate the filler material other than with just their hands. Examples of tools include child-friendly tweezers, tongs, dropper or pipette for liquid, funnels, etc. This is a great idea because not only does it encourage play, but it also helps children work on hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
For our first bin, I used dried kidney beans, (unpopped) popcorn, dried barley, dried black-eyed peas, an ice cube tray, children’s “tweezers,” funnels, and “construction” toy trucks. I thought this bin would be really fun because there is a bit of variety of shape, size, and texture in the different dried “beans”. I thought it would be fun to create a little construction site, load up the dump truck, etc. My son can pick up the beans with the tweezers and sort them into the ice cube tray, or pour them through the funnels. Alternatively to an ice cube tray, you could use an egg carton.
This bin contains cotton balls and small rubber duckies. Although this bin is very simple and doesn’t have anything too crazy going on, my son still has fun with it. I may add a couple of other items to this box at some point, but I haven’t decided on what yet. When I was making this bin, I was going for a bit of a “bath time” theme. Maybe I’ll add some little boats!
This bin has been a huge hit. It contains kinetic sand, toy bugs, cars and trucks, a ball shaper, and a ramekin. My son loves playing with the sand, and I was relieved to discover that it does not make a huge mess. He uses the little ramekin and ball shaper to create sandcastles, and he likes to bury the little bugs.
The next bin has feathers, googly eyes, a scoop, and a zig-zag pipette. My son really likes this one. He likes to sort through the feathers to try to find the googly eyes and collect them in the scoop (boat? I don’t know what to call it). He also uses the pipette to push the feathers around on the table by blowing air with it. I know the pipette is probably intended for moving liquid, but I didn’t make any sensory bins that have liquid in them. So we’re using it for this! 😀
In this box, I put pom-poms, farm animals, dinosaurs, and an ice cube tray. We also use the tweezer tool from bin #1 in this bin as well. My son likes to sort the pom-poms into the ice cube tray, and he gets pretty creative with the little animals as well. This box is another one that I will probably “spice up” in the future as well!
Last, but certainly not least, this bin has water beads, a funnel, sea creatures, and scoop scissors. This box is a huge hit. I am new to water beads, but I hear that they have a lot of uses in the world of sensory play. The funnel that I found is just the right size for the beads to shoot right through. Plus, my son loves burying the little sea creatures in the beads and then finding them again.
Use what you have on hand
There is no need to go out and spend a bunch of money when creating these bins (unless you want to)! Put on your creativity hat and see what you can find around your house. You may surprise yourself. When I created my sensory bins, there are many items that I used which I already had in my home.
Think like a kid
Use your creativity when creating these boxes! Think about how your child sees the world. What questions might they have about a feeling or sensation? Are there small ways that you can use an object to challenge them? Kids love problem-solving through play, however you don’t want to make the problem too difficult, because kids don’t like being frustrated. Think about where your child is developmentally and adjust accordingly.
These are just a few ideas for sensory play, but the possibilities are limitless. Desmond loves playing with these bins! We let him choose one at a time to play with. I would say he goes through phases for which one he likes the best, but he definitely enjoys all of these! I would say that the kinetic sand one is the most popular at our house. So, if you’re trying to decide on just one of these to make, I would definitely recommend that one! If you decide to make one of these bins, or another sensory activity, please let me know in the comments! I would love to hear about it!