Sensory Bin Ideas

As early childhood educators, we know the benefits from sensory play. Students develop their fine motor skills, develop language skills as they discuss pouring items in and out and from a larger cup to a smaller cup, and problem solving skills, just to name a few!

Putting together a new sensory bin is one of my favorite centers to do for my kids. I switch it out every two weeks when I change my units and they love to see what will be in there next. I keep all of the materials and sensory items from year to year. It makes it easy to open a container and just dump it in!

First off, I have a fairly small sensory bin. My rule is that I allow two kids at a time to be there. Once one person leaves, another student knows he/she can join in. We learn this rule at the beginning of the year.

A few things that I reuse in most sensory bins are: cups, scoops, tongs, shovels, and scoop scissors, as seen in the photos below. I also have two dust pans and brooms that I leave under the table. The kids know that if they make a mess, they have to clean it up. It’s an easy reminder because the broom is always under the table and it makes them responsible for their learning and their messes. BONUS: if a student makes a mess during lunch, he/she gets the dust pan to clean up their own mess! Parents are always amazed by this 😂.

Here are the scoop scissors I use.
Under the table are the dust pans I use.

Water Sensory Play

Probably the easiest sensory bin is with water, since it’s free out of the sink! However, I think it’s the most messy. When I use water, I have the kids wear a waterproof smock to protect their clothing from getting drenched, and I also make sure my sensory bin is on the tile and away from my computer that’s right behind it. It also doesn’t hurt to put some paper towels nearby…

This is an easy sensory bin with just water. I also added cups, funnelS, and a watering can.
This is a fun sensory bin I do during community helpers. The students get to be fire fighters and spray the flames with the number written on them.
Water sensory can be as simple as adding bath toys. Students can count and share the toys. You can write numbers, shapes, letters, names, etc. on the bottom of the ducks.
This is a water sensory bin that goes along with nursery rhymes. The kids can put the spiders up and down the water spout and practice the Itsy Bitsy Spider rhyme.
I got these magnetic letters and fishing poles from Lake Shore Learning. Students can fish for letters and words.
Water beads are a stretch to fit in this category, but they do grow in water. Only reminder I have is to make sure you give them time to grow! I also talk to my kids about not smashing all of the water beads on purpose while they play. Also, they’re super bouncy! You’ll find them all over the room if your kids aren’t careful 😂.
With my water beads I normally add scoops, scoop scissors, and fish friends. Once I’m done with this sensory bin I let the kids take a handful of water beads home in a zip lock baggie. This is the only sensory item I don’t keep year to year. They’re too hard for me to shrink back down!

Beans and Popcorn

Beans are my favorite sensory item. I reuse the beans many times over during the school year in various bins.

I use the beans as dirt in my spring garden sensory bin. I got the big flowers and big bugs in the Target Dollar Spot. I also add rakes and shovels, a flower pot, and rubber worms. This is my favorite sensory bin…it’s so bright and colorful!
During our transportation unit I add construction trucks and cars from Dollar Tree, along with scoops and shovels.
You can also use popcorn kernels and add cowboy/Indian figurines from Dollar Tree. I also added some feathers from the dollar store as well.

Sand

Sand is something that’s easy to add different items to and change up your sensory bin theme. You could add cars and trucks, sea shells, measuring items, etc.

I use sand and add a few shells to dig for. Students can sort the shells by size, color, type, texture, etc. I also add funnels, cups, shovels, and rakes to make it feel like a mini beach.

Rice and Pasta

Rice and pasta is something you can easily change the theme or season by dying it festive colors.

Here’s how I dye my rice and pasta:

Divide rice or pasta into gallon zip lock bags. Add desired food coloring to the bags, and add rubbing alcohol. Shake the bags until the rice or pasta is well mixed on every piece. Lay the rice or pasta flat to dry on cookie sheets with parchment paper. That’s it!

This is a rice bin I use for Valentine’s Day. Another teacher actually dyed the rice. The heart gems are from Dollar Tree. I keep it in this smaller container because I put other items in my larger sensory bin. You can see that below under the Other Items category.
This is rainbow rice. I dyed it every color my first year of teaching and it’s still going strong. I add cups, a funnel, shovels, and rakes to this sensory bin.
This beautiful set up of dyed pasta lasted for .23 seconds 😂.
I use this sensory bin for St. Patrick’s Day. I add coins, mini pots of gold, and some shovels. I got the coins and pots at Dollar Tree.

Other Sensory Items

There are many other items you can use in your sensory bins. From shredded paper, to stuffed animals. The sky’s the limit!

My aide shredded Halloween colored paper for this sensory bin. I added some creepy-crawlies I got from Dollar Tree and googley eyes. I also add tongs for the students to dig with.
I use this sensory bin in the fall. I got all of these items at Hobby Lobby on sale after the season one year. I have artificial leaves, transparent acorns, leaves, and pumpkins, Indian corn, and wooden acorns. I add cups and tongs for the kids to scoop and sort with.
I got this fake snow and the jingle bells at Hobby Lobby on sale after the season. I add cups and scoop scissors for students to scoop and pick up the jingle bells with.
This sensory bin for Valentine’s Day is just shredded cellophane bag filler, heart rings, and cups. The kids like to dig for and wear all the rings on their fingers.
I use pom poms in various colors and sizes along with color cards in this sensory bin. Students can sort and match the items together. Also shown is a cup and tongs to pick up the pom poms with.
I use this sensory bin for our pets unit. The kids can practice grooming the animals and dress up while doing it. I have a groomers jacket for them to wear, brushes, bows, and hair dryers.

Thank you so much for reading my sensory bin blog post! I hope you got some new ideas for your classroom. What do you use in your sensory bins? Leave me a comment below.

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