Sensory bins, a fairly recent activity-based toy to the toddler market, is a bin filled with toys and trinkets to engage your young child. These often incorporate a theme to entertain your child and get them involved in learning that feels more like playing. Sensory bins can be made easily and inexpensively at home and are fun to give as gifts, as well!
How to DIY a Sensory Bin at Home
While there are plenty of fantastic sensory bins for sale on online marketplaces such as Etsy, they are easy to DIY using common household items and a bit of creativity.
- Start with a simple container. A large, solid tub from Amazon or the dollar store works perfectly!
- Determine what your “base item” will be. Be creative! You can use anything from rice or pasta to sand or water. Beans, potting soil, beads, dry cereal, mini marshmallows and shaving cream also make fantastic base items.
- Pick a theme, and then place items in the bin that support that theme. The sky is the limit here! Incorporate cups, balls, toy cars, figurines, cotton balls, empty toilet paper rolls and so on. Nothing is off limits!
- Pick a space for your child’s sensory bin and let him loose! Be sure to watch your young child so they doesn’t swallow any small pieces (sensory bins are generally recommended for ages 12 months and up). If your sensory bin involves something messy, such as water or shaving cream, you may consider taking it outside.
- Voila! You’ve created a fun, engaging activity for your child.
5 Ideas for Spring Sensory Bins
The warm air and bright sunshine that Spring ushers in helps flowers bloom and green grass grow. There are so many wonderful sensory bins you can create for your child using the refreshing days of spring as an inspiration.
- Easter-themed sensory bin.
- Bunnies and chicks are lining the shelves at every store, and these little creatures are perfect for a spring sensory bin! Use jelly beans as a base for this bin. Pretty pastels or bright colors, you can’t go wrong either way! For fun items to add to the sensory bin, think soft and fluffy! Add cotton balls, marshmallow Peeps, little soft baby chicks, Easter grass, plastic Easter eggs and so on. To engage your child with this bin, use the Easter eggs as counting tools with your child. Ask him to find 10 purple jelly beans and encase them in an egg, or 12 yellow jelly beans and so on.
- Sunshine and rainbows-themed sensory bin.
- The sunny days of Spring are a sweet treat after a chilly Winter. Try cotton balls as your base here because they look like soft, pillow-y clouds! As far as items to add, try pipe cleaners in rainbow colors, beads in rainbow colors, pompoms in rainbow colors and anything else you can think of that comes in ROY G BIV hues. To engage your child using this bin, have him string beads on the pipe cleaners in different patterns.
- Insect-themed sensory bin
- With the cold weather gone, animals and insects start to show themselves again. And what kid doesn’t love bugs? To start this bin, dye some dry rice green to create “grass” as this bin’s base. Then add in any insect toys you can think of! Small butterflies, ladybugs, grasshoppers, bees and so on. You can also add gummy worms that can be stretched (and eventually eaten!) and small flowers that the insects might feed on. To engage your child with this bin, sort and count the critters. How many bees are there? How many ladybugs?
- Beach-ready sensory bin
- Once the temperature climbs above 75 degrees, it’s hard to not dream of sitting on a warm beach somewhere! Bring the beach to your toddler with this fun bin. Start with clean sand for your child to dump and play with. Fill the bin with measuring cups, spoons, shovels and tiny molds for the sand. Even cookie cutters would be great here if you add a little water to the bin. To engage your child with this bin, have him flatten the sand to the bottom of the bin and use a pencil or stick to trace letters in the sand. Then let him pack different sizes of measuring cups full of sand and see if he can make “mountains” with them. Have him sort the different containers filled with sand by size.
- Plant and flower-themed sensory bin
- There is nothing quite like seeing a field of wildflowers blooming after a dark Winter. Use the flower theme to create a space where your child can “plant” his own flowers! Use potting soil as your base here. Then add “seeds” your child can plant (dry beans in a variety of sizes and colors are perfect!), fake flowers, wooden craft sticks that can pat down the soil, small cups and so on. To engage your child with this bin, help him plant flowers! Talk about what flowers he thinks will grow from each “seed,” and help him plant the seeds either in the bin or in smaller cups. Let him use a marker to write the name of each of his flowers on the wooden craft sticks and place those in the cups.
Try one or all of these wonderful sensory bin options, or be creative, and come up with your own. The possibilities are endless! Enjoy and Happy Spring!
My name is John Haber. I’m a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and the founder of Nogginsland. I became a COTA in 2003, and then went back to school much later, receiving my Master’s Degree in OT from Mercy College in New York in 2016.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of populations in different settings, from school districts, to developmental disability centers, to children’s hospitals.