Step-by-Step Guide: Making a Sensory Bin to Boost Child Development

Step-by-Step Guide: Making a Sensory Bin to Boost Child Development

Diving into the world of sensory play? You’re in the right place! Sensory bins are a fantastic way to engage your child’s senses and foster their natural curiosity. They’re not just fun, they’re also a great educational tool that can help children develop fine motor skills, encourage scientific thinking, and promote imaginative play.

Wondering how to make a sensory bin? It’s easier than you might think. With a few simple materials and a little creativity, you can create a sensory bin that will keep your little one entertained for hours. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a total newbie, we’ll guide you through the process step by step.

Why Sensory Bins Are Beneficial for Children

Ah, sensory bins! They’re such a splendid tool for unleashing children’s natural curiosity, aren’t they? If you haven’t used one before, you’re in for a treat. Sensory bins stimulate a child’s five senses – touch, smell, sight, taste, and hearing – which are crucial for their development.

Sensory play has a myriad of benefits. It promotes cognitive growth, advances motor skills, facilitates problem-solving, nurtures creativity, and aids in language development. Surely, you’re wondering how so? As the young ones explore the bin, they come across various items. They see them (sight), touch and feel their texture (touch), smell them (smell), listen to the sounds they make when collided (hearing) and in a supervised environment, may even taste them (taste). This continuous learning process is what makes sensory bins a class apart.

So, what makes a sensory bin such a compelling tool? The answer lies within the sensory-rich environment they create. Packed with interesting objects that vary in sizes, textures and colors, they grab children’s attention easily. This helps them focus better, learn faster and enhances their ability to process information.

A bonus point for you, sensory bins have the power to keep children engaged for longer periods. So, if you’re juggling work, chores or simply need some ‘me’ time, sensory bins got you covered.

But don’t just take our word for it. Research, too, backs the effectiveness of sensory bins. In a study involving preschoolers, children who engaged in sensory play showed better levels of creativity and improved language skills. We bet you didn’t see that coming!

Materials Needed for Making a Sensory Bin

Materials Needed for Making a Sensory Bin

Creating a sensory bin doesn’t have to be complex. In fact, the beauty of sensory bins is in their simplicity. They can cater to your child’s unique interests while engaging their sense of curiosity and discovery. Indeed, with a few simple items, you’ll be well on your way to making a sensory bin that’ll stimulate your child’s senses and promote their development.

The basic materials you will need include:

  1. A shallow, wide container: The container serves as the base of your sensory bin. It should be large enough for your child to freely move their hands and explore, but not so large that it becomes unmanageable. Plastic storage bins, trays, or even baking dishes all make good options.
  2. Fillers: These are items that create the sensory experience. Fillers can include things like rice, beans, water beads, sand, fake snow, or even water. Choose fillers that are safe and appropriate for your child’s age and sensory preferences.
  3. Supplementary Items: These can be anything that adds an extra level of interest or play to the sensory bin. Toys, figurines, scoops, shovels, or other items related to the theme of the sensory bin work well.

While these materials form the backbone of a sensory bin, you’re free to get creative. Remember that sensory bins are meant to be fun, engaging and, above all, tailored to your child’s likes and interests.

Here is a short table summarizing the essential materials for a sensory bin:

Shallow, wide containerSomething large enough for free hand movements
FillersRice, beans, water beads, sand, fake snow, water, etc.
Supplementary ItemsToys, figurines, scoops, shovels, or other related items

Creating the perfect sensory bin is all about trying different materials until you find what works best for your child. Don’t be afraid to experiment with various themes, textures, and items.

Step 1: Selecting the Right Container

Step 1: Selecting the Right Container

Now that you’re aware of the importance of sensory bins, let’s get down to the specifics of creating one tailored to your child’s interests. The first thing you need is the right container. This forms the base in which you’ll place various elements that’ll stimulate your child’s senses. Think of it as assembling a model motorcycle—every part serves a purpose for the final experience.

Ideal containers for sensory bins are shallow and wide. Remember, the goal is not depth but breadth. Your child should be able to reach all corners of the bin without feeling overwhelmed. A shallow bin ensures they can see, touch, grasp, and interact with all items at the same time. This simultaneous play not only piques their interest but also holds their attention longer. It’s like a game of baseball where every element from the bat to the field positioning plays a crucial role.

If you’re worried about the mess, consider choosing a bin with a lid. This way, you can store away the bin after playtime, preserving the sensory items for future use. Plus, a lid can double as an extra play surface. For instance, your child can use it as a landscape for their figurines to travel across, maybe mimicking a scenic drive through Italy or France, countries known for their beautiful landscapes and rich histories.

Always prioritize safety when selecting containers. Conduct a thorough examination of the container before purchasing. Ensure it doesn’t have any sharp edges, isn’t prone to cracks or breakages, and is not too heavy for your child to handle. Containers made up of plastic are usually a safe bet, much like choosing the right equipment in football to ensure players are protected and can perform safely on the field.

Here’s a quick checklist for what your sensory bin container should possess:

  • Shallow and broad structure
  • Safety – no sharp edges, breakable material or excessive weight
  • Optional lid for cleanliness and added features
  • Non-toxic and child-friendly materials

Remember, the size and type of the container you choose can impact the overall sensory experience. Don’t shy away from using multiple bins with different themes. This provides your child with a wide range of sensory inputs, promoting overall development.

You’re now equipped to make an informed decision while selecting the container for your sensory bins. This is the first step towards creating a sensory-rich, stimulating environment for your child. Get ready, you’re in for an exciting DIY adventure.

Step 2: Choosing a Sensory Material

Step 2: Choosing a Sensory Material

After you’ve found the perfect container for your child’s sensory bin, the next important step is selecting the right sensory material. The sensory material serves as the base of the bin and is a crucial element to stimulate your child’s senses. Selecting a sensory material that aligns with your child’s interests and sensitivities is key.

There’s an array of materials available that can be used as sensory inputs. Some are edible, some are inedible, but all provide unique sensory experiences:

  • Edible Fillers like rice, pasta, jelly, or sand can be pleasing to touch and safe to taste, which makes them perfect for the young explorers.
  • Inedible Fillers such as beads, buttons, pebbles, or water beads offer diverse textures for developing tactile experiences.

You can either decide to use one type of filler or mix different materials together for a more varied sensory experience. In all cases, make sure the chosen material is safe, non-toxic, and age-appropriate for your child.

Creating theme-based sensory bins can also be an effective strategy. Your bin can have a beach theme, using sand and seashells. You can also create a nature-themed bin, incorporating soil, pebbles, and leaves. All these materials provide different textures, triggering various sensory responses.

When choosing the sensory material, keep your child’s specific interests and sensitivities in mind. If your child has a favourite theme or cartoon character, incorporating related toys or figurines into the bin can make the sensory play more engaging.

While it’s essential to consider safety, remember that it’s just as important to vary the sensory materials from time to time. Changing the sensory materials encourages children to adapt to new textures and sensations, fostering their capacity to understand and interact with the world around them.

By selecting the right sensory materials, you can make the sensory bin not only an entertaining tool for your child but also a productive platform for their cognitive and sensory development. So let your imagination run wild and create a sensory bin full of fun and learning for your child.

Step 3: Adding Props and Toys for Exploration

Step 3: Adding Props and Toys for Exploration

After ensuring you’ve picked the perfect base for your sensory bin, it’s time to delve into the world of props and toys. These additions truly make your sensory bin a gateway to exploration and discovery for your child.

Sensory toys are paramount. Look for items that provide your child with a variety of textures, sizes, and shapes. Go for items like rubber ducks, textured balls, or soft toys for younger kids. For older ones, consider items like action figures, building blocks, and miniature dolls.

But don’t stop there. Real-world objects such as spoons, ladles, or small kitchen utensils can also serve as innovative props. These items aren’t just engaging; they double up as tools teaching your child about the everyday items they encounter around them.

What about safety, you ask? Your concerns are valid.

When you’re choosing props and toys, safety should be your top priority. Ensure toys are age-appropriate, free from sharp edges, and too large to be a choking hazard.

You can also consider using natural materials. Things like pinecones, twigs, or pebbles can provide a unique sensory experience. But again, ensure these items are safe for your child’s play. Last thing you’d want is a nasty splinter interrupting their discovery time, right?

Themed bins are an excellent idea too. Gear your sensory bin around an exciting theme that your child loves. How about a farm theme with grain as the base and miniature farm animals as props? Or a construction site theme with sand as a base and tiny trucks and diggers? The sky’s the limit!

Remember: there’s no right or wrong when choosing your sensory bin props and toys. It’s all about what captivates your child and makes their sensory play more enjoyable.

Step 4: Incorporating Different Textures and Sensory Experiences

Step 4: Incorporating Different Textures and Sensory Experiences

Your sensory bin is coming together, but there’s something crucial missing: various textures. The incorporation of diverse textures and sensory experiences considerably enhances the value of the sensory bin. After laying down the base and adding toys or props that align with your theme, you need to spice up the mix with different sensory materials to stimulate the child’s senses further.

When adding sensory materials, the main goal is to engage the child’s five senses – touch, smell, sight, taste, and hearing. For instance, shiny wrappers or sequins for sight, fluffy cotton balls or rough sandpaper for touch, tiny bells or dry pasta that rattles for hearing, aromatic herbs or spices for smell, and safe edible items for taste. Also, it’s worth remembering to supervise kids, mainly when they are introducing taste or smell items.

There are endless possibilities, but the key is to prioritize safety and comfort. Here are a selection of safe sensory materials to consider:

  • Touch: Cloud dough, slime, gak, kinetic sand, water beads.
  • Smell: Essential oils, dried herbs, scented playdough.
  • Sight: Colored rice, beads, sequins, glitter.
  • Sound: Dry pasta, small musical instruments, bells.
  • Taste: Edible dough, jelly, bland cereals.

The beauty of sensory bins is how they can constantly evolve. You can regularly alternate materials to expose the child to a variety of sensations involving contrasting textures, smells, sights, tastes, and sounds.

Remember, safety is paramount, and supervising play is essential especially for younger children or those with a tendency to mouth objects. Always be mindful of potential choking hazards, sharp edges, and any materials kids could be allergic to.

Kids’ interests change often. So, adapt with the times, and customize the sensory bin around current fixes. If your child is into dinosaurs, try making a “prehistoric” bin with sand and assorted dinosaur models. Robot fanatic? Use metal objects and magnets. Princess fan? Fill it with tiaras, wands, and costume jewelry.

Feel free to get experimental. Let your creativity steer and remember: the goal is to provide a sensory-rich environment for your child to explore.

Step 5: Enhancing the Sensory Bin with Scents and Colors

Step 5: Enhancing the Sensory Bin with Scents and Colors

Now that you’ve begun filling your sensory bin with various textures, sounds, and tastes, let’s turn our attention to the final two senses: smell and sight. These two senses can significantly enrich your child’s sensory play experience, introducing them to a whole new world of exploration and discovery. By incorporating scents and colors, your sensory bins can become more engaging and stimulating, inspiring greater curiosity and creativity in your child.

Aromatic herbs, spices, or even scented oils can be safely used to add fascinating smells to your sensory bin. You might consider materials like cinnamon sticks, crushed dry leaves, or drops of essential oils such as lavender or citrus. Each scent offers a new dimension to explore, and combined with tactile materials, they can engage multiple senses simultaneously – which is the key to effective sensory play. It’s vital to remember that certain smells might be too powerful or potentially trigger allergies, so always keep your child’s sensitivities in mind while selecting your aromatic elements.

Equally important is the visualization aspect of sensory bins. Colors can captivate a child’s attention and make your sensory bin visually attractive. You can use food color to tint your base material like rice, pasta, or water beads. Alternatively, add bright colored toys, cloth scraps, or even sparkle sequins to help sharpen their color recognition skills. Remember to use non-toxic and washable colors to maintain safety.

When piecing together your sensory bin, strive to make it as diverse and multi-dimensional as possible. After all, the idea behind sensory play is to stimulate all five senses – not just one or two.

A neat trick you can use to keep things interesting is theme-based bins. You could design a bin around a specific color or scent. For instance, a ‘Yellow Bin’ could have bananas, lemon-scented play dough, yellow buttons, and sunflower petals. Similarly, a ‘Cinnamon Scented Bin’ might include cinnamon sticks, brown colored rice, and wooden toys.

As you venture through this creative process, always remember – there’s no one single way to perfect a sensory bin. In fact, the more unique and tailored the bin is to the child’s interests, the greater chance it’ll ignite their curiosity. So, go ahead, let your imagination run free and create a sensory-rich zone your child will love to explore.

Step 6: Providing Tools for Manipulation and Fine Motor Skills

Let’s talk about fine motor skills and how you can facilitate their development through your sensory bin. Fine motor skills refer to your child’s ability to make movements using the small muscles in their hands and fingers. They’re crucial for tasks like tying shoelaces, holding a pencil to draw, or buttoning a shirt. In your sensory bin, provide tools that encourage these skills.

Start by thinking about how the items in your bin can further engage your child. Measuring cups, spoons, or little diggers, for example, can encourage scooping and pouring. These activities are not only satisfying to your child but also contribute to motor skill development.

Items like tweezers or scoops can also push your child to exercise those tiny hand muscles. They can practice their pincher grasp – an important pre-writing skill.

Engaging with Different Materials

Playing with different materials engages different muscles and skills. For instance, squeezing a squishy toy practices different muscles than threading beads or manipulating playdough.

Consider these safe tools and materials for manipulation:

  • Tweezers: for picking up small objects
  • Spoons, scoops, or shovels: for digging and scooping.
  • Whisks or spoons for stirring: great for water and sandpits
  • Squishy toys or stress balls: to engage hand muscles
  • Threading tools and beads: for practicing fine motor control

Remember: always supervise play to ensure safety.

Keep in mind that the goal isn’t to make your sensory bin a chore. It should still be a source of fascination and joy for your child. As they grasp, scoop, and explore, they’re learning and growing without even realizing it. Subtly integrating these tools into the bin ensures your child will still be captivated while improving their motor skills. And lastly, feel free to adjust the tools given their age and skill level. Their love for the sensory bin will grow along with them.

Step 7: Introducing a Theme or Storyline

Taking your sensory bin to the next level is as easy as introducing a theme or storyline. Themes and storylines enhance the sensory experience, drawing your child in and capturing their imagination. Travel to a tropical rainforest, celebrate a holiday, or take a deep dive into their favorite book. The possibilities for enhancing your sensory bin are endless.

Choose a theme that engages your child’s interest. Maybe it’s pirates, dinosaurs, or a classic fairy tale. Then, get creative with how you implement this theme in your sensory bin. This could include relevant toys, figures, textured materials, sounds, or scents. Remember to keep it safe and age-appropriate.

You might opt for a seasonal theme, such as holly berries and pine cones for a winter bin, seashells and sand for a summer theme, or brightly colored leaves for an autumn sensory bin. Vegetables, mini craft pumpkins, and hay could be incorporated into a farm-themed bin.

There’s also the option of tying the bin into a favorite book. Consider creating a sensory bin that brings ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar,’ ‘The Rainbow Fish,’ or another beloved story alive. This could really boost your child’s engagement and deepen their connection with the story.

Effortlessly turning your sensory bin into a small world can be another great way to introduce a theme or storyline. Make use of mini figurines, toy vehicles, building blocks, or natural elements like rocks, sticks, or foliage to create an enchanting miniature world that fuels your child’s imagination.

Through themed sensory bins, your child gains the opportunity to enrich their vocabulary and language skills, as they learn new words relevant to the theme. They also aid in enhancing their cognitive skills, as they learn about different concepts associated with the theme.

Adding a storyline to the sensory bin helps broaden your child’s horizon, allowing them to unleash their creativity, practice problem-solving and narrative skills. Infusing a storyline into a sensory bin will lead your child to create dialogues, solve mysteries, and go on exciting adventures.

So, as you see, introducing a theme or storyline to your sensory bin can enrich the sensory play experience immensely. Always remember to keep safety in mind, and let your imagination and creativity guide you.

Step 8: Monitoring and Supervising Sensory Play

Crafting an enriching sensory bin is not the end of your role in sensory play. In truth, your most crucial task is supervision. Children, especially the younger ones and those who still explore objects orally, need to be carefully watched while engaged in sensory play. That way, you’re ensuring their safety and maximizing the benefits of sensory play.

While you monitor, remember to observe their interactions, expressions, and gestures closely. As children use their senses to explore the materials in the bin, they’re likely to showcase a variety of reactions. To document these reactions it might be helpful to have a notebook handy. Jot down any observations or new words they use related to textures, colors, or scents.

One of the advantages of sensory bins is that they are excellent for individual play. It boosts their ability to play independently – encouraging autonomy and confidence. But keep in mind, just because they’re playing independently doesn’t mean you should leave them unattended. Devote your undivided attention during these sessions. Engage with your child by asking open-ended questions about what they’re doing or feeling. This interaction can add a social dimension to sensory play, further enhancing language and communication skills.

There’s no overstating the value of sensory play in children’s development. When you’re engaged in monitoring and supervision, you’re participating in your child’s exploration and discovery. Your involvement enriches their sensory play experience, making it far more than ‘just play’. Based on your observations, you might want to tweak the contents of the sensory bin, adding or removing materials based on what they enjoy or avoid.

So take a seat, grab your observation notebook, and get ready to dive into an exciting journey alongside your child with sensory play. But, most importantly, enjoy these precious moments, for they’re filled not only with learning but with joy, wonder, and immense curiosity.


You’ve now got the knowledge to create a sensory bin that’ll engage your child’s senses and boost their development. Remember, the key is to customize it to your child’s interests and include a variety of sensory experiences. Don’t forget to add colors and scents to stimulate curiosity and creativity. Incorporate tools to encourage manipulation and fine motor skills development. Always supervise your child during sensory play and observe their interactions. This will not only ensure safety but also help you tweak the sensory bin contents for a more enriching experience. So, get started and enjoy the precious moments of sensory play with your child. You’re set to provide a sensory-rich environment that’ll keep your child engaged, learning, and having fun.

Creating a sensory bin can significantly boost child development by providing a stimulating and engaging learning experience. According to Verywell Family, sensory bins help develop fine motor skills, encourage imaginative play, and enhance sensory processing. emphasizes that sensory play can be particularly beneficial for children with sensory processing issues, helping them explore and understand their environment.

What are the benefits of sensory play?

Sensory play can promote cognitive growth, advance motor skills, facilitate problem-solving, nurture creativity, and aid in language development. It also helps children focus better, learn faster, and enhance their ability to process information.

What are sensory bins?

Sensory bins are tools that engage a child’s five senses – touch, smell, sight, taste, and hearing. They are filled with interesting objects that grab the child’s attention, thus helping them stay engaged for longer periods.

How can we make a sensory bin?

To create a sensory bin, you require a shallow, wide container for the base, fillers like rice or water beads, and supplementary items like toys or figurines. For a sensory-rich experience, incorporate materials that engage all five senses.

Should the sensory bin be safe for children?

Absolutely. Safety is a foremost consideration during sensory play, especially for younger children or those prone to mouthing objects. Always supervise play and use safe sensory materials.

Can sensory bins be customized?

Yes, sensory bins can be tailored to fit a child’s current interests. Parents are encouraged to be creative and experimental, incorporating different textures, scents, and colors to inspire curiosity and creativity.

How can sensory play help with fine motor skills?

Sensory play can facilitate fine motor skills. Tools like measuring cups, spoons, tweezers, and scoops can be added to the sensory bin to encourage activities like scooping and pouring, which help to develop these skills.

How should parents supervise sensory play?

Parents should observe a child’s interactions, expressions, and gestures closely during sensory play. It’s important to document their reactions and new words related to textures, colors, or scents. Engage with the child by asking open-ended questions, and be ready to alter the contents of the sensory bin based on observations.

Scroll to Top