How To Build a Sensory Bin

We are right in the middle of the exploring years in our household at the moment. We have a 1 year old who wants to touch, feel and shake everything she can get her hands on, and a 4 year old who is exploring language, science and action/reaction principles. So sensory bins are a go to for me! They are so easy to create, practical, great for inside or outdoors and customisable to whatever it may be that we’re learning about.

But WHY should you be making them for your children?

Sensory bins are a great hands-on tools for little ones! They teach a child about their world, their sense of touch, smell and sight. They can help to calm, inspire, focus or entertain a child for hours.

Here are just a few of the benefits of playing with sensory bins –

  • Understanding your body / senses – a sensory bin can include items that stimulate and develop at least a few of our senses (touch, sight, taste, sound and smell). Using these senses will help a child understand their own body and their place in the world. Let’s take one of the most simple sensory bin inclusions of Rainbow Rice. Feel the rice slip through your fingers, listen to it pitter patter onto each other, look at the beautiful colours, smell the rice (this might work better if you include some essential oils). We’re only missing out on taste here – but you can add other things to develop that skill.

Apple And Cinnamon Sensory Bin by Fantastic Fun & Learning 

  • Exploring elements in daily life – you can further this with a ‘theme’ for your bin. For example, you child may be interested in Trucks and Construction. Add some sand, some trucks and diggers, some pretend trees and explore how the trucks can move the sand and create a new world. Spring time coming? Put some flower cuttings, tree branches and eggs (play eggs) in the box. Raining outside? Let’s enjoy some water play!

  • Emotional development playing with a sensory bin is a wonderful opportunity to play side by side or even cooperatively with others. Take turns tipping out the cups of glitter over the playground, share the mini flexi family playing at the beach. It’s a perfect chance for children to play in shared space and learn about boundaries and cooperation.
  • Language development – the conversation will not end when you’re playing with a sensory bin. Talk through what you are doing, explain what they are doing, discuss what you THINK might happen, explore feelings by using toys as role play.

  • Fine motor skills – have you tried to pick up one piece of rice? It’s trickier than you might think! Develop those skills with a sensory bin. Plus hand eye coordination, spatial awareness and problem solving skills.

Cars & Signs Sensory Bin by CleverStuff


  • Select your bin – we like clear ones, but depending you your space you can use anything from a shoe box, a huge storage container and everything in between
  • Select your base filler - Our favourite bases include rice (coloured and plain), rice puffs, sand, water, dry pasta and birdseed but we have even seen some using pebbles, rocks, leaves, pom poms, flour. Really, there is no limit to the options!
  • Pop in your scoops, mixers, tongs and containers - Usually we just grab measuring cups, spoons and ladles from the kitchen, but any containers will do.
  • Theme - If you decide to explore a theme you can add whatever you like to do this. Here are some of our favourite bin themes


A Flower Sensory Bin by The Thoughtful Spot Daycare

Alphabet – we hide letters from our alphabet puzzles and use cups or tongs to pick them up and build words. We use THESE alphabet toys

Construction – include some trucks and cars, some diggers, some rocks and some  building blocks and build your own town! You can find HEAPS of vehicle toys HERE 

Zoo – pipe cleaner fences, wooden animals and flexi people to wander around the zoo. This is great for sound because you can imitate the animals too. Need animals look HERE

Colours – we use shaving foam, a couple of food colouring drops and explore how mixing them together creates new colours. A few drops of essesntial oils like lemon or lavender really make this a fun experience for my kids.


Ocean Sensory Bin by Gift of Curiosity 

Please be aware of your childs skin allergies or sensitivities before adding oils, food etc to your bins.