6 DIY Sensory Bin Ideas for Toddlers & Kids

Sensory bins have recently taken the toddler market by storm. Sensory bins are containers that hold small trinkets or toys, usually centered around a specific theme, that encourage your child to engage in creative play. You can be as creative or straightforward with sensory bins as you choose. Sensory bins can be made easily and inexpensively at home. 

How to Make Your Own Sensory Bin at Home

toddler and sensory bin

If you don’t have time to make your own, you can find sensory bins for sale online. However, they are enjoyable to create with your child and when DIY-ing it, you can customize them to your little one’s personal taste.

  1. Start with a simple container. A tub, a large plastic bag, a box. You get to pick
  2. Select what your “base item” will be. Get creative! There are a number of widely available, inexpensive options. Some examples might be water, sand or rice. Beans, potting soil, beads, dry cereal, mini marshmallows and shaving cream also make fantastic base items
  3. Pick a theme, and then place items in the bin that support that theme. The sky's the limit here! Toss in cups, balls, toy cars, figurines, cotton balls, empty toilet paper rolls and so on. Think outside the box with this one
  4. Pick a space for your child’s sensory bin and let your child go to town. Be sure to watch your young child so they don’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 your sensory bin outside or setting it on top of a tablecloth or towel.
  5. Ta-da! You’ve created a fun, engaging activity for your child.

6 Ideas for Summer Sensory Bins

toddler playing with sensory bin

Summer is such a bright, cheery time of year that lends itself easily to fun themes and motifs. Whether you prefer the beach or the pool you can easily borrow some of summer’s biggest destinations as themes for your child’s sensory bin.

1. I scream, you scream sensory bin

Who doesn’t want ice cream, especially in summertime? Why not use ice cream as a theme for a sensory bin? Use multi-colored sprinkles (or a single color if you prefer) as the base for this bin. Then toss in ice cream cones, ice cream scoops, measuring cups, spoons and even red pom poms to act as cherries. Then let your child go to town creating ice cream creations for you! To encourage learning with this bin, give your child a popsicle stick and have them practice tracing letters into the sprinkles.

2. Sunshine and rainbows-themed sensory bin

Summer sunshine is simply the best. Use it to inspire a sunshine and rainbows sensory bin. 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 them string beads on the pipe cleaners. You can either have your child match blue to blue, red to red and so on or ask your child to create patterns however they choose.

3. Ocean Life-themed sensory bin

Who doesn’t love to imagine what life under the sea might be like? Let your child’s imagination run wild with these ocean-themed sensory bin. Dye some cooked spaghetti noodles blue with food coloring to use as the base here. Then toss in cooked shell pasta to act as shells in the ocean. Then give your child marine life toys to play with. Think sharks, crabs, whales, seahorses- even mermaids, if you want. To engage your child in learning with this bin, get out a plastic knife and have them lay out and cut the spaghetti into different lengths or amounts. Have them describe what the pasta feels like.

4. Beach-ready sensory bin

Bring the beach to your tot no matter where you are. Start with clean sand for your child to play with. Fill the bin with measuring cups, spoons, shovels, cookie cutters or tiny molds for the sand. Cups would be fun, too. Anything your child might enjoy playing with at the beach. To engage your child with this bin, have them flatten the sand to the bottom of the bin and use a popsicle stick to trace letters in the sand. Then let them fill different sizes of measuring cups with sand and see if they can make “mountains” in the sand with them. Have your child sort the different containers filled with sand by size.

5. Buzz Buzz Little Bee themed sensory bag

A sensory bag is a fun themed activity for on the go. This bag requires permanent markers, hair gel and dried beans. Paint the beans to look like bees (or ladybugs, if they are more your jam!). Take your large plastic bag and draw a few flowers or hives on it. On the flower, draw a number in the center- say, 10. Then, in each of the petals, write numbers that can add up to 10. Then fill the bag with a generous amount of clear hair gel and drop the bees or ladybugs inside. Engage your child by asking them to move the beans to the different petals that add up to the center number. Fun math to the rescue! If you’re taking this bag on the go, make sure to seal the top with hot glue to avoid a mess later.

6. Pool-themed sensory bin

This sensory bin can get a bit messy, so it’s best to take this outside. Dye a bunch of shaving cream blue to look like pool water. Then have your child “dive” for treasures in the “water” as they would dive for treasures in the pool. Drop in dive gems, pennies, small trinkets or beads. To engage your child with this bin, have your child group items in the bin and count. How many dive gems are there? How many of each color? How many pennies? How many nickels?

Sensory bins are a great, inexpensive way to entertain your child any time of the year. They are easy to recreate and reimagine using items from around the house to save you money. For other ways to save money during your parenting journey, check out Good Buy Gear to purchase pre-loved items at a discount so you get the items you need without breaking the bank.

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