Sensory bins have recently taken the toddler market by storm. They are essentially 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, and they are something that can easily be made from the items you already have at home.
How to Make Your Own Sensory Bin at Home
If you don’t have time to make your own, you can find sensory bins for sale online. However, they are fun create with your kiddo and when DIY-ing it, you can customize them to your little one’s personal taste.
- Start with a simple container: A tub, a large plastic bag or a box. You get to pick.
- 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.
- 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 and let your little help in the process.
- Pick a space for your child’s sensory bin and let them go to town: Be sure to watch your little one 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 want to take it outside or sett it on top of a tablecloth or towel.
6 Ideas for Summer Sensory Bins
Here are some popular, easy to make sensory bin ideas you can do with your kiddo.
1. I Scream, You Scream Sensory Bin
Who doesn’t want ice cream? 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 kiddo have fun creating ice cream creations for you.
GoodBuy Gear Tip: 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 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, you can use pipe cleaners in rainbow colors, beads in rainbow colors, pompoms in rainbow colors and anything else you can think of that comes in rainbow and sunshine hues.
GoodBuy Gear Tip: To engage your child using this bin, have them string beads on the pipe cleaners. You can either have them match blue to blue, red to red and so on or ask your little one to create patterns however they choose.
3. Ocean Life Sensory Bin
Who doesn’t love to imagine what life under the sea might be like? Let your child’s imagination run wild with this 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. Next, give your tiny human marine life toys to play with. Think sharks, crabs, whales, seahorses- even mermaids, if you want.
GoodBuy Gear Tip: To encourage learning, get out a plastic knife and have them lay out and cut the spaghetti into different lengths or amounts. Or, 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 little one might enjoy playing with at the beach.
GoodBuy Gear Tip: As an activity, 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. You can also have your kiddo sort the different containers filled with sand by size.
5. Buzz Buzz Little Bee Sensory Bag
Think of a sensory bag like a sensory bin on the go. To make this sensory bag, you'll need permanent markers, a plastic bag, 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, for example, 10. Then, in each of the petals, write numbers that add up to that number (10). Next, fill the bag with a generous amount of clear hair gel and drop the bees or ladybugs inside.
GoodBuy Gear Tip: To get your kiddo excited and incorporate some math, have them move the beans to the different petals that add up to the center number. 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 Party 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. Drop in dive gems, pennies, small trinkets or beads. Then, have your kiddo “dive” for treasures in the “water” as they would dive for treasures in the pool.
GoodBuy Gear Tip: To engage your kiddo even more, have them 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 little one 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 GoodBuy Gear to purchase pre-loved items at a discount so you get the items you need without breaking the bank.