10 Sensory Bins Your Toddler Will Love

Valentine sensory bin for toddlers

Using sensory bins with babies and toddlers doesn't have to be scary and overwhelming. Can it be messy? Yes, but it can be a controlled mess too depending on how you set it up. A sensory bin is simply some type of container with different materials and tools in it to expose young children to different sensory experiences as well as practicing different skills such as fine motor muscle development. It can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. 

I think your toddler will LOVE these ten sensory bin ideas!
10 simple sensory bins for toddlers plus a list of ideas for getting started with sensory play for little ones. Also includes a free supply list.
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Sensory bins are generally open ended. You are allowing your little one to touch and feel different materials. As they get older they can practice sorting items in the bin, scooping, dumping, picking things up with different tools, etc.

I've got some tips and tricks for you along with some sensory bin ideas you can use right now with your little ones. Most of these were bins I did while my daughter was one and we've repeated a few of them now that she is two. I've also compiled a FREE printable list of supplies you can have on hand to create sensory bins quickly.
Ice and water sensory bin

Tips and Tricks for Using Sensory Bins with Babies and Toddlers

-The first few times you use a sensory bin, you will have to teach your little one how to use it. Explain that they keep everything inside the bin when they are playing.

-You don't have to buy new stuff each time. Save and reuse supplies or use things you have around the house.

-You don't need a sensory bin for each holiday. Seasonal bins are definitely fun to make, but if it is too crazy for you during certain times of the year, don't pressure yourself to have a holiday bin for your little one to play with.

-If you do want to make holiday or seasonal bins, check out the clearance section at craft stores after a holiday passes and stock up for next year.

-Save the items in your bin in large Ziploc bags (I like the 2.5Gallon ones for this depending on the size of your bin) and you can pull it out again another time. Sometimes depending on what bin we did, I save the filler (beans, rice, paper, etc.) in a separate bag so I can use it with different supplies and tools.

-Change out the bin when your little one seems to lose interest. If they get excited and want to play every time you take the lid off, keep it going until they aren't interested anymore.

-Allow your child to have multiple days with the bins. This goes with the above tip, but I also mean don't give up on it after the first day. Some bins my daughter just doesn't seem to care about, but I keep offering it every couple days to see if she finds any interest in it. If not, no big deal.

-Teach your little one how to use the supplies. I usually just set supplies in the bins (like measuring cups, spoons, tweezers, tongs, eye droppers, etc.) and let her explore. Sometimes to keep the play going longer, I show her how to use those tools in that specific bin to see if she wants to copy what I'm doing.

-Set a plastic/vinyl tablecloth or shower curtain under the bin. This will help to contain some of the mess and make cleanup a little easier.

-If they start to make a mess intentionally, like throwing items from the bin, dumping things outside of the bin, etc. correct them and show them how to do it. If it continues, close the bin and put it away and talk about expectations again.

-Know your child. If they like to put everything in their mouths, only use items that are taste safe and not choking hazards. My girls rarely put items in their mouth and sometimes to discourage even attempting this, I would let them have their pacifier while they played so their mouth was blocked.
Fall harvest sensory bin for toddlers

Supplies Needed for Sensory Bins:

To make it easy for you to find our favorite supplies, I have a sensory and fine motor section in my Amazon Affiliate store. I've tried to link as many of the items as I can there. 

Some of the items, especially seasonal items come from Target, Michaels, Joann Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, Dollar Store, etc. 

I've linked our bin on Amazon but for some reason it only comes in multi packs, but I have found it at Target for under $15 dollars. We started out with a smaller bin but when my older two started playing together we moved to a larger under the bed sized bin so they had more space. We continue to use that size bin no matter how many kiddos are playing with the bin.

Water & Ice Sensory Bin

Water and ice sensory bin

This is a simple one to put together but a huge hit everytime we do it. My little one loves water, bathtime, swimming, etc. so playing in a bin of water is a win.

Supplies used:
Large Plastic Bin
Ice Cubes
Measuring Cups

Pumpkin Wash Sensory Bin

Pumpkin Wash sensory bin

This was another hit because it included two favorites - water and bubbles. I put all the supplies for washing and cleaning in the bin, plus some mini pumpkins and showed her how to scrub the pumpkins, rinse them and dry them. I included containers with soapy water and containers with clean water.

The washing sensory bin doesn't have to just be pumpkins. You can wash cars, animal toys, duplo legos, any plastic toys, etc.

Supplies Used:
Large Plastic Bin
Clean Water
Soapy/bubbly water
Eye dropper
Scrub brush
Wash clothes
Dry towel
Mini Pumpkins

Valentine's Day Fun Sensory Bin

Valentine's Day water bead sensory bin

Water beads are always a hit with my girls, even my oldest two love them still. Follow the directions on your package of water beads, but basically you are going to need to pour in the beads and some water and let it sit for a few house as the beads expand. The beads can sometimes get bouncy and roll across your floor so be prepared.

We love scooping the beads, sorting them in ice cube trays (if there are multiple colors included), sending them through our biggest funnel, and filling cups with them. 

Supplies Used:
Large Plastic Bin
Pink, red, clear water beads
Table scatter (plastic hearts)
Ice Cube Trays
Measuring Cups
Pink and red bowls and cups

Fall Themed Fun Sensory Bin

Apple, leave and pumpkin sensory bin for fall

This bin is called grab one of everything that seems like fall and put it into a bin together. And so we have apples, pumpkins, and leaves. The pompoms represent different color apples and can be used to sort by color. We also used them to push through a toilet paper roll.

Supplies Used:
Large pompoms (red, yellow, green)
Fake leaves
Felt pumpkins
Plastic Apples
Toilet paper roll

More Fall Themed Fun Sensory Bin

Fall sensory bin for kids

This was a last minute bin before Thanksgiving which meant I found most of these supplies on clearance at Hobby Lobby. 

Supplies Used:
Large Plastic Bin
Paper shred
Fake Acorns
Mini Pinecones
Styrofoam pumpkins
Wicker pumpkins
Fake leaves

Pompom Sensory Bin

Pom pom sensory bin for kids

This is an easy bin to put together and to start with for little ones. Even if they spill or dump, it doesn't make a mess. I just let my daughter play and scoop. Later on I showed her how to put a pompom through a cardboard tube.

Supplies Used:
Large Plastic Bin
Pompoms in a variety of sizes and colors
Empty toilet paper rolls
Measuring Cups

Halloween Pasta Sensory Bin

Halloween sensory bin with dry noodles

Dried pasta makes a fun filler. I've tried a few different ways to dye it. My favorite is to put it in a Ziploc bag with a few squirts of hand sanitizer and a few drops of food coloring. Then close the bag and squish it around until the color is all over the pasta. If you need to, add more food coloring. Then dump it out onto a cookie sheet to dry.

This method works best with regular food coloring, not the gel type. I used the gel on this particular bin because I wanted those specific colors, but it took a long time to dry in all the nooks and crannies of the pasta, especially the black.

Supplies Used:
Large Plastic Bin
Three types of pasta dyed (bow ties for bats, corkscrews for witches hair, and elbow noodles)
Plastic cauldrons
Foam pumpkins

Water Bead Sensory Bin

Water bead sensory bin for toddlers

Water beads are a hit with all of my girls. Even at 7 and 9, my older two will dig into a sensory bin of water beads. This is pretty simple, just put water beads and water in a bin. Wait for the beads to expand. Add more water if they need to expand more. Most water beads also come with directions for how much water to add, but I just wing it. Make sure you do this one ahead of time as it can take time (sometimes a few hours) for them to fully expand. Then I add in any combination of measuring cups, scoops, ice cube trays, silicone muffin holders, etc. for scooping, dumping and sorting.

Supplies Needed:
Measuring Cups
Ice cube trays 
Silicone muffin holders

Winter Wonderland Sensory Bin

Winter wonderland sensory bin for babies

With this bin you just need to throw some cotton balls in the bin. I had some foam mittens and snowmen on hand. You could easily cut these out of foam (or construction paper) or you could even use real mittens. We practiced using the spoon to scoop up a "snowball" and set it on a mitten or snowman. 

Supplies Needed:
Cotton Balls (I used white and blue)
Foam mittens, snowflakes & snowmen

Color Match/I Spy Sensory Bin

Green i spy sensory bin

This one took me longer than most to set up, but I thought it would be a hit based on my daughter's love of a similar book. We have these Crayola color books that have all these different real life pictures on it in whatever the color of the book is. On each page we go through the items and ask her to find them. All of my girls have loved these books and I wish they weren't out of print or I would link them and gift them to everyone I know. 

For this bin I went around the house and found a bunch of green things. I took pictures of groups of items and laminated it. Then I put all the items plus some green paper shred into the bin. Then we went through the pictures and I had my daughter search for the matching item in the bin.

Supplies Used:
Large Plastic Bin
Green items from around the house
Green paper shred

Other Sensory Bin Ideas

Sensory bin ideas for the whole year

Looking for more ideas for sensory bins? Check out this post or search sensory bins in the search bar of my blog. I have lots of ideas that I've used with my girls at a variety ages. They may not all be appropriate for babies and toddlers but it could give you some ideas for what to try next.

Free Sensory Bin Supply List

Free supply list to help you get started with sensory bins for your babies, toddlers or preschoolers.

Not sure what you need to have on hand to start a sensory bin? I've compiled a list of supplies that can easily be used as filler or supplies in a bin. You by no means need to have everything on this list, but it will get you started the next time you are at the dollar store, craft store, or grocery store. Sometimes I will specifically go out looking for items for on particular bin, but usually I just pull out supplies we have on hand to create a bin to keep my little one entertained.

To download your FREE Sensory Bin Supply Checklist, click the enter your name and email in the form below and the file will be emailed directly to you. If you have any problems getting your freebie, check out our FAQs for help or try a different web browser.