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Inexpensive Sensory Bin Ideas

These Inexpensive Sensory Bin Ideas include fillers and other items you may already have at home! Keep your toddler or preschooler busy all day long!

collage photo of things for sensory bins.

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In short, sensory bins are for sensory development. But what is sensory development? 

It is not the development of the 5 senses. I don't know about yours, but my bundle of joy not only has her 5 senses, but is very firm in a number of things (like my singing) that she doesn't like.

No, when we talk about sensory development, we are talking about the way the brain receives, organizes, and responds to information collected through sensory activities.

Sensory development helps little ones track objects with their eyes, establish whether an object is edible or not, learn to sit and listen when books are being read. Eventually, they will begin problem solving and understanding common dangers (like hot or sharp objects).

Sensory bins allow our little ones to explore their senses, learn to self regulate their bodies and emotions, promote language development, and so much more. The best part is that just like every little one is different, sensory bins can be altered and changed to fit the needs of each individual.

With the knowledge of how beneficial sensory bins can be, comes the desire to want them for our children. Our wonderful children who are growing everyday. And with that growth comes the breaking, losing, losing interest in, and all around outgrowing of toys. Before you start pulling from their college fund or taking out that second mortgage, just know, sensory bins can be made from many things you already own.

plastic containers, scoops, toothbrush and cup laying on grass.

1. The container

  • No need to go out to buy something special. A water table or any large plastic container will do.

assorted dry pasta on a gray background.

2. The filling

beakers and tongs on a gray background.

3. The tools

The tools do not need to be the newest and greatest invention. These angels have only been around a short time. Everyday household items like the tube leftover from the paper towels or even a spatula are the newest and greatest inventions to them.


4. An objective

This is where the sensory bin can alter to fit each individuals needs and interests.

toy animals on a gray background.

  • Set up a toy wash. This can be for carsdinosaurs, Legos, even dolls and stuffed animals. As long as it is something that can dry on its own or be placed in the dryer without damage.
  • Before the wash, let's make them dirty. Cocoa and flour make toys very "muddy".
  • Let's go to the beach! Or pretend with beach or bath toys and crushed cereal. Cheerios make for a very tasty sandcastle.
  • Play sink or float. Giving your little one various items (that are water safe) and having them predict if the item will sink or float.

rainbow spaghetti on a baking sheet.

  • Rainbow pasta. With an assortment of different pastas, dry or cooked and different colors, throw in small toys or pom poms to match the colors. The objective being either to find the non-pasta items or to separate the colors. 
  • Do you really need a reason to dig? Any bin that requires digging is always fun. They can pretend to work digging up dinosaurs, or just dig because it's fun.
  • Shaving cream letters. Here is a chance for little ones to practice drawing in general. With a thin layer of shaving cream, they can let their fingers work magic.
  • With cotton balls and pom poms in a bin, it can be chaos! Your little ones can get to work organizing colors and sizes.
  • The thrill of the hunt. Hide shapes in the bin. Challenge your hunter to find and match the shapes.
  • This is also an opportunity to work with capital and lower case letters.


These are just a few suggestions. Learning does not have to look like learning and it doesn't have to hurt your wallet. As always, use constant supervision to avoid choking or any other hazard and use good judgement on which items are appropriate for your child's age.

kitchen utensils on a gray background with a title text overlay.

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