Looking for preschool sensory bin ideas? You’ve come to the right place!
What is a sensory bin?
Typically, a sensory bin consists of a container filled with materials that stimulate and engage your child’s senses. There are so many exciting options for creating DIY sensory bins to use at home or in your preschool classroom!
Colored rice, dry pasta, dry beans, shredded paper, water, sand, water beads, even Jell-o can be used to fill a sensory bin.
But what’s the point?
Why should you use sensory bins in you preschool classroom?
Keep reading to discover the many benefits of incorporating sensory bins into your preschool lessons and free play this year. Plus, get some awesome sensory bin ideas your preschoolers will love.
Sensory Bin Benefits for Preschoolers
Research shows that children learn best when they use a combination of auditory, visual, and tactile learning. Sensory bins are the best activities to use with your preschoolers because it allows them to imagine, learn, problem solve and construct all while activating their senses.
Imagine the thrill of plunging both hands into a container filled with colorful rice.
First, the rainbow colors fill your eyes while the tiny grains rub against your skin.
Then, you begin to discover hidden treasures! Small objects and tools are in the bin that engage your remaining senses. You scoop up a cup of rice and transfer it to another container. The sound captivates you as you brainstorm your next move.
It’s a wonderful experience filled with plenty of opportunities to learn.
That’s what sensory bins are for, exploring the world with multiple senses in a way that encourages focus, learning, and engagement.
In fact, there are so many benefits to using sensory bins with kids that occupational therapists regularly include them in sessions with children of all ages. Here are some of the sensory benefits for your preschoolers:
Language and Literacy Skills
Sensory bins can be filled with items that encourage language acquisition and development by providing opportunities to learn new words and discuss hidden objects.
Learning the alphabet and beginning sounds?
Fill your sensory bin with hidden items that all begin with different letter sounds. Then, after finding the items, have your preschoolers guess which letter sound they start with and match them to a DIY alphabet page.
If you’re looking for a way to practice letter recognition with your toddlers or preschoolers, this sensory bin idea would be perfect for you!
It’s a simple set up. To recreate this:
- Make a DIY alphabet worksheet with lower case letters
- Write capital letters on clothes pins
- Add a filler of your choice to a bin and
- Hide the clothes pins in the filler
Your little learners will love searching through the bin to find a clothes pin, identifying the letter, and matching it to the space on their worksheet.
Fine Motor Skills
Preschoolers can practice important fine motor skills with sensory bins by grasping, stirring, scooping, pinching, and pouring using special tools.
Some of my favorite fine motor tools are:
- Measuring Cups
- Clothes Pins
- Spoons or Scoops
- Mini Shovels
- Jumbo Tweezers and
These will help your preschoolers to build strong finger muscles as they explore the sensory bin.
Early Cognitive Skills
Did you know you can create some really cool problem solving opportunities with sensory bins?
Preschoolers can build important cognitive skills by sorting the hidden items in a sensory bin into groups. Encourage your preschool learners to sort items by color, shape, or even size.
Or, turn your sensory bin into a scavenger hunt! Give your preschoolers a list of the items hidden in the bin and set them free on a treasure hunt to find all the hidden items.
Responsibility and Expectations
Just like other classroom or household rules, expectations for sensory bins should be explicitly modeled for kids! One thing you will want to teach is your expectations for the clean up process.
Modeling is key here.
Model scattering rice on the floor and sweeping it up with a dust pan and broom.
Model spilling water on the table and wiping it up with a paper towel.
With enough practice your students will be sensory bin all stars. If they do have an accident, you can trust them to clean up after themselves!
How to Make Sensory Bins
It’s true that sensory bins are filled with lots of learning opportunities and often contain a wide variety of items. However, it’s not hard to DIY a sensory bin that’s perfect for your preschoolers.
If you’re not sure how to get started making one for your classroom, try these easy to follow sensory bin basics:
Getting a good container for your sensory bin experience is a must. First, consider how many kids will be using the bin at a time.
Do you need a large bin for your classroom or individual bins for centers? Here are a few of our favorites:
- Flisat Table
- This is my absolute favorite sensory bin table! It has holes for 2-4 bins and is under $50 if you can snag it from IKEA. No IKEA near you? You can still grab this table from Amazon.
- Homz Snaplock Clear Storage Bin with Lid
- Children’s Factory 18” Sensory Table & Lid Set
- 4 Liter Portable Sand Tray with Lid
- Storex Small Cubby Bins with Lids
- This is a great option if you’re needing several small bins for individual use.
Sensory bins need engaging fillers that provide lots of tactile stimulation for your preschoolers. Choose a filler that’s appropriate for your kids.
If you’re planning on using this sensory bin with very young children, you might want to choose an edible filler like cake mix, pasta, salt, rice, or beans. Here are some of our favorite successful sensory bin filler ideas:
- Water Beads
- Pom Poms
- Aquarium Rocks
- Kinetic Sand
- Chick Peas
- Colored Rice
- Shredded Paper
- Bird Seed
- Shaving Cream
This list is definitely not the end all, be all to fillers. Anything that stimulates the senses will work! Think various tastes, scents, sounds, colors, and textures (squishy, bumpy, fuzzy, crinkly, slick etc.).
Tools & Hidden Items
Finally, you’ll want to add interest and encourage your preschoolers to engage with the sensory bin by including tools and hidden items for them to discover.
Often, items included at this stage are themed. You can change your sensory bin to fit with your current preschool theme as often as you’d like. Here are some of our favorite preschool tools for DIY sensory bins:
- Measuring Cups
- Magnetic Wands
- Recycled Containers and Scoops
- Plastic Shovels
- Salad Tongs
- Plastic Easter Eggs
- Various sizes of gourds
- Cookie Cutters
- Plastic hearts
Best DIY Sensory Bins
Need some great ideas for your first DIY sensory bin? Check out some of my favorite sensory bin ideas for preschoolers:
Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin Idea
You can create a fun Valentine’s Day themed sensory bin for your preschoolers with just a few ingredients and a whole lot of fun!
A fun pink or red filler makes a great base for your Valentine’s Day sensory bin. Colored rice works perfectly.
Then, include items like heart shaped cookie cutters, conversation heart candies, tongs, artificial roses, funnels, spoons, and plastic hearts. For extra fun, spray the artificial roses with perfume to add an unexpected sensory element your preschoolers will love.
Check out this adorable sensory bin, for example.
It’s a quick set up and smells amazing too! I don’t know about you, but when I think of Valentines Day, I picture all the sweets! This adorable bin is a fun way for your little ones to make their own sweet treat creations.
To recreate this, you’ll need to first bake the cake according to the instructions on the box. Then, use a spoon to crumble the cake mix and dump it in a bin for an edible filler.
Finally, add in these tools and themed objects:
- Mini Cups
- Whipped Cream
- Heart Cupcake Liners
- Heart Dishes
- Sensory Bin
When your kids are done exploring in this Valentines sensory bin they’ll love diving in and enjoying their sweet treats. Yum!
Ocean Animals Sensory Bin Idea
Preschoolers love water beads and they happen to be the filler for this fun sensory bin idea.
This DIY ocean animals sensory bin is the perfect addition to a preschool theme about fish or the ocean.
Include a Safari Ltd. ocean animals toob, shovels, small buckets, and aquarium decorations for a really cool ocean themed DIY sensory bin your preschoolers won’t forget.
Halloween Sensory Bin Ideas
Have you tried using black beans as a filler? It’s perfect to use in a Halloween sensory bin during fall.
This Autumn sensory bin comes with a free Halloween printable so you can use it with your preschoolers right away this October.
St Patrick’s Day Sensory Bin Ideas
Another filler you should use in your sensory bins is Kinetic Sand.
This DIY St Patrick’s Day sensory bin would be a great addition to a St Patrick’s Day preschool theme. To recreate this, you can include:
- Gold coins
- Kinetic Sand
- Pots of Gold
- Mini Rainbows
- My St. Patrick’s Day printables
If you’re low on space, you can even create a sensory bin in a bottle!
These Mason Jars are perfect for individual sensory bins in a bottle. All you need for this activity is:
- Mason Jars
- Food Coloring
- Letter Beads
- A Free Alphabet Search Worksheet
I know your students will enjoy this mess free sensory bin idea in your St. Patrick’s Day theme!
Presidents Day Sensory Bin Idea
Patriotic sensory bins are always a hit with children. This is an easy DIY sensory bin for a Presidents Day, Memorial Day, or 4th of July theme.
Simply fill a bin with shredded paper and decorations such as pom poms and stars!
If you want to add an educational aspect to your bin, I have many free patriotic printables that you can include as well.
Alphabet Sensory Bin Idea
Want to use sensory bins to help teach important preschool lessons? Then you’re going to love this letter sensory bin activity.
I’ve put together a free printable alphabet worksheet you can use to help teach letter identification and letter sounds to your preschoolers while engaging their senses.
Using the filler of your choice (I used ice), hide alphabet letters in your sensory bin. Alphabet magnets, foam letters, or letters written on clothes pins work well for this activity.
Then, have your preschoolers use their tools (tweezers, scoops, spoons, tongs) to find the hidden letters and match them to the letters on this printable alphabet activity page.
Christmas Sensory Bin Ideas
Christmas has got to be my favorite time of the year. The cool weather, jolly spirits, and adorable Christmas activities bring me so much joy.
Take this Christmas sensory bin for example? Can you guess what the filler is?
It’s fake snow! I’ve tried different kinds of fake snow throughout the years and THIS one is by far my favorite to use.
I love how it molds like Playdoh, but stays fresh forever like Kinetic Sand. This sensory bin is great because it easily holds up my beginning sound cards for this Christmas preschool reading activity.
You can also add objects like pom poms, jingle bells, and cookie cutters to make this DIY Christmas sensory bin a very fun holiday activity.
Farm Sensory Bin Ideas
You can create a fun farm themed sensory bin for your preschoolers with just a few materials that is jam packed with fun!
Since children typically have a lot of schema about farms and animals, this sensory bin makes it easy to build on their knowledge through imaginary play.
Green or brown Kinetic Sand makes a great base for your farm sensory bin because it resembles a pasture.
Then, include items like a barn, farm animals, a tractor, and crops or fake food for added fun.
I hope you’ve got lots of great sensory bin ideas to use in your preschool classroom this year! How do you plan to use sensory bins to extend your lessons and engage the senses with your preschoolers? Share your ideas in the comments section. I can’t wait to read them!
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