Sensory Bins

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

A sensory bin/tray is a container filled with themed items that provide a calming activity and the opportunity to learn through exploration whilst engaging the senses and meeting sensory needs.

Providing this experience enables you to identify preferred items and sensations that can be used as motivators or calm an individual when stressed.

This sensory play will develop fine motor skills as the explorer manipulates the objects, problem solving skills through experimentation, creativity and imagination through exploration and the opportunity to build language and communication skills.

If working in a group this activity will aid social and emotional development and skills as learners engage in turn-taking, sharing, cooperation and listening to others' ideas.

How to Make a Sensory Bin

Find a container

A large tray, cardboard box, bucket, large plastic storage box, plastic paddling pool

Add a Base Layer

Dried rice, pasta and pulses, dried oats, dried cereal, shredded paper, straw, Pom Poms, flour, cotton wool balls, coloured water, sand, moon dust, packing peanuts, feathers, buttons, shells, leaves, wood shavings, corks, bottle tops, edible herbs and flowers, potting compost, foam, ice, pine cones, slime, goop, cloud dough, wool, ribbon, confetti, sponges...the imagination is the limit!

Add Fine Motor Tools

Cups, spoons, forks, measuring jugs, colander, whisk, sieve, funnel, pipette, food tongs, wooden utensils, scoops, paintbrushes, chopsticks, moon dust (see recipe below)

Encourage Exploration

Add items to encourage scientific investigation.

Torch, magnifying glass, magnets, pen/paper, egg carton/ice cube/cake baking tray for sorting items, plastic tweezers and a mirror.

Supervise Play!

Ensure that play is supervised at all times by a responsible adult,

Be aware of any potential choking hazards or allergies.

Moon Dust Recipe

Add ½ cup Olive Oil to 2 cups of cornflower and rub together using the tips of your fingers and thumbs, adding extra cornflour if needed, to form a moon dust consistency. Add silvers of aluminium foil or a sprinkle of glitter for extra sparkle!

Chinese New Year Sensory Bin
  • Layer the base of a tray, bucket or paddling pool with dried rice or noodles, red or gold shredded paper.

  • Sprinkle with Chinese five spice/star anise/ginger.

  • Scatter cinnamon sticks/ star anise/chocolate coins.

  • Add spoons, bowls, chopsticks or tweezers for sensory explorers to practice their fine motor skills.

  • Add toy animals to represent the animals of the Chinese Zodiac.

Winter Themed Sensory Bin

  • Layer the tray with ice cubes (for igloo making), fake snow, cotton wool balls, shaving foam or polystyrene packing peanuts.

  • Sprinkle with silver glitter or slivers of aluminium foil.

  • twigs, tweezers, polystyrene packing peanuts.

  • Provide gloves, scarves and hats for the sensory explorer to wear.

  • Add a torch and magnifying glass for scientific exploration.

The Three Little Pigs Sensory Bin
  • Layer the tray with straw/hay/dried grass/shredded wheat/vermicelli, dried noodles.

  • Scatter sticks/twigs,lollipop sticks, breadsticks, Twiglets, cinnamon sticks on top of the base layer.

  • Add Duplo, Lego, rubber/stickle or wooden bricks

  • Add items to aid exploration of the cause and effect of blowing: feathers/tissue paper/recorder/whistle/bicycle/balloon pump/blowing bubbles/bellows/ balloons/hand held fan/battery operated mini fan/card or paper fan.

Other Ideas for Sensory Bins

Colour themed

Baking themed













Story Themed

Festivals & Holidays (Easter, Diwali, Christmas, St Patricks Day, Ramadan