Inside: The sensory bin basics you need to own (and 15 activities to do with these supplies)
You don’t need to own a ton of supplies to make awesome sensory bins.
I walked downstairs this morning and was hit by a wall of mess: a full dishwasher, sticky counters, breakfast remnants and what I assumed was a fruit snack ground into the hardwoods.
I definitely needed a moment to get my life under control which is when my toddler came running around the corner looking to be entertained.
How in the world am I going to get a minute to clean this / keep him occupied / not abandon him with Daniel Tiger (again)?
Duh. A sensory bin that’s how.
Sensory bins are the most amazing toddler tool in my life. And they take about 5 seconds to set up if you have the equipment in place to do it. Not to rub it in, but thank heavens I have that equipment and every tool needed to buy at least 15 minutes of solid toddler independent play time. But usually it’s more like 20 minutes and sometimes close to AN HOUR!
RELATED: Curious how I taught my kids to handle sensory bins and not make a giant mess? Read about that here.
You really only need a few sensory bin basics on hand – here’s what I recommend:
The two biggest myths of my life with toddler activities are that
1. You need a bunch of stuff
2. It takes a ton of room to store.
I want to share with you what I keep lying around, how I store it, and how life changing it is to have quick sensory bin supplies on hand at a moment’s notice (aka when you need a second to breath).
Just so you know I’m dead serious that there’s a ton you can do with these basics, here are 8 quick and easy sensory activities that you can whip up in seconds using the supply list below (don’t worry – I have more activities to show you at the end, too! Keep scrolling…)
- Letter Hunt (Busy Toddler)
- Spell Your Name Sensory Bin (Mom Inspired Life)
- Scooping Station (Busy Toddler)
- Construction Zone Play (Munchkins and Moms)
- Pouring Station (Busy Toddler)
- Rice Bin (Busy Toddler)
- “My Family” Sensory Bin (Munchkins and Moms)
- Farm Sensory Small World (Busy Toddler)
Let’s get to it! Here are the sensory bin basics that I swear by.
The supplies listed in this post are all Amazon affiliate links. Please read more about affiliate links in my disclosure policy.
RELATED: Wondering what it looks like to try sensory bins with young toddlers? Check out this post on making a First Sensory Bin.
Here’s a picture of my sensory bin supplies. Nothing fancy. I wanted you to see it all together (it packs up perfectly into that tub). This bin lives in my laundry room but it could easily go into the garage or under a couch. And now for what’s in it:
I keep my supplies in a medium under-the-bed type storage tub (spoiler alert: this is the same tub that we do the sensory bins in – how slick is that?!). A medium storage tub is ideal for sensory bins because of the high sides. It keeps everything contained and defines the learning space. Obviously, some materials get out, but that’s why they invented vacuums.
I’m a miser so I try to get the most bang for my buck from everything. That includes sensory bin bases. Some of the bases I own just celebrated their one year anniversary with us. Feel free to send a card.
After we are done with a sensory bin, I pour the base back into a large Ziploc bag. Don’t they look adorable all lined up together? My “go-to” bases are rice (mine is currently rainbow colored), beans, corn meal, and even pom pom balls (although apparently those guys forgot to pose for the picture!). All of these bases save well, play well, make for fun times.
I usually let my toddler pick which base he wants in his bin – it’s an easy choice to let him have. Inside the bin, I throw a variety of our favorite tools. These live in the sensory supply tub and are dedicated toddler activity tools. You have to have some fun tools to play with to keep the sensory bin party hopping.
Learning Resources Helping Hands: We got these fine motor tools for Christmas and we are in love. They are awesome for sensory bins and quickly got upgraded to Top Dog in our sensory lives.
Tongs: Tongs are such a versatile activity supply – we couldn’t do a sensory project without a pair of these simple tongs. They are perfect for grabbing hidden alphabet pieces or missing shapes.
Measuring cups: I bought an extra set of measuring cups just for my toddler. Nothing says love and motherhood like “I’m tired of my kitchen measuring cups being used for bean dumping” and “Where’s my 1/3 cup measure…oh the toddler has it.” We each needed our own so I have a dedicated set in his sensory play supplies.
Funnels: I am so glad I ended up with these funnels left over from a house project. They ended up being the perfect sensory supply for any pouring or scooping type activity. Nothing is better than a funnel!
Jars/containers: You have to have somewhere to put the goods once you’ve scooped them. We love using old jars from spaghetti sauce, jelly, etc. Plastic containers are also great. Make sure to vary height and capacity with the ones you pick.
Mini Construction Trucks: Ok so this is a bit out there but it’s for real – we rarely have a sensory activity without construction equipment being added. Even if it’s not until the very end, my son grabs for his diggers if sensory bases are involved.
Store it all together for quick and easy sensory fun.
When I need a moment of toddler independent playtime, I grab for a sensory bin. In less than a minute, I have a fun play area set up for my son and these bins just don’t get old. Sometimes, it’s just a straight “dump the base and go” type activity (like a rice bin). Other times, making one quick addition (like hiding a few puzzle pieces in the corn meal) will instantly be an activity hit.
Here are 8 more simple activities that you can do with these sensory bin basics:
- Bean pool – just play in the tub not a pool (Busy Toddler)
- Dino Bin (Busy Toddler)
- Pom Pom Pouring (Busy Toddler)
- Spring Sensory Bin (Munchkins and Moms)
- Montessori Practical Life Lesson: Pouring Rice (Sugar, Spice & Glitter)
- Scoop and Pour Activity (Munchkins and Moms)
- Button Excavating (Busy Toddler)
- Ice Box Play – swap the normal bases for ice cubes! (Busy Toddler)
Building a basic sensory kit has been a game changer for me. I can quickly pull out the sensory supplies I need and create a wonderful independent learning experience for my son without even batting an eye. It makes me feel like Wonder Mom every time I just throw one of these bins together.
Would these sensory bin basics be something your family could use?