Let’s create a Halloween sensory bin with supplies from the Dollar Store. This quick and easy activity uses simple supplies and orange dyed rice, but makes a big Halloween activities impact. (And ps: dyeing rice orange is super easy and can be used for many Halloweens for years to come).
Why make this Halloween sensory bin
I’m a big fan of keeping toddler activities cheap. It’s literally been my MO since the first day I launched Busy Toddler (shout out to June 2015 Susie who had no idea what was to come).
But as far as making inexpensive activities goes, the dollar store takes it up a notch. I love using the dollar store for activity supplies, especially for holiday themed activities and sensory bins.
And guess what? This post is about a holiday-themed sensory bin so I have absolutely hit my peak.
Oh and no, this is not a sponsored post. I don’t know anyone at the dollar store HQ. Just a fan of making cost-effective kid activities.
RELATED: Looking for more easy Halloween activities? Check out my post on 40+ Halloween Activities for Toddlers.
Why I love a seasonal activity like the Halloween sensory bin
Holidays are so much fun with little ones, but – a lot of the magic of holidays comes from memories, context, and background knowledge.
Activities can provide that.
At-home holiday-themed activities can give kids a chance to play and interact with a holiday season and build their understanding and memories.
Side bar: holiday books can do the same and if you need some Halloween book recommendations, you know I have you covered.
Do you have to make seasonal activities with your toddlers and preschoolers? No. Of course not.
Can it be a fun, inexpensive way to make holiday memories while still at home and not having to juggle nap time and feeding schedules? Yes.
Am I done asking questions to answer by myself? Also yes.
RELATED: Halloween crafts are some of my favorite crafts to do. Check out this list of ideas.
Remember, I got these supplies at the dollar store in 2018 so there will be some variation in what is available today.
- Halloween insects
- 3 bags of rice (roughly 3 lbs)
Two items for the activity did not come from the dollar store. I didn’t mean to lie to you. I hope this doesn’t ruin things for us.
Along with my Halloween decorations, I keep a bin of Halloween activity supplies. Year after year, I’ve kept all the materials for this Halloween sensory bin and many other Halloween activities in there.
The kids squeal with excitement each year that I pull the bin of supplies out.
How to dye rice for a Halloween sensory bin
Past Me (Hi, I’m Susie) used to roll her eyes when scrolling Pinterest at all the people who dyed rice colors. Who has time for that?
Turns out, I have time for that because it is shockingly easy, takes seconds, and really does make that rice even more incredible to play with (especially if you are only dyeing one color).
Kids LOVE this step because it’s a big like magic.
Here’s the 4-1-1 on how to dye rice:
- 1 cup white rice
- 1 Tablespoon white vinegar (to preserve the rice)
- A few generous squirts of orange food dye
Dyeing rice follows a standard 1 cup rice + 1 T vinegar ratio. Using that, adjust to how much rice you need to create the sensory bin.
In this particular activity, I used 8 cups of rice, 8 Tablespoons of vinegar, and a lot of orange dye into a resealable bag. Actually I did this in two batches because my bag wasn’t big enough.
Do your best shake n’ bake commercial impression and get that rice coated.
Lay it to dry on a cookie sheet – it only needs about 30 minutes before it is dry to the touch.
Important: The color sticks to the rice once dried. It will not transfer to hands.
RELATED: Need a better how-to dye rice explanation? Read my step by step post.
Set up a Halloween sensory bin
The set up for this Halloween activity was pretty easy once the rice had dried:
I dumped all the toys I bought at the dollar store and all the dried rice into the bin.
(No seriously that was it for the set up).
(Once Halloween ended, I put the toys in a one bag to save for next year and the rice in another).
How my kids played with this activity
My kids had a blast working in this Halloween sensory activity. They were 5, 3.5, and newly 2 when I made this bin for them while the oldest was at preschool
Just for fun, I also added in some jars and scoops that I keep lying around the house for sensory moments like this. Kids love to have something inside a sensory bin to scoop into.
One of my kids made “monster ice cream”.
One started sorting the Halloween toys into the jars.
And one (the 24 month old) was content to just scoop, pour, bury, and dig.
Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve had dyed rice last 5+ years. No joke. In fact, the rice from this post is coming up on it’s sixth Halloween with my kids. Bless that rice.
That depends on the child and the sensory bin. Here’s a post of mine full of information on starting sensory bins with young children (my youngest did his first bin at 12 months old and was proficient by 15 months). You’ll want to base this off the child and whether the sensory bin is taste safe for them (rice is often a great first sensory bin).
It does for the first few plays with it. It doesn’t after a little bit. If you are sensitive to the vinegar smell, try using 1 Tablespoon lemon juice instead or adding some essential oils to the rice. You can also try this method from Friends Art Lab using liquid water color.