Sensory Bin Base Ideas (2024)

In this blog post, we are covering a very important sensory materials: sensory bin base ideas, or sensory bin fillers. You have probably seen a sensory bin activity here or there and thought nothing of it. But, did you know that the sensory material that is used to create the sensory bin is very much a part of the tactile sensory experience? Include these fillers in our easy sensory bin ideas to include themes or motivating activities.

Let’s explore various sensory bases as a tactile therapy tool.

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Sensory Bin Materials

If you read our blog, you’ll see that we are both huge fans of sensory play. Sensory bins are such a fun way for kids to explore textures and the senses while learning about the world and themselves.

Sensory bins can be tailored to any learning theme and are just fun for exploration.

We wanted to put together a collection of sensory bin base ideas. These are the materials that you start your sensory bin with. Add letters, numbers, animals, sight words…the possibilities for sensory play is endless!

Usually, a sensory bin has several materials:

  • sensory base container (bin, basket, tub, baby pool, etc.)
  • sensory bin filler or sensory base material
  • sensory bin items to explore- these might be manipulatives or small objects
  • scoops, cups, funnels, tongs, spoons, or tools to pick up and move objects

Each component can be used to develop various motor skills. In this blog post, we’re covering the base material or the sensory bin filler that you first place in the sensory base container.

Why Use Different Sensory Bin Fillers

Children learn about the world through touch, and exploring different textures fosters their understanding of the differences between soft, rough, smooth, bumpy, wet, dry, and other tactile sensations.

Using different textures in sensory play, especially in a therapeutic context like pediatric occupational therapy, serves specific developmental and therapeutic purposes that can greatly benefit children’s growth and well-being.

As an occupational therapy provider, it’s important to know why we are using the therapy tools that we select for therapy interventions. Here are some reasons why different textures are important in sensory play, particularly from a therapeutic perspective:

  1. Tactile Exploration and Confidence: Introducing a variety of textures allows children to explore and interact with different sensory experiences. This sensory touch exploration helps them become more comfortable with and confident in touching, feeling, and interacting with different materials.
  2. Tactile Discrimination: Different textures challenge children’s tactile discrimination skills, enabling them to differentiate between various sensory stimuli. This enhances their ability to identify and understand the subtleties of touch.
  3. Sensory Challenges and Desensitization: For children with tactile defensiveness, incorporating textures that might be initially challenging for children helps them gradually become accustomed to those sensations. Therapists can use this approach to address sensory sensitivities and aversions, gradually desensitizing children to certain textures.

Sensory Bin Fillers

  1. Rice
  2. Kinetic Sand
  3. Shaving Cream (Here is a shaving cream sensory bin).
  4. Play Dough
  5. Dry Pasta
  6. Oats
  7. Beans/Lentils
  8. Cloud Dough
  9. Sandbox sand or play sand
  10. Cornmeal
  11. Pom-Poms
  12. Corn Kernels
  13. Ice Cubes
  14. Cotton Balls
  15. Jello
  16. Foam Shapes
  17. Buttons
  18. Shredded Paper (Try this shredded paper sensory bin)
  19. Fabric Scraps
  20. Beads
  21. Colored Salt
  22. Cereal
  23. Pom-Pom Balls
  24. Slime/Goo
  25. Old or stale cereal

Nature Sensory Bin Fillers

Other sensory bin base materials can be found in nature. These are materials that you could find in your own backyard.

  1. Sand
  2. Water
  3. Rocks and Pebbles (check out this rock sensory bin)
  4. Leaves
  5. Pine Cones
  6. Grass Clippings
  7. Bark
  8. Mud
  9. Seashells
  10. Acorns
  11. Tree Branches
  12. Flowers
  13. Pine Needles
  14. River Stones
  15. Moss
  16. Seaweed
  17. Dirt/Soil
  18. Feathers
  19. Seeds
  20. Coconut Husk
  21. Feathers
  22. Pine cones

Water-Based Sensory Bin Fillers

Then, there are water-based sensory bin fillers. These include things like water, colored water, and soap. We have done many water bead sensory bins, too. Here are some more ideas:

  1. Water
  2. Colored Water
  3. Soap Water (This foam soap sensory bin is a fine motor workout, too.)
  4. Ice Water
  5. Water Beads
  6. Gelatin Water
  7. Lemon or Orange Water
  8. Scented Water
  9. Watercolor Paper
  10. Sand and Water (for a combination sensory bin)

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Sensory Bin Base Ideas

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Add colored noodles to a bin and add cups, spoons, funnels, and more for fine motor play. Crayon Box Chronicles made this concept sensory bin in theirdyed noodles sensory bin.

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Shredded paper makes a great sensory base.Save the junk mail and send it through the shredder to make a shredded paper reptile sensory binfrom Crayon Box Chronicles.

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Something as simple as rocks can make a great base for a sensory bin. We make this rock sensory binand explored the senses.

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Explore letters in like in this rock letter sensory bin.

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The dollar store has a vast amount of ways to incorporate learning into sensory bins. Crayon Box Chronicles made this colored hay sensory bin. How fun!

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Coloredwater is an easy way to create a sensory bin. We made thisdyed water swamp sensory binand explored colors, animals, and more in a swamp theme.

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Have you ever made snow dough? Seriously the coolest stuff! This snow dough Arctic Circle sensory binis one of my favorites from Crayon Box Chronicles .

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It doesn’t take much to make a sensory bin. This letter sensory binrequired nothing other than the letters for learning and play.

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Dirt makes a great sensory bin base. How many ways can you think of to play? I love what Crayon Box Chronicles did with their dirt monster truck sensory bin.

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Many sensory bin bases can be found in your pantry. We used split peas as the base in our split pea sensory bin.

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Sand is one way to create a simple sensory bin. A few ingredients is all it takes to make the sand into sand dough link in this sand dough beach sensory binfrom Crayon Box Chronicles.

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Water Beads can be found in the floral section of many stores. The non-toxic material makes a great base for sensory play. We had a blast with our purple sensory bin.

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Jello is such an interesting material to eat…and to play with! The texture is perfect for sensory exploration. Crayon Box Chronicles used it to create this jello iceberg sensory bin.

What are your favorite sensory bin fillers?

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Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to


Sensory Bin Base Ideas (2024)


How do you make a sensory base? ›

Sensory Goop
  1. Grab a container, bowl or dish of some sort.
  2. Pour in some corn flour. ...
  3. Add some water, start small and decide the consistency your happy with. ...
  4. Add some colour! ...
  5. Depending on your intended use add some extra materials to encourage imaginative play.
May 19, 2022

How do you fill a sensory bin? ›

What You'll Do
  1. Lay out a sheet, tablecloth or towel. Not only does this protect the floor, but it makes cleanup much easier.
  2. Fill the bin or bowl with dry pasta, rice or beans.
  3. Add spoons, scoops, toys and whatever else you have on hand into the bin.
  4. Play!

What age is best for sensory bins? ›

Sensory bins are good for children over 18 months of age. Before they're 18 months old, sensory bins are not developmentally appropriate because the possible hazards outweigh the benefits.

Which is an unsafe ingredient to avoid in sensory activities for children? ›

For example, sensory bin beans are unsafe because raw or undercooked beans are toxic, while the benefits of rice sensory play are numerous! Messy Play Kits strives to be the place to offer the best and safest sensory play ideas.

How to make a sensory tray? ›

Sensory Box Ideas
  1. Dig out an old cardboard box (a shoe box works well) and line it with colourful tissue paper.
  2. Gather a selection of toys or items from around the house that will appeal to your littlen's senses - particularly sight, sound and touch (ideas below)
  3. Pop them in the box for a sensory play surprise!
Jul 18, 2023

What are the rules for the sensory bins? ›

Use visual supports to help your learners remember the rules for the sensory bins (use hands only, put on lid when finished, complete seek and find, raise hand if you need help, keep the materials in the box.) Use a visual timer to help your students transition when the time comes.

What can I use as grass in a sensory bin? ›

A few spring sensory bin ideas for your base include any materials that mimic grass or the ground like split peas, green-colored or yellow cornmeal, chickpeas, rice, or even decaf coffee grounds! Once you have your bin and your base, you can begin to build your spring sensory bin with some of these fun themes.

What should I put in my sensory box? ›

Remember that you can use things you already have around the house as sensory items for kids to create easy sensory bins!
  1. Dry rice, beans, and/or pasta.
  2. Unpopped popcorn.
  3. Sand.
  4. Cotton balls.
  5. Shredded paper.
  6. Raffia/crinkle grass.
  7. Corn Meal.
  8. Craft feathers for a feather sensory bin.
Oct 15, 2022

How do you dye rice for a sensory bin? ›

Add 1 cup of uncooked rice to a small plastic baggie and add a few drops of food coloring to the bag. If using gel coloring, you'll only need a tiny bit. Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar to the bag, seal the top, and shake up the bag to mix the color around the rice.

Are sensory bins necessary? ›

A sensory bin is a great way to introduce sensory play, allowing children to explore objects and develop sensory skills through tactile play. They also promote the development of other crucial skills for a child's development.

Do sensory issues get worse with age? ›

Can it become worse as one ages? SPD becomes worse with injuries and when with normal aging as the body begins to become less efficient. So, if you always had balance problems and were clumsy, this can become more of a problem in your senior years.

Is rice safe for sensory bin? ›

Just because it's taste safe doesn't mean it should be eaten. It means you don't need to call poison control if it ends up in their mouth at some point. With diligent supervision and boundary setting, babies as young as a year old can play with sensory bins full of rice.

How many toys should a 5 year old have? ›

On average, most kids play with only 10 toys or less out of their collection. Although each child varies from one another, around 10 toys can be a good benchmark for how many toys should a child have.

Can toddlers play with uncooked rice? ›

On many forums and groups, practitioners use dried rice in play which is plain or coloured. We have been advised that we remove rice from our provision for all ages as it is not suitable for any child to play with due to the potential risks it can present.

How do you make homemade liquid sensory? ›

How to make sensory bottles
  1. Clean out plastic water bottle.
  2. Pour ¾ cup of soap into the bottle.
  3. Fill remainder of bottle with warm water.
  4. Add decor items and glitter.
  5. Cap off water bottle and securely close with glue gun.
  6. Shake it up!

What is a sensory base? ›

A sensory bin base is a FILLER you use to fill the bin! WHAT?! THAT”S IT?! YEP! Take a look around your house and likely you'll be able to find a safe base that can be used in your next sensory bin.

How do you make homemade sensory tubes? ›

How to make a themed sensory bottle with glitter
  1. First, squeeze corn syrup into an empty water bottle. ...
  2. Add warm water until it's about three-quarters full.
  3. Add a few drops of food coloring and sprinkle in some glitter.
  4. Put the lid on the water bottle and shake to mix the ingredients.

What are the sensory based techniques? ›

Examples of these latter techniques and practices include auditory integration-based approaches, music therapy, weighted blankets, swinging, brushing, deep pressure, massage, joint compression, vestibular stimulation1,2.

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