Getting Silly with Sensory Bins

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Who loves sticking their hands in the sensory bin each week? We sure do! You may have noticed that the sensory bin is one of the most popular stations at our LEAP classes. Our LEAPers really get a kick out of seeing what’s inside, and exploring the materials provided. Sensory bins are extremely beneficial, and super easy to create. Today, we are going to chat about those benefits and help you brainstorm ways to use sensory bins at home.


A sensory bin can be described as a tactile experience in a contained area, and is usually multi-sensory. Providing sensory bin opportunities can benefit your little one in many ways:

  • Fine Motor Skill Development – Sensory bins are the perfect space for exploring, discovering, and creating. Our sensory bin fillers encourage scooping, pouring, filling, and sorting. Toddlers can grab a bucket and fill it to the top with corn. Or pack sand into a small pan to reveal shapes. Digging through dirt works those little fingers, and encourages sorting of big and little objects. Using our hands feels great!
  • Social-Emotional Development – A large bin like the one we use at LEAP encourages social play. Toddlers squeeze next to one another and have the chance to share tools. Cooperation and teamwork are a must at the sensory bin! You may spot some tugging on toys or arguing, but sensory bins provide a unique opportunity for toddlers to practice expressing their feelings. It is a fantastic opportunity to understand spatial and body awareness!
  • Language Development – While toddlers are busy exploring sensory bins, they are also being exposed to language. You may notice us “narrating” actions: “Wow! You’re filling that red cup all the way to the top!” Their actions lead to great conversations and opportunities for adults to model language.
  • Sensory Exploration – These bins offer an opportunity for children to use their senses - sometimes all 5! Water is always a fun sensory bin filler. Imagine all the ways your toddler could use their senses while exploring a water bin – feeling the temperature of the water, listening to the splashes, seeing the water swirl and bubble. Hitting each sense is easier than you’d think!


How can I use sensory bins at home?

During our Fall LEAP session, we’ve used a variety of fillers in our big red sensory bin. It’s always exciting to run over and check out what’s inside! You may have seen beans, dry corn, dirt, water, shredded paper, moldable sand, and pine shavings. We love connecting our sensory bins to the theme of the week, but you can fill yours with anything!

Tips & Tricks:

  • Find different containers – You can use a large storage tub, or a tightly sealed water bottle. Changing the way your sensory bin is presented invites curiosity. Your toddler will love getting familiar with different shaped and sized containers.
  • Add “treasures” – A favorite activity at the LEAP sensory bin is digging for hidden stuff. Every once and a while something random will be mixed in our sensory bin (sometimes it’s not even planned…) and the LEAPers love digging until they find it! Bury a favorite action figure, or add some hidden pieces of pasta. This encourages using those fine motor skills and fuels a sense of exploration.
  • Don’t be afraid to get messy – Sensory bins can be used in whatever way you choose. Every bin we prepare for LEAP has an expectation to get very messy, and we’re okay with that! If you’re up for the challenge, move your sensory bin outside. There you can be as messy as you please. Looking to go really big? Add worms to your sensory bin for a nature connection!
  • Play along – Sensory bins are fun for adults, too! They offer a chance to destress and follow your child’s lead. Playing along with your child also allows you a chance to supervise. These bins can provide hours of fun and bonding. So dig in – we promise you’ll enjoy it!
  • Chat with your toddler – As your child plays, connect his or her actions to the 5 senses. Ask questions about what they feel, see, or smell. Say aloud the things you see them do. As your child grows, get their input on what should be in the sensory bin next – it might be something funky, but it just might work!

Sure, sensory bins can be messy. But they are an extremely beneficial activity for children of all ages. They’re a fun and simple way to grow happier, healthier, and smarter. We look forward to hearing about your at-home sensory bins! What did you add? What worked and what didn’t? As always, there are millions of resources available to you. Don't be afraid to explore! One of our favorites is "Growing a Jeweled Rose." Check it out!

Written by Nicole Filippone