I love sensory bins as part of our early learning here at home. Here is a list of sensory bin ideas you can reference this year so you always have something to set up.
I am a planner and that’s why I created the curriculum for teaching ™ son at home. For the 2 year curriculum (Love 2 Learn) I added a Sensory bin idea for every week.
Sensory bins are an essential part of early learning to work on fine motor skills. I have been focusing a lot on strengthening those hand and finger muscles that will, later on, help t little learners in writing, buttoning their shirts, tying their shoes, and many other activities where the hand muscles are involved and we often take for granted.
Why Sensory Bins during Early Learning:
- Sensory bins are hands-on learning tools for children to explore their world through the senses. They encourage exploration while incorporating a variety of senses: touch, sight, sounds, taste, and smell for children to learn and explore.
- Sensory bins encourage language development: When playing with a sensory bin, it offers the opportunity to work on language development, it offers opportunities to discuss hidden objects.
- Sensory bins work on fine motor skills: When children use their hands and fingers to explore the items in a bin, improve fine motor skills through scooping, grasping, stirring, and pouring with a variety of tools.
Now that we know why are they important, let’s get inspired with tons of ideas to plan our year.
Sensory Bin Ideas to Try this year!
I like to divide the year by themes to make planning lessons easier. Sometimes I create one sensory bin and just rotate the elements that I add to it. This way, it is less work for me and the kids love the little changes I make.
Use this guide to create your own themes and set up one sensory bin a month.
January: Penguins Shaving cream sensory bin
A sensory bin is taken from our Love 2 Learn Curriculum. Shaving cream, ice, and penguins. A fun mix and cool sensory experience! I haven’t met a toddler that doesn’t like to play with shaving cream. You can also freeze the shaving cream ahead of time to harden it up a bit.
This ice and shaving cream activity is perfect for introducing toddlers to the idea that ice is cold, it melts, and they love ice.
February: Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin
For Valentine’s Day I wanted the kids to work on fine motor skills using the tongs. These tongs are available at the Dollar store and are a great skill to prepare little ones for writing later on. It works on strengthening all those little muscles in the hand and finger that will give them the coordination and strength later on to hold a pencil and control it.
To make this Valentine’s sensory bin, I purchased a bag of different size marshmallows. I topped the bin with foam wish cookies in red and pink. These were also easy to grab with the tongs because of their shape, and I added some red gift stuffing to add color as well as to make playtime more interesting.
For some of the kids, this was their first time using tongs, and marshmallows is a great way to start because they are soft and when the tong pokes the marshmallow it sticks to it, reducing frustration for the kids.
For the babies, I did the same bin, but removed the string, and letft only large sized marshmallows; They loved exploring the taste of the marshmallows!
March: St Patrick’s Sensory Bin
This is one of my favorite bins because I created matching counting cards to go along with them. I made lemon-scented yellow rice to play with as a base and purchased foam stickers (without peeling the back) from Walmart. I tried to get the items from the card to match out the counting activity and cut out the leprechaun faces and attach them to a cup – cutting out the mouth. I gave Manu a measuring spoon to use and let him explore.
Together we did the counting activities and he loved to look for the items hiding in the rice and matching them up on the card. It was a great counting and number recognition activity we did together.
April: It’s Bitsy Spider Sensory Bin
When I think of April, I think of the weather. And Itsy Bitsy Spider is a book we always read during this time because it’s an easy concept to teach about the rain. Here are two variations of Itsy bitsy Spider Bins. A water-based one for the little ones that still mouth everything and a rice-based sensory bin for those that have overcome that.
May: Farm Sensory Bin
There are so many farm sensory bin ideas you can do! Here are two favorite ones that I did this year. One works on fine motor skills using a wooden spoon to feed the cow grass and the other is a free-play sensory bin using our farm animal sound cards and figurines.
How to create a farm sensory bin
June: Space Theme sensory bin
There are so many options to do a space theme sensory bin! The first bin we created for the class was using moon sand. After all, we were going to the moon, we were singing 3,2,1 blast off! but this time, I didn’t want to have a very messy bin.
When I don’t want too much mess, I always go for beans as my sensory bin filler. I chose black beans, some glow in the dark stars, a star ice cube tray (that I had purchased for the 4th of July), and of course, some astronaut figurines. The spaceship was carved wood found at the craft section at the dollar store that we had painted and used as craft earlier in the week. I love it when you can build upon a theme over the week, it really helps the kids grasp the concept better.
July: Water and Seashells sensory bin
When summer comes around, I love to focus on water activities. It is hot outside so that means we can do a lot of summer activities. For this sensory bin I decided to recreate the ocean. I used water, seashells that we got at the Dollar store as well as some from our collection from our local trips and some sea animals. These were those grow-in-water animals (also from the Dollar store)
August: Transportation Theme sensory bin
Remember the edible mud we did before? well, if you omit the water you make edible dirt! and let me tell you, we had so much fun playing on this construction site. Plus, the smell of chocolate was AMAZING!
We created the edible-dirt, added construction trucks, grabbed rocks from the garden and pieces of wood. That’s it. The rest was left for the imagination.
September: Pig Sensory Bin
Do you have any water bath toys? they work great for sensory bin figurines. Because it was spring we have been talking about the farm, animals, the garden, bugs, and all things spring. We set up our mud kitchen, and I created pretend mud. This gave me an idea! pigs in the mud sensory bin! It’s very simple but a lot of fun.
Learn how to make pretend mud
October Sensory Bin with Shaving Cream
For October I always love to create spooky sensory bins! last year we did monster eyes with Jell-O. This year, I went with a spider theme using frozen shaving cream. OMG! this was so messy and so much fun! the texture is like nothing you have ever touched before… so so cool and so recommended!
Spray shaving cream on your bin, add a few food coloring drops and move around with a stick to create the lines of color. Place your items such as the spiders, eye balls, and colander and freeze over night. When ready, place at the sensory table and have fun!
I added a bin of water next to it to clean our hands, but Manu decided he wanted to melt the shaving cream in the water instead. I think is one of the sensory bins he has spent most time with. A total science class!
November: Color Mixing Sensory Bin
I had some time this year where all I wanted to do was science experiments for the toddlers. Of course, for toddlers you have to keep it very simple but one of my favorite experiments was a color mixing sensory bin.
I provided bottles of water and added a few drops of red, blue and yellow food color to create colored bottles. I then provided empty bowls, spoons, and other materials to encourage mixing the water and creating new colors. You should see the kid’s faces when they created these colors. it was like magic! well, it was science.
alternative: you can add some vinegar to the water and add baking soda to the cups and create mini volcano explosions.
December: Peppermint Cloud Dough Sensory Bin
OK! I know this is more than 12 ideas but I couldn’t leave this one out! the smell of peppermint reminds of Christmas and making this peppermint cloud dough was so much fun! It was supposed to be green but the flour immediately absorbs the paint so it turns into a speckle green rather than a full green. I love that it is like a moldable sand (similar to our homemade snow) so there are so many possibilities when playing with it.
Learn how to make peppermint cloud dough here
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Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts
As an early learning enthusiast and educator, I have extensive experience with sensory bins and their benefits for young children. I have personally used sensory bins as part of my curriculum for teaching my own child at home, and I have seen the positive impact they have on fine motor skills, language development, and sensory exploration. I understand the importance of planning and creating engaging sensory bin activities that cater to the developmental needs of young learners.
Sensory Bins and Their Importance in Early Learning
Sensory bins are hands-on learning tools that allow children to explore their world through their senses. They provide opportunities for children to engage with various textures, colors, sounds, tastes, and smells, which in turn stimulates their cognitive and sensory development. Here are some key reasons why sensory bins are important in early learning:
Fine Motor Skills Development: Sensory bins provide opportunities for children to work on their fine motor skills. By using their hands and fingers to manipulate objects in the bin, children improve their hand-eye coordination, finger strength, and dexterity. Activities such as scooping, pouring, grasping, and stirring help develop these essential skills [].
Language Development: Sensory bins offer a rich environment for language development. As children explore the items in the bin, they have opportunities to describe what they see, feel, hear, taste, and smell. Engaging in conversations about the hidden objects in the bin promotes vocabulary expansion, expressive language skills, and the ability to follow instructions [].
Sensory Bin Ideas for Different Themes
Now that we understand the importance of sensory bins in early learning, let's explore some sensory bin ideas for different themes that you can try throughout the year:
January: Penguins Shaving Cream Sensory Bin: Create a sensory bin using shaving cream, ice, and penguins. This activity provides a fun and cool sensory experience while introducing the concept of cold and melting ice to toddlers [].
February: Valentine's Day Sensory Bin: Use tongs to work on fine motor skills by picking up marshmallows in a Valentine's Day-themed sensory bin. This activity helps strengthen hand and finger muscles, preparing children for future writing tasks [].
March: St. Patrick's Sensory Bin: Make lemon-scented yellow rice as a base for a St. Patrick's Day-themed sensory bin. Add foam stickers and leprechaun faces for counting and matching activities [].
April: Itsy Bitsy Spider Sensory Bin: Create a water-based sensory bin for younger children and a rice-based bin for older children to explore the concept of rain and spiders during April [].
May: Farm Sensory Bin: Use a wooden spoon to feed toy cows in a farm-themed sensory bin, or create a free-play bin with farm animal sound cards and figurines [].
June: Space Theme Sensory Bin: Use black beans, glow-in-the-dark stars, and astronaut figurines to create a space-themed sensory bin. This activity allows children to explore the concept of space and engage in imaginative play [].
July: Water and Seashells Sensory Bin: Recreate the ocean using water, seashells, and sea animals in a sensory bin. This activity is perfect for summer and provides opportunities for sensory exploration and imaginative play [].
August: Transportation Theme Sensory Bin: Create an edible dirt sensory bin using chocolate-scented mud, construction trucks, rocks, and pieces of wood. This activity combines sensory play with imaginative play in a construction site setting [].
September: Pig Sensory Bin: Use water bath toys as figurines in a sensory bin to create a pigs in the mud theme. This simple and fun activity is perfect for spring and encourages sensory exploration [].
October: Spider Theme Sensory Bin: Freeze shaving cream with food coloring to create a spider-themed sensory bin. This messy and fun activity provides a unique sensory experience and can be combined with a science lesson on texture and color mixing [].
November: Color Mixing Sensory Bin: Create colored bottles of water using food coloring and provide materials for children to mix the water and create new colors. This activity promotes color recognition and introduces basic science concepts [].
December: Peppermint Cloud Dough Sensory Bin: Make peppermint-scented cloud dough using flour and paint. This moldable sensory material provides endless possibilities for sensory exploration and imaginative play [].
By planning your sensory bins around different themes throughout the year, you can create engaging and educational experiences for your child while targeting specific developmental areas.
Sensory bins are a valuable tool for early learning, offering opportunities for fine motor skills development, language development, and sensory exploration. By incorporating different themes and materials, you can create a variety of sensory bin activities that cater to your child's interests and developmental needs. Have fun planning and exploring sensory bins with your little learner!
Note: The information provided above is based on my expertise and personal experience with sensory bins.