Texas has its fair share of bad weather days. Whether it’s below freezing, storming, or unbearably hot, there are days when we just want to stay inside. However, when we’re stuck in the house, it can be hard to come up with ways to keep our children entertained and stimulated. Enter sensory bins. Sensory bins are plastic bins or trays that you fill with some kind of texture, like rice, beans, or play-doh. Throw in a couple of small toys, and voila! You have a sensory bin. Sensory bins will catch the curiosity of a child and encourage imaginative play, while also providing tactile stimulation. Sterilite bins work great for this, as do craft trays. (If you don’t already have craft trays, try these from Lakeshore Learning. We use them almost daily!) Pinterest has all sorts of awesome sensory bin ideas. I like to keep things simple, with minimal preparation and clean up on my part. Look for items in your kitchen and your kids’ toy bins; you’ll discover that the things you can put in your sensory bins are limitless.
Here are some easy sensory bin ideas you can put together that are sure to be a hit with your kiddos!
Play-Doh & Pasta
This is a fun sensory bin idea that engages all ages, even adults! I added bendy straws and pipe cleaners and my kiddos decided to make play-doh monsters. You can make this even more fun by dyeing the pasta in a rainbow of colors ahead of time. This takes no time at all to prepare or clean up, and spawns their creativity in the best way!
Pom Poms & Ice Cube Trays
Grab some pom pom balls, ice cube trays or mini muffin pans, and some utensils that can be used as pinchers (I used rubber tongs and a clothespin). This sensory bin idea really engaged my children when they were toddlers, but I was surprised to see that my seven year old still had fun with it. He made up his own game of holding the pom poms up high with the tongs and trying to drop the same colors in an opening. My role is to provide them with the activity, and then I try my hardest to let them think on their own from there. It’s fun to see where their imagination takes them!
Dry Beans, a Funnel, & Plastic Cups
Simply pour some dry beans onto your tray and add plastic bowls, cups, utensils, and funnels in a variety of colors. This sensory bin idea is welcoming and approachable to little minds since it is basic and colorful. My youngest pretended he was cooking soup and my oldest quickly learned that if you pour all the beans into the funnel at once, it gets clogged, so he slowed things down. With no rules to go with the tray, it’s amazing to watch the games they come up with on their own.
My boys love playing with dirt, sand, rocks, shovels, and cars. Throw all those things in a bin together and they’re sure to have fun with it! If you don’t have sand or kinetic sand, cornmeal works just as well, and I used beans instead of rocks on this day. It’s a great way to bring the outside in on a bad weather day.
Sensory bins provide a stimulating play outlet for kids of all ages. I started utilizing these sensory bin ideas for my boys when they were toddlers, and now that they are four and seven, it’s fun to see how they approach them differently than they did in the past. I hope these sensory bin ideas provide your littles some entertainment (and you some sanity) the next time you’re stuck indoors!