Sensory Bins: What they are and why they’re awesome!


November 3, 2017 · Todays Family ·

Sensory Bins: What they are and why they’re awesome!

At first glance, it’s just a box of stuff. It’s filled with odds and ends; things that are often cast aside. But we know that it’s much more than that, because while standing at the edge with hands engaging with objects that are carefully selected, lessons are learned which lay a foundation for curiosities to come in later years.

Sensory bins are awesome and sensory play is one of the most important kinds of play to your toddler. Here are our top 5 reasons why sensory bins are great, and 10 more ideas for what you can put in yours.


Sensory bins are where a love of science is born



It’s at the sensory bin that little ones learn the very basis of scientific principles. Before gravity has a name, it’s simply known as, “What goes up, must come down.” By picking up and dropping items, children learn that marbles fall faster than feathers. If the bin in question is a wet one, where objects are placed in a shallow amount of water, the concepts of floating and sinking come to life. In this way, sensory play creates tiny scientists that are gathering their tools and knowledge for a lifetime of curiosity.


Sensory bins get kids talking



Sensory bins in busy classrooms, playrooms, and playgrounds are always a hub of activity and a murmur of chatter. You might here “Excuse me!” as someone tries to find their spot, or describing words like, “Squishy”, “Soft”, “Hard”, and “Smooth” as the kids try to describe what they’re playing with. This is also a great opportunity to work on colours with your kids. Sensory play is a way for kids to work on their language skills and build vocabulary.


They build practical and fine motor skills


Sensory bins are usually loaded with both objects and containers. Kids can practise skills like pouring, scooping and filling as they play. They can explore concepts like, “full,” “empty” and how not to spill. These skills come in handy when kids are old enough to help in the kitchen, especially.

Fine motor skills have a role to play, too, as your child picks up small objects or manipulates pairs of tongs to move things.


Sensory bins help kids get a head start with math



Any excuse to get kids to practice counting is a good one. Sensory bins provide just such an opportunity. Kids can learn to quickly identify how many of a particular object are in the bin. Eventually, adding and subtracting can be brought into the mix. When your child isn’t looking, take an object. “How many marbles are in the bin now? How many were there before? How many did I take?”

Well, now that we know why sensory bins are a fun, and more importantly functional, addition to your play space, you’re probably wondering what to put in it. We should note that if your little one is particularly fond of putting things in their mouths, you should stick to larger objects or make sure your child is supervised at all times while playing at the bin.


They’re great for stretching the imagination


Sensory bins are fantastic for games which take full advantage of the imagination of children. If your sensory bin is filled with plastic food, your child may pretend to be a chef, or that they work in a grocery store, or that they’re a farmer. If it’s filled with sand and various objects, they might pretend to be at the beach, or maybe they’ll be a paleontologist looking for fossils! Either way, imagination creates creative kids – that much we know for sure.

Our favourite things to put into sensory bins:


  1. Pieces of string
  2. Play sand
  3. Acorns
  4. Play food
  5. Feathers
  6. Real or fake leaves
  7. Water! (Water play tables are a bit more messy – better to keep this outside)
  8. Small toys, like barn animals
  9. Small pebbles
  10. Scoops, shovels and containers


Have you ever made a sensory bin? What did you put in it? Let us know on social media! We’re on Twitter and Facebook. We also LOVE pictures! Tag us in a photo of your sensory bin for a chance to be featured on our page.

A big thank you goes out to our Linden Park, Saltfleet and Dundas Child Care Centers for letting us check out your awesome sensory bins!

We’ll see you next time! Until then,

– Today’s Family

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