Skip to Content

9 Easy Sensory Bins For Toddlers

Making your own sensory bins is the way to go if you want a fast and frugal sensory activity for your toddler.

I’m a mom and a former toddler and preschool teacher.

I have made hundreds of sensory bins/sensory activities over the years.

Today I’m sharing my 9 all-time favorite sensory bin ideas.


sensory bins for toddlers



If you are curious or in a hurry:

This 69-piece set of natural world animal toys and this 3 lb Kinetic Moldable Beach Sand are the most popular with our readers and this is the easiest solution to start with if you want a good base to make some simple DIY sensory bins.

The 69-piece set of animals includes dinosaurs, insects, sea animals, and farm animals.

It is also the cheapest option to start with because you can make such a variety of sensory bins for toddlers with just these two products.

Some of the sensory bins in this post are made from food products.  If that doesn’t work for your family, I have suggestions for substitute non-food sensory bin fillers you might want to try instead.


What is sensory play? 

Sensory play is any activity that engages a young child’s five senses. So activities that involve the sense of smell, touch, hearing, sight, taste, and movement fall under the umbrella of “sensory play”.

Sensory activities play a crucial role in brain development and research suggests that opportunities for pretend play are necessary to help develop self-regulation of behavior and empathy.

Toddlers learn about the world around them through their senses. It is how they learn about their bodies and their environment. They learn to trust through touch at this stage of development.

Sensory play encourages exploration and introduces the child to the basics of the scientific method.

Sensory play helps with the development of both fine and gross motor skills, language development, and problem-solving skills.

One of the reasons I really love sensory activities for young children is that it encourages free and open-ended play.

Sensory Bins For Toddlers

Open-ended play is playing with no set outcome, no expectations, no prodding, or feeding of ideas. The child is free to explore, create and imagine whatever they want.

They learn to trust themselves, and their internal motivations, and learn to self-validate their own experiences.

In my experience as both a parent and former early childhood educator, you can’t fail with providing lots of opportunities for sensory play.

It doesn’t have to be expensive or even time-consuming. My personal mom motto is “It needs to be simple or it’s not happening.”

You can buy lots of fillers for your sensory bins.

The ones below are ones you can easily and cheaply make at home.

Most of the toys you’ll see included as “ideas” are just simple dollar-store toys, Amazon buckets of toys, or toys we had kicking around the house.

None of the ones I made below took more than 15 minutes in total to make.

I sped up the drying time for the colored pasta, rice, and beans by putting them in the oven to bake at 250 degrees for 10 minutes.

Let them cool down and you are good to go.

They did not bleed any color once they were dry.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your ideas!

The idea is to give your child the opportunity to engage all five senses in a fun and educational way.

The possibilities and combinations for sensory play and sensory bins are endless.


9 Easy Sensory Bins For Toddlers:

1.  Sand Sensory Bin:  Sticky Play Sand – Growing a Jeweled Rose

We love this recipe! It was the most like “beach” sand. It was moist and moldable, but not sticky.

It took less than 5 minutes to make and we used it for days.

You can get the sand you need for the recipe at Lowes, Home Depot, Menards, Amazon, or your local hardware/nursery type store.

The only thing with using standard play sand (the type generally sold at Home Depot or Lowe’s) is that when you make the moldable sand it is dark.

Tip: If You want light-colored sand, you probably will want to start with white-colored sand. When I needed sand that was lighter and more beach like I found a great deal on a box of white sand from Amazon, this is the sand I bought.

Monster Truck Sensory Bin

Sticky Sand Dough Sensory bins for toddlers


Need Monster Trucks for your toddler? Here are some of the best deals:

What the “sand” looks like before you mix it up.

Sticky Sand Dough


All mixed and ready to go. It took less than 5 minutes!


The sand is very moldable. Great for building sand castles.

Sticky Sand Dough


Moldable sand is the best kind of sand!

The best part of moldable sand is the ability to build whatever your child can imagine!

We have found these sand molds on Amazon to be the best sand toys for moldable sand sensory bins.

CoolSand Advanced Building Sand Molds and Tools Kit – Works with All Other Play Sand Brands

37 Piece set Includes: Castle, Bricks and Walls Molds, and Tools

Sand Toys for moldable sand sensory bins


Sticky Sand Dough


I made a Monster truck sensory bin with rocks and trucks from the dollar store and Amazon.

So simple to make and keeps the kids occupied for hours. some other ideas for sensory bins with the sticky sand would be to add shells, sand shovels, and buckets.

Turn it into a construction sensory bin with rocks and this set of construction equipment toys.

A bugs and worms sensory bin would be awesome with the sticky sand too.


2. Sand Sensory Bin: Homemade Sand 123homeschool4me (2 ingredients)

This recipe only needs two ingredients, see the link above for what you need.

It makes edible moldable sand that was easy to make. We didn’t find it sticky at all.

The sensory bin pictured below I called a “stamping bin”.

I made the sand in spring/summer colors so it was perfect for ocean sensory bins/ farm sensory bins and a bug life sensory bin. I made those with toys/fillers from the dollar store and Amazon.


Homemade sugar sand


homemade sugar sand


Bug exploration sensory bin

Sugar Sand Bug Sensory Bin


I store the sand in zip-lock bags to keep it fresh.


homemade sugar sand



3. Sand Sensory Bin: Homemade Moon SandParenting Chaos

This is one we didn’t try. The recipe looks similar to the sticky sand recipe above, except you don’t need to add any “play sand”.

Looking at the pictures of it, it looks the closest to actual moon sand. Can’t wait to try it out, just have not had a chance.


4. Sand Sensory Bin: Homemade Colored SandGrowing a Jeweled Rose

This recipe makes the prettiest sand. It is more of fine sand, drier, less moldable, but still a great sensory filler for your bins.

The pic below is the sand in an ocean shell sensory bin I made.

The sand is not sticky at all. I did think it was a little messy so you’ll want to have a dustpan and broom available for clean-up.

You can make any color. Our favorite was mixing all the sand together, you’ll see below it made beautiful purple-based sand that was perfect for a galaxy/space sensory bin.


Shells and Rock Sensory Bin

Epsom Salt Ocean Sensory Bin


Galaxy Sand Bin



Salt Sensory Bin Filler



5. Sand Sensory Bin:  How to Make Colored SandKid’s Craft Room

(This recipe calls for an ingredient I didn’t have on hand, but it looks amazing!!)



6. Colored Rice Sensory Bin: How to Make Colored Rice – My Frugal Adventures

Making colored rice is so easy! It is one of my very favorite sensory bin fillers.

I used spring and summer colors to dye the rice, you can use whatever you have on hand.

The combination of sensory bins and rice is almost endless.

It makes a great simple pouring activity, it makes an excellent base for an ocean-themed sensory bin,

I made a few of those pictured below.

I made several spring/summer-type bins also pictured below.

These will give you some great ideas for easy sensory bins for toddlers.

Spring Themed Colored Rice

Colored Rice


Bug Sensory Bin using the colored rice as a filler

Colored Rice


OOTSR 39pcs Bug Toy Figures for Kids BoysYou can make almost endless combinations of sensory bins with this 39-piece set of bugs!

We use bugs with all kinds of sensory bin fillers!

You can even freeze them in ice when you need a cool-down activity on a hot and humid July day.

Sensory bins for toddlers colored rice


Colored Rice for easy Sensory Bins for toddlers


Easter/Hatchery Sensory Bin using the colored rice after it was mixed together.

Our hatchery sensory bin is a fun Easter/Spring activity for toddlers.

It works with an Easter theme, springtime on the farm theme, baby chicks theme, and baby animals theme.

We have a homestead and we hatch chickens and turkeys in the spring.

So this is a popular sensory activity around our house in the spring.

Colored Rice


Ocean-themed Sensory Bin made with the blue-colored rice as a filler.

Colored Rice


Colored Rice for Sensory Bins


The shells I used in these ocean sensory bins, were a mix of shells we had collected at the beach and shells I had purchased on Amazon.

So let’s talk sea life animals.

The sea life animals used in these ocean sensory bins came from Michaels, The Dollar Store, and Amazon.

I found the best selection and best prices on Amazon.


Spring mix colored rice

Colored Rice

An easy seasonal or holiday sensory bin filler is mixed colored rice.


7. Colored Pasta Sensory Bin: How to Dye Pasta – Typically Simple

This is a simple recipe to make. I think I used a little too much food coloring and my pasta was a little darker color than the colored pasta in the recipe, but it worked out great anyway.

One tip with the pasta: To speed up the drying time put the colored pasta in the oven for 10 minutes at 250 degrees.

It helps the color set a little faster. I used the colored pasta to make a spring bug sensory bin, a garden sensory bin, and ocean-themed sensory bins.


Bugs in the Grass sensory bin

Colored Pasta


Farm/garden themed sensory bin with colored pasta

Colored Pasta


Ocean-themed sensory bin with shells and sea life toys.

Colored Pasta



8. Colored Oats Sensory Bin: Rainbow Oats And Next Comes L

I didn’t get a chance to make the colored oats for this post, but I will make them for a future post.


9. Colored Beans Sensory Bin: Colored Beans –  Fun At Home With Kids

Colored beans have always been a favorite of mine for easy toddler sensory bins and sensory play.

They are very easy to make. I normally use pinto beans. We buy pinto beans in bulk so I always have plenty to use for play activities.

The beans took the longest to dry, so keep that in mind when you make them.

I colored them and put them in the oven for 10 minutes at 250 degrees.

I did let them sit for a few more hours after that and they were perfect!


Spring and Summer Themed Colored Beans

Colored Beans


Colored Beans


Sensory bins are a fun and frugal play activity for toddlers and preschoolers.

Hopefully, these 9 DIY sensory bins for toddlers have given you some ideas on ways you can make your own sensory bins.

They do not have to be complicated or expensive.

Need more sensory bin ideas?

*** None of these items are edible and should be used by your child only when under constant adult supervision.*****


  • Doug Penta MD OB/GYN

    Dr. Doug Penta, MD - Co-Founder of Maternity Comfort Solutions Dr. Doug Penta, is a seasoned Obstetrician and Gynecologist with over 38 years of practice, co-founded Maternity Comfort Solutions to provide evidence-based pregnancy and parenting information. A Boston University alum and former Clinical Professor at Harvard, his articles on Maternity Comfort Solutions offer expectant mothers invaluable nutritional insights.

  • Sue Winters RN

    Sue Winters, RN - Co-Founder of Maternity Comfort Solutions Sue combines 20 years of nursing with a rich background in early childhood education. Co-founder of Maternity Comfort Solutions, her articles provide creative toddler activities and practical tips on pregnancy nutrition and baby shower planning, embodying her commitment to supporting families through early parenthood.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.