Sensory Bin Fillers

Sensory Bin Fillers

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There is no question that ever since my daughter turned one, I have been so excited and curious about toddler activities and getting started with sensory bins.  Even as a first grade teacher, I must admit that I didn't know much about sensory bins or sensory play and I was embarrassed to admit it.  But, as my daughter has become more interested in organized activities, I have really enjoyed discovering all the experiences that sensory bins have to offer little learners.

The hardest part for me was simply getting started.  I really didn't know what materials I would need, what was appropriate, and what my daughter should focus on.  Once a teacher, always a teacher, am I right?!  The best thing for me was to just agree to let go and make it about play and discovery.  That way if I tried something and she didn't like it, it would be ok!  We tried something new!  We were learning new things!  That's what it's all about when you're introducing activities to your little ones.

I hope that by sharing some of the things I have discovered since starting sensory bins with my daughter a few months ago, it will encourage others to get started with their children without fear or reservation.

Sensory Bin Fillers for Babies under 16 months:

Hidden Puzzle Cereal Bin for Babies Under 16 Months

When I first got started with sensory bins with my daughter, she was under two years old and I knew I wanted her experience to be fun but also safe.  The point of sensory play is to engage all of your senses and offer new opportunities for hands-on learning.  Even though she was little, I wanted to start her early so this became part of her routine and something she learned to love.

The sensory bin fillers that I started with were things that I knew she would be safe around.  If she ingested or tasted anything, even though I would be right by her, I wouldn't be worried about choking.  That's where the thought for these beginning sensory bin fillers came from.  

My favorites included:

  • water (plain or dyed with a drop of food coloring)
  • soapy water
  • waters with bubbles in it
  • cheerios
  • oats
  • cloud dough (oil and flour and food coloring if desired)
When introducing sensory bins to babies it is important to model first and keep a close eye on them as they're playing and learning.  If you're not interested in a mess, colored water in a Ziploc bag is the perfect sensory play introduction!

 I should mention that the sensory bin fillers that are included in this list are not limited to babies under 16 months.  My two year old STILL loves a bin of soapy or colored water to explore with!
Alphabet Soup Soapy Sensory Bin with Target Alphabet Sponges

Sensory Bin Fillers for Babies 16 months old and Up:


For your little one who is older than 16 months, adult supervision is still necessary. You are still introducing your little ones to new sensory experiences and even though they may not be as interested in putting things into their mouths as they once were, you never know and supervision should not be put to the side.

Once you introduce your little ones to sensory play, they are sure to look forward to the next activity you prepare for them.  When putting your sensory bins together, think about what you want your child to get from the experience. 

They can focus on language skills as you model and discuss what they're doing with their sensory bins.  They can focus on fine motor skills by scooping, pouring, and dumping.  They can also work on social skills by sharing, communicating, and playing if these bins are used with siblings or friends.

So what sensory fillers can be used for older children?  The possibilities are truly endless!

Sensory Fillers Include:

  • dry black beans
  • dry lentils
  • dyed or plain dry pasta
  • homemade playdough
  • waterbeads
  • plain or dyed rice
  • shaving cream
  • slime
  • kinetic sand
  • oats
  • sand
  • dried pinto beans
  • Easter grass
  • pom poms

Once you buy or create these things it's essential to keep them on hand so you can reuse them time and time again.  I love to store them in gallon sized Ziploc bags in a closet so I can grab them and reuse them whenever I want to.
To make an effective sensory bin, once you have chosen your filler, add in cups, bowls, funnels, tongs, spoons or any other fine motor tools that you might have on hand.  I like to use things that I already have in my kitchen or in my daughter's playroom to keep things cost effective and easy to put together!

Where Do I Buy Sensory Fillers?

The answer may surprise you, but you probably already have most of these fillers in your home!  I love to use stale cereal (nothing goes to waste!) or cheap bags of dried beans and rice that I can get from the grocery store or the dollar store.  The only thing that is a little costly are the water beads that I get from Amazon but you can simply dry them out and reuse them.  One tablespoon of water beads can yield big results!  I will make sure to link some of my favorite sensory bin essentials below for you to check out!

I hope this post has been helpful in gearing you towards the right direction to get started with sensory play with your little ones.  It really is such a rewarding way to engage your little ones and help them to discover new things all around them.


My Sensory Bin Essentials:


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