Sensory Bins: What’s the Point?

Sensory bins?  What’s that?  What’s the purpose?

I get those questions every time I tell my family or friends what the girls are playing with.  I’m fairly new to the idea of sensory bins myself.  But after doing a bit of research on the internet and watching the girls interact with their sensory bins, I’ve come up with some great answers to these questions!

The first thing that comes to mind when asked “What’s the point?” is that sensory bins are fun! No doubt about it.  Sensory bins are…

  • visually appealing (I mean, just look at ours!  Don’t you want to delve right in??)
  • texturally appealing (from soft poms-poms to grainy rice or pasta..some I’ve seen even include water and sand!)
  • audibly appealing (the crunch-crunch of objects being buried into small pasta or rice and the soothing sound of sand being poured)

Get it?  Visual… textual.. audible… all senses!  Sensory bins appeal to a child’s senses in a fun way and on many different levels.

But sensory bins also appeal to children in a manageable way for us as parents.  Meaning, all this fun is contained to one small bin!  And is always being used with parental supervision. (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! – or you could have grass and rice from one end of your house to the other!)

While sensory activities are achieved with these fun bins, a great deal of learning and developmental activities are encountered with sensory bins as well!  From toddlers to school aged children, a sensory bin can develop skills such as…

  • Fine Motor (placing small objects into small areas, using tongs or tweezers to pick up objects)
  • Transferring (moving objects from one container to another, i.e. pouring, scooping)
  • Matching (colors, shapes, objects, etc.)
  • Patterns (big, small, big, small or flower, butterfly, flower, butterfly, etc.)
  • Counting (see our video in this post of how our Spring bin prompted Brylee to count)
  • Sorting and Classifying (into other objects such as ice cube trays, small buckets, egg platters)
  • Specific skill recognition & reinforcement (colors, letters, shapes, themes, etc.)
***You can adapt these tot tray skills to use with your sensory bin.  (Scroll to the very bottom of link.)


The possibilities are truly endless.  Our sensory bins focus more on basic and developmental skills.  Whereas I have seen some very specific skill bins, such as gardening or bear habitats.

Sensory bins also provide for lots of imaginative play.  It is really incredible what my girls will come up with when handed this box of goodies!

Below are the two sensory bins we have made and what I have managed to capture the girls (mainly Brylee) doing with the items in the bins.

We recently made an ABC sensory bin that is introduced at the beginning of each week, focusing on our letter of the week.  I mainly want Brylee to focus on recognizing each uppercase and lowercase letters as well as the sound.

I have Brylee pick up a letter and say the letter name and sound.  Then she says whether it’s big/uppercase or little/lowercase and place on our letter mat for the week (from COAH).  Then she picks up each object, says it’s name and sounds out the beginning sound (but we don’t focus too much on this since she is still young!).  Then she is free to play around, which usually involves burying the objects into the pasta.  I think she likes the crunch sound.  :)

*Notice I have Cami focused on some flash cards during this time.  Our ABC sensory bin is a bit too advanced for her at this age.  All she wants to do is throw the small ABC pasta all over the place. And that ain’t happen’!


Go here if you are unable to view the video.


Our Spring sensory bin (which is pictured at the top of the post) was our first every sensory bin.  And boy, has it kept my little ones busy and content!  Some skills focused on have been…

sorting (white pom-poms in green bucket, bunny pegs in blue bucket, erasers in chick egg)

transferring and fine motor (using tongs to pick up erasers and release into chick egg)

… different type of fine motor skill (placing bunny peg into small hole)

… more transferring, fine motor and sorting skills as well as counting one-to-one (using an egg platter!)

Even Cami attempts some fine motor skills with the tongs.  This is a skill we are still working on.  She does, however, love to put each object into the eggs or cups and then dump them into something else… which is definitely a transferring skill!


Some more great ideas around the internet:

I could literally keep going with the list or…

you could google image search “sensory bins” and be amazed at the fun and inviting sensory bins out there!

**If you have any questions, feel free to email me!
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11 Responses to Sensory Bins: What’s the Point?

  1. Tracey says:

    Love, love, love this post. I’m just learning more about sensory tubs and thought you did a great job breaking down all the benefits. I’m really interested in homeschooling but not ready to make the plunge so I’m looking for ways to implement cool activities like this.

    I added this page to my “Best Homeschool Resources” post. Check it out and feel free to add more cool links.


    • Carolyn says:

      Thank you!! I was at the same point you are not too long ago. I kind of wanted to homeschool but was a little overwhelmed and decided to start small to see how things went. (I do still have a couple years! :) ) But our tot school has been going well and I’ve found a lot of great ideas online for preschool. So, we are pretty sure we are going to full out homeschool. I love your blog, btw! Such a great design and great content!!! I look forward to reading more.

  2. tracy says:

    Where did you get that alphabet pasta? I made a sensory bin for my almost 2 year old, but I bought basmati rice at Sam’s and it doesn’t smell very good! I need to replace it….

  3. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for this post! I too was having a hard time explaining to people what they were, an dhow they worked. Now I can kind of use you as a starting point and write a post so my readers will know too. Very helpful!

    • Carolyn says:

      I completely understand! My family and friends would give me this odd look when I told them what the girls were playing with. lol! That’s why I wrote it. :) So glad you liked it! I look forward to seeing your post too!

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