Importance of Sensory Bins for Infants and Toddlers

Babies are such wonderful beings, full of life, curiosity and optimism. The wonder with which they discover the world is such a joy to watch. However, some of these characteristics must be imbibed from a very young age so that they are familiar with their surroundings and don’t feel confused or scared when they come in contact with something new. In order to impart this knowledge, many parents opt for sensory bins for toddlers. Sensory bins help toddlers learn and discover by “doing”, and also provide the parents a few precious minutes where the child is occupied. Read on to find out more about sensory bins and how they can be useful in your life.

What Are Sensory Bins?

Sensory bins for toddlers are of various kinds but they are all essentially bins filled with a range of things that are different in shape, size, colour, texture, etc. with which toddlers can play, grow and discover. These are great in a way where there are bins available that allow children to play with their siblings, friends, and even their parents. The big advantage of these bins is that it is easy to change the composition of the bins. You can choose to put anything from your day to day life as well. These things can be all different in one aspect or the other or they can be the same texture but different things, just to get your toddler acquainted with new feelings and experiences.

What Are the Benefits of Sensory Bins?

You might be right in wondering whether there are any merits in taking this approach but there are definitive advantages in using sensory bins, and we have listed some of them below.

1. Cognitive Development

Sensory bins help kids empty and fill the bins, which imitate a hide and seek kind of play. This is important for their development.

2. Calming Activity

Turns out, giving kids a few bins with different things inside them helps to channelise all of that excess energy they have inside and helps them calm down. In case you feel like your toddler has a lot of pent up energy, have him sit in front of these boxes and just explore. This is also when you might come up with the best sensory bin ideas for toddlers.

3. Attention Span

Sometimes it might seem like your little one is all over the place and it can get a bit overwhelming. Sensory bins are a great way to get them to focus on one thing. They might just enjoy this more than structured activities since there is no goal as such.

4. Fine Motor Skills

Since the objects in the bins are of different shapes, sizes, and textures as well, it helps in developing your toddler’s fine motor skills. Holding, moving around, and handling small objects can be difficult for toddlers but the sensory bins give them a fun way to engage in it and understand it better.

5. Sensory Exploration

This is probably the most important benefit that comes out of sensory bins. The bins give the chance for toddlers to explore and understand different kinds of senses, namely, touch, seeing different colours, shapes, and textures, sounds that they produce, their taste and smell. It is a very important trait to develop and the earlier it is, the better it is for your little one!

child playing in a sensory bin

Tips for Playing in a Sensory Bin

Before you get too excited and start making your own bins, we have a bunch of tips that you can use in order to make this experience more efficient and wholesome. Here they are!

  • Choose items that you can reuse instead of stuff that is perishable. Reusing materials saves you money and time and you can spend that on seasonal materials that are available only for a certain amount of time in a year.
  • Pick items that are age-appropriate.
  • Make sure to set up the bins in such a way that they are away from the main part of the house so that in case it gets messy, you can clean up and nothing gets damaged.
  • Make sure to reuse the bins for other activities as well including colour and letter sorting, activities with names and words, etc.
  • Include items that might help your toddler academically as well.

Sensory Bin Filler Ideas

The number of things that you can fill sensory bins with is endless. There are too many things with different textures, shapes, and sizes that exist on this planet. You might find it overwhelming and may not know what to put in them at all but do not worry, here is a list of items that you can fill up the bins with to make it fun for you and your little one.

  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Salt
  • Lentils
  • Coffee beans
  • Oats
  • Popcorn
  • Leaves
  • Coconut husk
  • Pebbles
  • Ice
  • Water
  • Bubbles
  • Cooked pasta
  • Jello
  • Whipped cream
  • Snow
  • Cooked beans
  • Cotton
  • Nuts
  • Hay
  • Cream
  • Boiled potato
  • Mustard seeds
  • Acorns

5 Sensory Bin Ideas for Babies and Toddlers

Our list is pretty comprehensive but in case you are still a bit confused about how to go about it, we have 5 ideas that you lock up and keep in your sensory bin storage. These ideas can be easily executed with things that might mostly be lying around your house.

1. Dyed Pasta Sensory Bin

Dyed Pasta Sensory Bin
Source: Pinterest

Pasta is a great ingredient with which a sensory bin can be made. It is easily available in most households and all you need is a couple of other things to put together this multi-coloured, dyed pasta sensory bin. Here’s what you will need to do.

Supplies Needed

  • Dry pasta noodles in different shapes and sizes
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Sealed bags
  • Food colouring of choice
  • Paper towels
  • Baking pan

Instructions

  • Take the different kinds of pasta and seal them up in bags based on shape choice.
  • Splash each of the bags with some rubbing alcohol.
  • Pour the food colouring into each of the bags. The colours should be different in each bag.
  • Shake the sealed bags vigorously to a point where it seems like all the pasta has been covered by the food dye.
  • Let it sit for about 10 minutes and keep shaking the bag at regular intervals so that the dye seeps in.
  • Line the baking pan with a lot of paper towels and open up the bags.
  • Make sure they don’t intermingle or else the colours will get mixed.
  • Once they have dried, use a large sealed bag and transfer them so that they can be used in the future.

2. Rainbow Rice Sensory Bin

Rainbow Rice Sensory Bin
Source: Pinterest

Much like pasta, most households have rice, otherwise, it is pretty easy to find some at your closest supermarket. Rice makes for a great dry item to use in a sensory box. Toddlers love to fiddle around with tiny things. Here’s how you can make a rainbow rice sensory bin.

Supplies Needed

  • Ziplock bags
  • Non-toxic paint
  • Parchment paper or paper towels
  • Baking tray
  • A large container to store the final rice
  • Measuring cups for your kids

Instructions

  • Take half a cup of rice and put it in a ziplock bag.
  • Squeeze a little amount of paint in the bag. A lot of paint will make it all sticky. We use paint because it’s the only thing that helps coat the rice well and gives it a vibrant colour.
  • Press and shake and mix up the bag such that all the rice is coated in the paint.
  • Once coated, lay it all out on a sheet on a baking tray to dry out.
  • It might take an hour or two but once it is done, keep it aside and start with the next colour.
  • Make sure to include multiple colours since it’s known as rainbow rice.

3. Pond Inspired Sensory Bin

Pond Inspired Sensory Bin
Source: Pinterest

A pond is a great way to introduce your little one to nature and what is around him. This ‘outdoor sensory bin is a great way to make them understand many textures and shapes and also different animals that live in ponds. Read more to find out about how you can set this up.

Supplies Needed

  • A tub
  • Water
  • Plastic aquarium animals like frogs, snakes, etc.
  • Pebbles
  • Water beads that swell on touching the water
  • Twigs and sticks
  • Books on pond animals

Instructions

  • Fill the tub with water and soak the water beads until they become big.
  • Add the frogs, fish, snakes, etc. You can allow your child to set this up as well.
  • Throw in some pebbles to add some colour.
  • Place the sticks so that they act as logs in the water, and your tub is ready.
  • It is useful to have a book on pond animals and nature so that this can act as an educational tool for your toddler as well.

4. Halloween Sensory Bin

Halloween Sensory Bin
Source: Pinterest

Halloween is one of the most fun holidays of the year and what better way to introduce your little toddler to it than through a sensory bin. It can be a scary holiday for many babies but if they have been introduced to it from a very early age, the transition and understanding can be a bit easier. These gooey bags with eyes are a real hit with the young ones. Read on to find out more about how you can set this up for your children.

Supplies Needed

  • Ziplock bags
  • Shaving cream
  • Googly eyes
  • Hair gel
  • Hand soap
  • Glue

Instructions

  • Use multiple Ziplock bags and fill them up with different textured liquids such as hand soap, shaving cream, and the hair gel.
  • Once the bags are full, get your little one to fill them up with the googly eyes. He can choose to sort them by size as well.
  • Next, make sure the bags are closed tight.
  • Take the glue, in this case, super glue, and close the bag shut so that your toddler does not end up opening the bag.
  • Once the superglue has dried up, your toddler can play away! Finding googly eyes in different textures is a very new experience for your young one so make sure you’re there by his side.

5. Christmas Sensory Bin

Christmas Sensory Bin
Source: Pinterest

Christmas is a joyous occasion for millions of people around the world and you must instil that joy and wonder in your toddler from a young age. Christmas is a time of wonder, family, and gifts and we have the perfect winter sensory bin just for you.

Supplies Needed

  • Snow
  • Small orange peg, buttons, and a hat
  • Green chart paper
  • Tiny decorations
  • Small gift boxes

Instructions

  • Take a bunch of snow and put it in the box to form a base.
  • On one end of the box, make a small snowman from all the snow that you gathered.
  • Decorate the snowman with a small piece of fabric, a piece of a carrot, lentils, etc.
  • On the other end of the bin, use the green chart paper and fold it into a conical shape to resemble a tree.
  • Use markers and other decorative items to set up the tree such that it looks festive.
  • Teach your toddler all about Christmas and you can also teach them how to make small snowballs. Snow is a great texture that not many people around the world get to experience.

Precautions

Although it might seem pretty straightforward to be able to play with sensory bins, there are definitely some important things that you should keep in mind before introducing your toddler to different bins that you have setup. Here are some of them.

  • Be wary of choking hazards. Since a lot of the items that are included in the bin will be small-sized, you must be careful, especially if your toddler is in the habit of putting everything in his mouth. Change up the contents of the bin based on your requirement so long as they are safe for children.
  • Be sure to replace some of the items that have a shelf life. This could include many things that have different textures.
  • Do not force your toddler to touch something that he/she does not want to touch. Make them comfortable with it and encourage them by slowly doing it yourself and showing them that it is safe.
  • Towels! Have lots of towels ready in case you have different textures because it can get messy and you do not want your toddler to wipe their hands on your precious furniture.

Sensory bins are definitely a great way to keep your kids occupied but also to get them to learn a lot. As adults, we often underestimate the power of learning that a toddler’s mind can accomplish. Since they are growing, they are much more impressionable than we’d like to believe. We hope that these ideas that we have provided will help you to make your own sensory corner in the house with a bunch of stuff that your toddler can play with and experience.

Also Read:

Sensory Processing Disorder in Toddlers
Sensory Activities for Infants