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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sensory Bin/Table/Play

We’ve been getting quite a few questions on sensory tables/bins etc.  A sensory experience does NOT have to be in/on a table by any means. Any old container, bowl, box, etc. will work.  Our contributors both have store bought and DIY tables.  We also use a plastic storage tub often for these play experiences. 

You can see our store bought table here…  Store bought table

Another great option here... Play At Home Mom Amazon Store

And our DIY here…  DIY Table

If you check out our Sensory Bin photo album on Facebook you will see that sensory play is not just limited to a sensory table.   Facebook Sensory Bins

Sensory play creates a wonderful hands-on experience.   It gives children the chance to explore and experiment while benefiting in so many ways.   It also can be used for any age with proper supervision.  Here is one simple bin that we did recently…  

My oldest daughter is an entertainer to say the least.  She absolutely loves to have parties and play hostess, etc.  She is a helper by nature and will drop everything she's doing to lend a helping hand...even when often times they do not need one!  LOL  She is definitely going to be that friend you can call at 2:00AM to get you out of a jam.  :-)  She had a blast this summer with a colored rice bin that we used to make snow cones, ice cream, slushies, etc.  I thought I would create a...

"Hot Chocolate Bin" 

This is what I called it.  However, my daughter had different plans.  

Brown Aquarium Rocks
Cotton Balls
Plastic Spoons
Stir Sticks
Pretend Cake Pieces
Paper Plates
Paper Cups

I also added some of her animals on the side.  She often brings them into her play for her "parties".  

Scooping up the rocks with a spoon.



"Would you like some cake with jelly beans on top?"  


"I'm going to mix you up some nice hot apple cider"

She decided take out all the "props" that were in the sensory bin and put them in her side compartments.



Filling up cups.

"That's too much.  Let me take a little out so it doesn't spill.  It's starting to get heavy, Mommy."



"I'm going to invite everybody to my party!  Everybody is going to have hot cider and cake!"  How come you're so tall Mr. Giraffe?  Are you all done?  OK, when you come back tomorrow I'll give you some more.  Let me help you clean up.  Now your plate will be all ready for tomorrow."  


The options for sensory play are ENDLESS along with the learning opportunities.   

Some options to add to your sensory bin:

Salt (colored or plain)
Corn Starch
Dried Beans
Coffee Grounds
Coffee Beans
Pumpkin Seeds
Frozen Vegetables
Packing Peanuts
Shredded Paper
Pom Poms
Ice (colored of plain)
Water (colored or plain)
Bird Seed
Pine Cones
Water balloons
Aquarium Rocks
Golf Balls

I can probably go on forever!  



  1. Bookmarking this! It's a perfect resource! thanks :)


  2. OK, I am embarrassed to say I am completely ignorant about sensory tubs. My DS is already 2 1/2 and he should be PLAYING instead of my just now getting around to asking questions! I have three questions to begin, and surely more to come as I get going.

    First, how often do you change the stuff in you tubs? Obviously, some things need to go as soon as play is done, but do you keep some tubs the same for longer times?

    Second, when you do change it, what do you do with the stuff? I know some things can be put away for later use, but what about stuff like shaving cream, pudding, clean snow, etc.? What is the proper way to dispose of it? I'm probably being ridiculous here, but I am a teensy bit concerned that I'm teaching environmental irresponsibility by being wasteful. I know it's not really a WASTE because I'm TEACHING, and that's VALUABLE. I need help convincing myself of this because DH is a minimalist and this requires a lot of "stuff". That said, we see the importance and are totally on board, it's just... old habits die hard, right?

    Finally, DH is a fantastic builder. He is gonna rock this table thing. We want to do a light table too. Is there any reason we couldn't put the tub on one side and the light table, inset with a cover, on the other side?

    Thank you so much for your help here. I really can't wait to get started.

    1. Forethought - what goes into cubbies has to come back out. Make sure you have a plan for what you're putting IN the cubbies before you assemble them, and you can satisfy your eco-friendly minimalist urges and play with your son to boot.

      Bonus: you can let him help dis-assemble the cubbies as well, and talk about what was in them and how to dispose of certain things (ex: recycling, composting, "we can re-use that - what do you think we can use this for next?" etc).

  3. Would love to know where you got the large sized animals. Will you share? Love your ideas btw. We used your ideas to make a light/sensory table by filling a clear plastic storage bin with Christmas lights and putting on the lid, then we put another shallower clear bin on top to fill up with things like Orbeez. We love it!

    1. Tractor Supply Company or whatever your local farm store is will usually have them. If you don't know where there is one, hit your yellow pages - even urban areas have them, believe it or not.

  4. thank you so much for these ideas! i just made my son his first sensory bin, blogged here:

    i can't wait until the lawn needs mowing again... i bet grass clippings would be awesome in there!

  5. i know good2bqueen's comment is old, but i wanted to reply to it, in case nobody has yet elsewhere. i'm like a sensory bin expert now that we've done it for a week ;)

    anyway, i think this is my son's greenest toy. the idea that you are wasting material in the sensory bin is well-intentioned, but it's also kind of silly (as she totally admits!). you can put anything in there. we put crushed ice in there yesterday and used the melted water in the garden (after we were done splashing it!). you can save junk mail and shred it and put the shredded paper in the bin, which can then be recycled or composted. yesterday i filled the bin with empty containers i had saved. i applaud your dh for wanting to not be wasteful, but this could be a great opportunity to teach your child about the second life of our consumed products. you can control what goes in there and make sure it's not wasteful if that's important to you. but that being said, one can of shaving cream for a 2 year old is full of so much joy. it is a far superior "use" than actually shaving with it.

  6. good2Bqueen... it depends what is in the tub. Colored rice we have left in our tub for months. We play off the interests of our children. If I see they are losing interest in something then I will switch it up. Also, I have all of their sensory "bin" stuff in clear containers that they have access to. 90% of the time they pick and choose what they want in there. However, I know not everyone has the space to do this.

    When switching bins it is saved for later use or trashed.

    Having a sensory bin on one side and light on the other is a great idea! We had a few fans do that. Have you seen us on Pinterest?

    @Bridgetown I got them on Amazon. Jumbo Resource Animals. If you click on our Amazon store you can see them there.

    @bs. Thank you for taking the time to reply.

  7. thanks. this helped me a lot as i'm developing one. I am stuck thinking she'd be bored of some of these things and that it'd be a lot of wasted time buying, filling up the bins etc. but seeing your pictures made me realize that kids have wonderful imagination and that I should be more creative too. So i'm saving this list and we're gonna begin moving beyond beans, water and sand. thanks!

  8. Hi there, I love your water table, but unfortunately I'm having trouble getting the link to where you purchased it to work...Would it be possible to have someone send it to me or repost it? Thanks!


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