• Hila Bahari

Sensory Play & Sensory Bin Ideas

The benefits and a few tips to incorporate sensory play with your little one!

The great thing about sensory play is that you can do it with little babies and even preschoolers. There is so much little ones gain from sensory play.


They are encouraged to move and often make repetitive movements which help tremendously with their brain development.
They begin understanding simple problem solving skills.
They work on their memory and they often become more calm when engaging in sensory play.
Different sensory play ideas can work on fine and gross motor skills as well as encourage your little ones creativity, imagination and self regulation.

Here are my top 9 go to sensory play for toddlers that anyone can set up in no time, I promise!


1. Colored (or not colored) rice + accessories

How to: Put rice in a ziplock bag or a Tupperware and add a table spoon of white vinegar per one cup of rice and then as much food coloring as you like. Mix, mix, mix. Let it fully dry by laying it flat on a tray before using it.

Storage: Keep in a ziplock bag once completely dry. Can be reused, we are on year 2. I recommend washing your child's hands before starting sensory play if you intend to reuse these.

2. Colored garbanzo beans + accessories

How to: Put dry garbanzo beans in a ziplock bag or a Tupperware and add a table spoon of white vinegar per one cup of beans then add as much food coloring as you like. Mix, mix, mix. Let it fully dry by laying it flat on a tray before using it.

Storage: Keep in a ziplock bag once completely dry. Can be reused, we are on year 2. I recommend washing your child's hands before starting sensory play if you intend to reuse these.

3. Colored pasta (any shape) + accessories

How to: Put dry pasta (any shape) in a ziplock bag or a Tupperware and add a table spoon of white vinegar per one cup of pasta then add as much food coloring as you like. Mix, mix, mix. Let it fully dry by laying it flat on a tray before using it.

Storage: Keep in a ziplock bag once completely dry. Can be reused, we are on year 2. I recommend washing your child's hands before starting sensory play if you intend to reuse these.

4. Frozen (anything) in ice cubes or large Tupperware or ice-paint popsicles

How to: in small or large ice tray mix water with a couple drops of food coloring. The more food coloring the stronger the color will be. Then cover the ice tray with Plastic food wrap, cut holes large enough to insert a popsicle stick. Insert sticks gently and let it freeze over night. The plastic food wrap is to make sure the sticks remain straight.

5. Play-dough

How to: You can buy ready made play dough like this one or make your own with this recipe. You may combine different things with play-dough each time, some ideas include- pearls, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, child safe scissors for cutting play dough (great for pre writing skills for older toddlers), rollers, cookie cutters or cookie stamps and more. (Always make sure the items you use are age appropriate). I love this round tray from Target for play-dough set up and its only $10.

Storage for Homemade Version: Keep in a ziplock bag AIR TIGHT or wrap in plastic food wrap AIR TIGHT.



6. Homemade sand

How to: Option one- 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup oil then mix well with your hands. You can add food coloring to the oil or leave it without colors.

Option two- blend stale cereal and its taste safe! Great for younger babies. Full disclosure this gets more messy as it sticks to clothes more.

Storage: Keep in a ziplock bag once completely dry. Can be reused, we are on year 2. I recommend washing your child's hands before starting sensory play if you intend to reuse these. Always check for change in color or smell before reusing. This may grow mold over time.

7. Water play (with shells, animals, balls, water beads) pretty much anything.

How to: Freeze objects in ice and use that with a bit of warm water to "rescue the objects/animals).


You can use any bin or water table and add any objects (age safe) like pompoms, flowers, animal figures or shells.

8. Taste safe foam

How to: Drain 1-2 cans of garbanzo beans water from mix that with food coloring and froth it, thats it!


9. Coffee beans

How to: plain, cheap, coffee beans in a large bin with some accessories.

Storage: Keep in a ziplock bag or a Mason jar. Can be reused, we are on year 2. I recommend washing your child's hands before starting sensory play if you intend to reuse these.


10. Colored shaving cream- best to play with in the bath or shower.

How to: mix shaving cream with food coloring. I like using a muffin tin for this since you can separate each color and present it with some paint brushes.

You can check out this and this highlight on my instagram page for more ideas.



What you need for a successful, mess free sensory play:

  1. Easy to clean mat like this target table cloth or this foldable mat that can be used for the beach or park as well.

  2. Sensory table like this one from IKEA or simple bins like this or this $10 tray.

  3. Scoopers, bowls, cups or fine motor skill items like this one or this one

  4. Items your child is currently interested in like trucks to pick up the rice or beans with. Dolls to "feed" Animal figures to run in the rice or to feed, the options are endless once you follow your child's lead.

For more items to use for your sensory bins you can checkout this list I created on my amazon shop.


Do you feel hesitant?

Many parents hesitate to do "sensory" play for their little ones, especially at home, because of: 1. THE MESS!

2. CHILDREN PUTTING THINGS IN THEIR MOUTH!

Here is my solution for you:


Prepare the area: Get a good mat that is water resistant and easy to clean up. Once you have a mat (large enough) on the floor you can set up your bin on top of it and let your child play in the pin, anything that falls off because "life happens" is going to be easily cleaned up. Here is a mat I like which works great for beach or park as well.

Lay the rules: some might seem too young for this but I think they are never too young to understand when they see a response from us and its consistent.

"We are going to play with this and everything has to stay INSIDE the bin and not in our mouth, otherwise mommy has to clean up and we will be all done with this activity"

You can do one warning and after that you actually need to clean up and let your child know that they weren't able to follow the rule and we have to clean up (now these rules may look different in each home and thats your choice to make, the key is to stay consistent).


With some sensory play items you MUST supervise closely while other may be completely safe. I suggest giving your (younger) child a pacifier the first few times, if they take one, that should help them keep things out of their mouths. (we keep the pacifier for sleep time only, but with my second, who loved tasting everything this was very helpful and the only time I really "broke" the rule).




XOXO Hila


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