Sensory Bin Ideas: Find 7 non-food sensory bin ideas that you can use in your classroom to engage students and reinforce a variety of skills.
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Sensory Bins are one of my favourite things to put together for my students. I love coming up with new materials, activities, and experiences for them using the sensory bin.
I try to incorporate various skills into each sensory bin that I make: science, literacy, math, fine motor, problem-solving, etc. It’s important for me to challenge my students in all areas of the classroom, and provide them with rich learning experiences. I discuss this in-depth in my blog post How I Use Sensory Bins in Kindergarten.
Another important aspect to consider when choosing a sensory bin filler- are you going to use food or not in your bin? There are reasons for and against using food in a sensory bin:
- Can be inexpensive. You can buy dried beans, rice, noodles and other items for low cost, and fill your sensory bin without spending a lot of money;
- They can be dyed different colours. When you use food as a filler, you can usually dye the materials. I’ve dyed chickpeas, rice, pasta, lima beans, and more;
- You can find different textures. With food fillers, you can find so many different types and provide different sensory experiences.
- For students and families suffering from food insecurity, using food as a toy can cause discomfort. Think about your school community and decide if food should be used as a sensory bin filler. For this reason, a lot of educators have decided to move away from using food in their sensory bins.
Non-Food Sensory Bin Fillers
I put together a series of sensory bin filler ideas that do not involve using food. You can still work on a variety of skills and offer a great sensory experience to your students.
I chose materials that are inexpensive (or free) so that you can make fun sensory bins all year long! These ideas were initially shared to my Instagram page- make sure you are following me there if you want more ideas for your classroom!
Try to think of a material that your students may seem a little bored with. Sometimes just changing where the material is available gets them excited to use it.
You can also add some other materials in with it to work on other skills as well. Pompoms and tweezers will reinforce fine motor skills. To work on problem-solving and innovating- add some pictures of famous structures from around the world. Add measuring tools like rulers or bucket balance.
There are so many skills you can work on just by moving some building materials into your sensory bin!
My students love collecting materials outside. They bring me interesting leaves, rocks, dandelions, sticks. These are all great sensory bin fillers, and your students will be so excited to play with their found treasures.
You can work on different skills by getting your students to sort the items, draw pictures and label them, or use a hole punch with leaves. If you bring in leaves from different trees, you can talk about what makes them the same or different, and have them try to match the leaves to the correct tree.
Adding simple task cards, number or letter cards to your bin can also add literacy or math skill practice. These leaf letters are from my Falling Leaves activity pack.
Beads can come in so many different shapes and sizes. There are these small pony beads, but you can also have large wood beads. I love beads for their fine motor skill practice, but they can be used for so much more!
I’ve used beads for patterning, counting, sorting, adding, subtracting, making ten, sight words, and so much more. The best part is- my students always love using beads and get so excited when they see them.
I’ve used beads to work on sorting using this fun rainbow activity. They can also count how many beads that they have put on for each colour for extra number sense practice.
I used cotton balls because they are relatively inexpensive to buy in buy- but you can also use pompoms. I love using them because they provide a different sensory experience.
You can add some pompoms for pops of colour with the cotton balls as well, and provide the opportunity to sort. Tweezers are another great addition to a cotton ball sensory bin.
Adding fun number sense activities like these cloud numbers is an easy way to work on math skills while engaged in sensory play.
This is one of my favourite sensory bin fillers because it is so easy. You can find different colours of shredded paper at the dollar store or party stores. Even better- I take it out of the school shredder. When I’m done I put it back.
Again, adding other materials to this sensory bin filler can reinforce different skills that you want your students to work on. Those skills will change throughout the year, so you can adapt what you add to your bins.
I added a seasonal activity to this sensory bin for spring. You can do this to easily change up your skills and keep your students engaged. My Seasonal Fine Motor Activities are great for easily finding new skills to work on.
This is another free and really easy sensory bin filler idea. You can put water in your bin, but ice cubes and snow are so fun too.
There is so much that you can add to a water sensory bin, these are a few things that I’ve used:
You can use many types of rocks to fill a sensory bin. In this picture, I used aquarium gravel. It comes in all kinds of colours, and is relatively inexpensive.
You can add so many different things to rock sensory bin fillers, and work on different skills depending on what you add in.
These magnetic letters work great for CVC Word Practice, or could work for sight word building, name practice, letter matching. Reinforce the skills that your students need.
You can also collect rocks from outside (or have students do it) to create a rock garden sensory bin. Add different elements to it like flowers, pots, shovels and students can make a garden.
More Sensory Bin Ideas
I have a love of sensory bins (you may have noticed), so I have written a lot of blog posts about them. I have linked quite a few of them throughout this post, and you can visit How to Use Sensory Bins in Kindergarten for even more ideas.
Trying to come up with new sensory bin ideas for your students can sometimes feel challenging- so I came up with this fun cheat sheet. You can use it to decide what you want to add to your sensory bin.
I’ve made it a free download in my Resource Library. Keep it with your teacher planner- that way you can reference it whenever you are coming up with a new sensory bin idea.
What are your favourite sensory bin fillers? Let me know in the comments!