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Child Development Toddler (18-36m)

How To Create A Toddler Sensory Bin At Home.

Sensory bins are a great activity to stimulate your child and help them learn! Essentially, a sensory bin is filled with whatever objects you desire. They are a mixture of different textures, objects and manipulatives with a central theme. Their purpose is to encourage your child’s development and help them grow while having fun!

What Is Your Toddler Learning?

Children are always developing their senses right from when they are born. According to the Early Learning for Every Child Today (ELECT) document, written by Ontario’s Best Start Panel for Early Learning, Toddlers, specifically, are largely focused on various sensory skills, which include:

  • Sensory Discrimination (ELECT, p.36, 5.3)
  • Sensory Exploration (ELECT, p.36, 5.3)
  • Learning To Use Utensils  (ELECT, p.35, 5.2)
  • Learning How To Sort (ELECT, p.34, 4.9)
  • Sensory Motor Integration (ELECT, p.36, 5.3)
  • And Pretend Play (ELECT, p.34, 4.7)

All of these skills, and many more are practiced during sensory play.

Click Here to check out the ELECT Document referenced above.

How To Create A Sensory Bin.

Step 1: Choosing a Theme

You should choose a theme based on your child’s interests or a life skill they need to learn (ie. baking, cleaning).

Plastic dinosaurs for sinosaur sensory bin
Our favourite theme is dinosaurs!


Step 2: Finding Materials

Creating a sensory bin doesn’t have to be expensive. Use materials that are available to you! When I create sensory bins for Atlas, I like to use things that are either reusable or cheap enough that I don’t mind throwing it away later. These can include things such as pasta, jello, scarves, dollar store toys, etc. Whatever you think your child will enjoy, add it to your bin!

Natural materials for dinosaur sensory bin
Natural Materials are free!

When collecting materials, be sure to use a variety of materials. This is to provide different textures for your child and give them a bit more of an experience. I like to combine both soft and hard materials as part of my sensory bins.

Step 3: Adding Tools 

Adding different tools is important to enhance your children skills. Whether it’s tongs to help with pincer grasp, or spoons for scooping and dumping, tools provide new learning experiences. Atlas really likes pouring objects from one cup or bowl to another. We will often add cups when we do sensory play to encourage measurement and hand eye coordination.

Materials and tools gathered for dinosaur sensory bin
In our dinosaur themed bin, Atlas used the sticks as tools to manipulate the environment.

The tools you choose should really be based on whichever theme you’ve chosen.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with it! I’ve seen so many great ideas for sensory bins out there and want to try them all! There are literally millions of things you can use in sensory bins to encourage your child’s development.

8 Sensory Bin Theme Ideas:

  • Zoo — plastic zoo animals, leaves, sticks, sand or dirt, rocks 
  • Underwater — blue jello, plastic sea creatures, sand, shovel, small bucket, shells 
  • Pet Wash — chocolate pudding, water and soap, brush, plastic animals, sponge
  • Baking — oatmeal, cheerios, measuring cups, wooden spoon, whisk, cookie cutters
  • Dinosaurs — grass, leaves, rice, plastic toys, rocks, sand, toy bones, fossils, sticks
  • Bugs — grass, magnifying glass, container, plastic toys, sticks, tongs, flowers 
  • Alphabet — wooden beads, objects with alphabet on it, tongs 
  • Farm — kernels/corn, plastic animals, scoops, plastic or wooden veggies

Do you or your child have a favourite sensory bin theme?

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