Tactile Sensory Play Ideas: Making Sensory Bins

As an occupational therapist I do a lot of sensory-based tactile play at my work, because it has many benefits for the development of children of all ages (builds motor, visual, sensory, and cognitive skills).  At home, I try to allow my children opportunities to engage in sensory play to allow them to develop their sensory processing skills and build creative, flexible, and higher-level thinking skills.  This means that my children are often messy, clothes are stained, and my floors are dirty, but it is worth it!

I’ve looked online for “sensory play” ideas, and I found most of the suggestions overwhelming and impractical.  Children need the opportunity to engage in tactile play, but it should occur within their normal routines and environments.  This series of posts is just of photos that try to capture the ways that tactile play can occur with minimal effort.  The biggest effort is just allowing your children to explore and be messy and love it (and taking adorable photos).

Making Sensory Bins:

  • This post is the exception in this series.  While the other posts have been about finding sensory experiences in everyday life, this one is about specifically creating sensory play opportunities.
  • I have made a few traditional “sensory bins” to use at my house.  They were a bit of work at the start, but they have been used for several years without needing any replacing, so they are worth the investment.
  • It is important to get boxes that are large enough and have a firmly locking lid (that young children can’t open on their own!)  These are easy to find at stores or online- buy a few that stack nicely together for storage.  Shoe box size is too small, so I got 16-quart sized boxes for my 2 children to use together.
  • We take out a large sheet and put the box in the middle.  This helps tremendously with clean-up, and it allows children to play outside the box for more play options.
  • The extra contents in the boxes (spoons, cups, dino toys, etc) are constantly changing depending on the age and interest of my children.  This allows the sensory bin to become “new” again with the additional of a few random household objects.
  • Yes they make a mess, but it helps teach them control and attention skills.  And, everyone has to help clean-up after we are done.
  • This is a great website with tons more sensory bin ideas.
  • Just remember that tactile play can and should come in lots of forms throughout your child’s day.  Sensory bins are just one way to encourage your child’s exploration.

Looking for more ideas- check this blog post for tons of sensory bin ideas.

See other posts in this series:

Paige Hays is an occupational therapist who provides in-home, pediatric occupational therapy services in the south metro area of the Twin Cities, MN. She is a mother of 2 girls, avid DIYer, and a highly skilled and experienced OT. She specializes in working in pediatrics, with diverse expertise ranging from cognition and sensory issues to working with children with neuromuscular disabilities or complex medical needs.