30+ Items You Can Put in a Sensory Bin

May 08th, 2020 | by NAPA Team


May 08th, 2020

Our Favorite Sensory Items

Sensory bins are all the rage right now! Perhaps you’ve seen pictures floating around the internet of Tupperware containers filled with beans or rice and wondered what all the fuss was about. Or maybe you’ve tried to make a few sensory bins of your own but are running out of ideas. Whether sensory bins are a familiar friend or a daunting new endeavor, read on for more information and ideas on how to put together one of these amazing sensory experiences. 

What’s So Good About Sensory Bins, Anyways? 

The very best thing about sensory bins is that they are just so much FUN!! As an occupational therapist, one of the things I love to see children doing the most is playing, and sensory bins make kids want to play! Children learn so much during unstructured free play – problem solving, emotional regulation, imitation, social skills, language, fine motor skills, the list is endless. So giving them new experiences in the form of a sensory bin will help them develop and hone so many new skills, all while having a blast! 

Besides the fun aspect, sensory bins are a great way to provide sensory input for your child (well duh, that’s why it’s called a sensory bin). Many children with sensory processing difficulties require high levels of sensory input to help their bodies stay calm and regulated. Sensory bins offer intense and/or new tactile (touch) experiences, which can give them the input they crave.

On the flip side, some children are very hypersensitive to certain types of tactile input – perhaps your child is constantly bothered by tags and sock seams, or refuses to touch wet, sticky things like glue or paint. For these children, using a slow and steady approach can help them learn about different textures without pressure. Offer extra tools to start exploring the bin – use tongs and spoons to scoop and pour without having to touch at first, and over time your child can grow more comfortable and may eventually be willing to directly interact. It is important to NEVER force your child to touch a texture – you don’t want to make this a negative experience. 

What to Put in a Sensory Bin 

Now that you know WHY sensory bins are so amazing, take a gander at our list of sensory items to put inside your DIY sensory bin. This list is by no means exhaustive – use these ideas to get your gears turning! 


The basic components of any sensory bin are 

  1. A large washable container 
  2. One or more fillers 
  3. Toys and tools to go inside!   


Dry fillers (great for reusable sensory bins) 

  1. Dry rice, beans, and/or pasta 
  2. Unpopped popcorn 
  3. Sand 
  4. Cotton balls 
  5. Shredded paper 
  6. Raffia/crinkle grass 
  7. Corn Meal 
  8. Craft feathers 
  9. Packing peanuts 
  10. Beads 
  11. Gardening soil 
  12. Leaves 
  13. Birdseed 


Sticky or wet fillers (tend to be messier – more mess, more sensory input!) 

  1. Cloud dough 
  2. Kinetic sand 
  3. Homemade “snow” (mix equal parts cornstarch and baking soda, then slowly mix in water to get desired texture) 
  4. Water 
  5. Soap foam (mix 2 tablespoons dish soap, ¼ cup water and food coloring(optional) in a blender) 
  6. Water beads 
  7. Shaving cream 
  8. Oobleck (Click for the recipe!)


Tools and toys 

  1. Small plastic toys to hide and search for 
  2. Tongs, tweezers, and spoons 
  3. Measuring cups and bowls 
  4. Silicone muffin cups 
  5. Ice cube tray 
  6. Magnifying glass 
  7. Whisk, sieve, colander (for water-based bins) 
  8. Funnel 
  9. Cookie cutters and molds 
  10. Fake gems and rhinestones 

Interested in more sensory fun? Try making a Sensory Crash Pad!

TAGS: Blogs, OT