Learning Through Play with 60+ Sensory Bins

Looking through the features for this week, we noticed a running theme.  It seems lots of folks are enjoying their days with their kiddos by doing fun and educational…

Sensory Bins!

If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you probably know that we love any sensory inspired play and sensory bins are one of our favorites!  We’ve done holiday themed bins, educational learning bins, color themed bins… There is no limit to the type or learning aspects you can develop through sensory bins.

So what is so great about Sensory Bins?

Sensory bins are a fantastic way for young children to explore their senses.  Kids, especially the younger set, learn through touch…picking up an object, manipulating it’s weight, exploring it’s color, texture, and size…and comparing the object to others.  Sensory bins allow a child to use all of their senses when exploring objects.  They can feel the different textures, see the contrasting colors, smell rice/corn/paper/whatever, hear the crunch of materials, even taste the objects.  And then there is the proprioceptive and kinesthetic senses that come into play when the child picks up and manipulates the items in relation to his body.
While all of this sensory stuff is completely awesome for little ones, don’t forget the learning that happens when a sensory bin is explored: colors, shapes, matching, comparing/contrasting, language development, sorting, counting, and fine motor skills, language development, and imagination skills.
The topics of sensory bins are limitless.  You can build a bin around a science theme, a specific letter of the alphabet, a holiday, or just throw some black beans in a bowl and add a few spoons and cotton balls…FUN!
Let’s see what super fun and imaginative sensory bins our featured linkers came up with this week:
Alphabet Learning Through Play by Little Bins for Little Hands
(ten completely fun and educational alphabet themed bins!)
Bird Seed Sensory Bin by Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails
(we love playing in a bin of bird seed in this house!!)
Ocean Sensory Table by Stir The Wonder
(oh, our kids would love this one!)
(perfect edible sensory play for babies!)
Zoo Sensory Bins by Fantastic and Fun Learning
(Such fun with this collection of sensory bins!)
40+ Farm Sensory Bins by Living Montessori Now
(…we made the list…YYYEEAH! Seriously, there are great ideas in this post!)
Some of our favorite Sensory Bin posts:
 You may want to see more of our Sensory Bins here.

Shredded Paper Sensory Bin

Valentines day shredded paper sensory bin

We made a quick Valentine’s Day sensory bin using shredded paper one year and it was a big hit. This shredded paper sensory bin used paper from our paper shredded and some other materials found around the home as we worked on fine motor skills and tactile exploration. Here is another Valentine’s Day sensory bin to try as well. Both of these are great additions to your occupational therapy Valentine activities.

Valentines day shredded paper sensory bin

Shredded paper sensory bin

This sensory bin was a Valentine’s day activity for us, but the shredded paper sensory bin can be used with any theme.

You’ll need just shredded paper, some cardboard tubes, and pipe cleaners. Then add other scoops, stirrers, and other materials if you like: recycled bottle caps, cookie cutters, craft pom poms, etc.

To make this sensory bin, you’ll start by making colored paper.

You can also add Valentine’s Day sensory bin materials like the ones found in our new Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit. The Kit contains 25 pages of hands-on materials designed to develop and refine fine motor skills in kids, but some of those items are perfect for adding to sensory bins like this one. Simply cut (or have the child cut out) the images of hearts and other Valentine items. Then, you can scatter the sensory bin items into the sensory material. Hide them and have the child find them.

Valentines Day memory cards, color and cut activity and fine motor sheet

How to dye paper

To dye the paper, all you need are these items:

  • shredded paper from the paper shredder
  • a plastic bag
  • food coloring
  • water

First, place the shredded paper into the plastic bag. We used just regular junk mail, printer paper, and recycled newspapers and placed it into a plastic store bag.

Add a few drops of food coloring

I added about 10 drops of food coloring, and some water and tied the top up.  Just a few drops of water is needed. If you add too much, it will be a goopy mess, so start by adding a few drops at a time.

You could also use a gallon sized plastic zip top baggie and seal the top up tightly.

Next, ask the kids to shake the bag. This is a good way to incorporate movement and vestibular sensory input.

We shook the bag until all of the paper in the bag was coated in red color, and then poured the damp paper into a cardboard box to let it dry for a few days.  

Make a shredded paper sensory bin with hearts made from toilet paper tubes.

Shredded paper sensory bin

Once the shredded paper is dry, it is time to play.

The folded toilet paper tube hearts are a fun addition for wrapping with pipe cleaners for a fine motor workout.

Use a toilet paper tube or cardboard tube from a paper towel roll and fold it in half to create a heart shape. Kids can pinch along the length of the paper tube to crease the cardboard roll into a heart. Then, use scissors to cut the toilet paper tube into small heart strips.

What a fine motor workout!

Dyeing Paper with Food Coloring!

Use colored shredded paper in a Valentines sensory bin.

Little Guy and Baby Girl had a little spatula battle.  Oh, this girl LOOOOVES to play with her big brother and sister.  She loves the action and chaos the big kids bring to Every. Thing!



If you need more hand eye coordination activities for Valentine’s Day fine motor fun, try the Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit.

The Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit is here! This printable kit is 25 pages of hands-on activity sheets designed to build skills in pinch and grasp strength, endurance, eye-hand coordination, precision, dexterity, pencil control, handwriting, scissor skills, coloring, and more.

When you grab the Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit now, you’ll get a free BONUS activity: 1-10 clip cards so you can challenge hand strength and endurance with a counting eye-hand coordination activity.

Click here to access the Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit and add these resources to your therapy toolbox.

Valentines Day fine motor kit


If eye-hand coordination, visual motor skills, and handwriting are tasks that you are working on with children, you’ll love both of these free therapy slide decks. Use them to outline occupational therapy interventions or to use in teletherapy sessions this time of year.

Free Spot It Handwriting Slide Deck

Free Gross Motor Valentine’s Day Activity Slide Deck

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.