Grab these Sensory Bin Materials on Your Next Shopping Trip

You’ll want to grab these inexpensive sensory bin materials to create hands-on learning activities for your toddlers and preschoolers.

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Sensory bins are an easy way to not only entertain your little ones, but also a way to develop fine motor skills. Having basic sensory bin materials on hand makes it quick and easy to create these hands-on learning activities anytime.

Why Keep Sensory Bin Materials at Home?

When I first began creating sensory bins, I found it time-consuming to run to the store for new materials every time I wanted to change them. This inconvenience meant that I didn’t change them as often as I would like.

I soon realized that having a variety of sensory bin materials stored at home made sense. Having the materials on hand makes it easy to quickly create a sensory bin that little ones love. Buying the materials before you need them also gives you a chance to find the best price.

Construction themed sensory bin
Fall Beginning Sound Match Activity
Winter Pattern Sensory Bin

Where to Find Sensory Bin Materials

To get started with gathering sensory bin materials, make a list of items you’d like to have. Below I mention several materials that I have at home and have stored well for our sensory bins. After you have a list, shop around to begin gathering everything. I always like to start at a dollar store for materials. The party section is great for tongs and scoops, plus shredded paper in the gift wrap area. Seasonal items are also found here. The current containers I use were found at my local Dollar Tree.

My next stop is usually Walmart. You can often find items in larger quantities, such as cotton balls. I usually buy filler items like beans and rice here, too. Another of my favorite fillers is dyed chickpeas. I prefer these to rice because they are larger and don’t seem to make as much of a mess. Hobby Lobby or Michael’s are good stores to find craft and seasonal items on sale.

Finally, shopping online is great for the convenience factor. Plus you might be more likely to find items not as easily found in a store. For example, I used to be able to find mini erasers in many different stores years ago. I often found them in Target’s dollar spot. However, for the past 3-4 years, I mainly have to purchase these online. Buying mini erasers in bulk can give you a variety that can be used at different times in the year.

Sensory Bin Guide

Are you new to sensory bins? Grab this FREE step-by-step sensory bin starter guide to walk you through everything you need to know to create fun and educational sensory bins for your preschoolers! Plus you’ll receive tips, ideas, and encouragement in your email inbox each month to guide you in your homeschool journey.

Inexpensive Sensory Bin Materials to Get

1. Different sizes of containers

The first thing I like to have on hand for sensory bins is different-sized containers. I used these containers exclusively when my son was younger. The longer length made it easier for his little hands to dig around in them. Although we don’t use them all of the time now, I still have some of his favorite sensory bins, like construction, set up in them.

Now that he’s older and I mostly use sensory bins for math and literacy activities, I like using bins that are a little smaller. I chose containers from the storage container area of the dollar store for these. They don’t hold up as well as the nicer Sterlite containers, but he’s not as rough with them now that he’s older.

The one thing I made sure every sensory bin container I buy has, is a lid. I like to create sensory bins that can be used for a month or more, so I need a container that can store easily. Containers with lids can be stored on an open shelf that kids can get themselves without spilling. Plus if you use food items as fillers, then you don’t need to worry about getting critters in containers that can be sealed.

2. Filler materials

Speaking of fillers, I also like to have a variety of these on hand for easy sensory bin creation. I especially like using shredded paper in different colors that can be found in gift wrap sections of stores. It’s very easy to coordinate with themes, plus it’s great to use in place of food items. Other non-food filler sensory bin materials include cotton balls, kinetic sand, pompoms, mesh tubing (cut in pieces), and small rocks.

Many different food items also make good fillers for sensory bins. My favorite is chickpeas. I used to often use rice, but rice can be quite messy and it takes a lot to fill a container. However, chickpeas are larger so you don’t need as many and they are easier to clean up. You can dye both materials in different colors to match a theme. Other food items that make good fillers are pasta, oatmeal, and beans.

3. Small toys

Another type of sensory bin material to have around the house is a variety of small toys and manipulatives. Small toys, like figurines or Toobs, are great for helping create themed sensory bins. To save money, search for items in your children’s toy boxes that would work for the theme you want.

You could also use items from nature, like rocks or twigs, that can easily be found outside. Manipulatives like mini erasers and plastic gems make wonderful counting materials for math sensory bins.

4. Tools

One of the benefits of using sensory bins is fine motor skill development. Including tools like tongs and spoons helps children build hand strength and dexterity as they scoop, pour, and grasp. I keep a basket of different tools so that I will always have one that works with the small toys and other items I choose for each sensory bin.

As mentioned, tongs and spoons are good sensory bin materials. Hobby Lobby has different colored tongs in the seasonal department. I also like to gather spoons in a variety of sizes and materials, such as wood or metal. Other tools to have ready to use include scoops in multiple sizes and jumbo tweezers.

Small bowls also make good tools to have on hand. I have clear bowls from the dollar store, wooden bowls, and colored bowls for color-themed sensory bins. Measuring cups and spoons work well too. Ice cube trays and muffin tins or cupcake liners are great to use for pouring items into or for sorting.

5. Educational Materials

Sensory bins don’t just have to be for young preschoolers. Older preschoolers through first graders or older can also enjoy them. As my kids got older, I liked adding in puzzle pieces of letters and numbers. Alternatively, I can include printable letter and number sensory bin cards instead. These items can extend the learning beyond fine motor development to literacy and math as well. Letter and number puzzle pieces or cards are also useful for games and other letter recognition activities, making them a good investment for your homeschool.

Keeping sensory bin materials on hand helps you save time and money when creating sensory bins. It’s much easier to change the bins often when you don’t have to go from store to store to find materials for the current theme. You can buy items when they are on sale and store them for future sensory bins. So write up a shopping list today to begin gathering materials to have on hand for your little one’s sensory bins.

Hi, I’m Christy!

I’m a homeschooling mom of 4, from preschool to high school. Homeschooling can be overwhelming, but I believe you can simplify your homeschool day so it’s manageable and enjoyable. When you join the Homeschooling in Progress community, you’ll learn ways to simplify your homeschool through emailed tips PLUS receive 5 Easy Steps to Create a Simple Routine for Productive Homeschool Days guide so you can start simplifying your homeschool today!

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