Beginner’s Guide to Sensory Bins: Items, Fillers, and More

May 11th, 2020 | by NAPA Team


May 11th, 2020

Sensory bins are all the rage right now! In this blog, we share our favorite sensory bin ideas, including sensory items and fillers to help bring the best sensory experience to your child!

Sensory Bin Ideas by Pediatric Therapists

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! 

Sensory Bins for Children Craving Sensory Input

Besides the fun aspect, this is 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.

Sensory Bins Can Also Benefit Hypersensitive Children

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. 

Sensory Items and Fillers We Recommend

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. Sensory toys and tools to go inside!


Dry Sensory Bin Fillers

These dry fillers are great for reusable sensory bins. Remember that you can use things you already have around the house as sensory items for kids!

  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 for a feather sensory bin
  9. Packing peanuts 
  10. Beads 
  11. Gardening soil 
  12. Leaves 
  13. Birdseed 


Sticky or Wet Sensory Bin Fillers

These 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!)


Sensory 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 

Find Additional Sensory Activities and Resources in the NAPA Blog:

About NAPA Center

At NAPA, we take an individualized approach to therapy because we understand that each child is unique with very specific needs. For this reason, no two therapeutic programs are alike. If your child needs our services, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customized program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.

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