As summer leads into fall, I am reminded of the importance of seasonally appropriate play activities that allow little ones to learn about changes in their world. There are many ways to expose your little explorers to the tidings of the season, and one of my favorites is building sensory bins. 

 

Part of the fun as a parent is thinking “inside the box” to pick items that belong in the bin. I sell sensory bin starter kits in my shop, but that is only the beginning. The formula for a great sensory bin includes the following components:

Base material– Rice works for any season, but if you want to step it up a notch you can add items that are hyper relevant to your sensory bins focus. Items such as leaves for the fall (fake/fabric leaves work perfectly), fake snow for winter, and other small materials which can be added to the bin in large quantity to coat/cover the bottom of the container.

 

Basic Tools– No bin is complete without a toolkit for pouring, pinching, scooping, placing, volume play, and displacement learning. Not to mention the added benefits of building fine motor skills and coordination that come from using tools such as tweezers or tongs, small containers with lids, and a scoop. Empty toilet paper tubes or paper towel tubes aid in exploring the properties of matter. For older kids, you can add letters or words so they have to match objects with letter sounds or proper words for reading. A sketchbook and little wooden figures are fun ways to get them expressing what they see, and kick-starting pretend play.

 

 

Sensory Objects– Little ones make sense of their world through sensing their world, so it is important to include items that look, feel, smell, taste, and sound differently.

 

Tactile/Touch Play– I always look to include objects that vary in size and texture for sorting purposes. For our autumn bins, I include miniature pumpkins and gords. For winter, I include pinecones, and snowflakes made from different materials (e.g. plastic, paper, fabric).

Auditory/Hear Play– Simply sifting through the bin and playing with items generates a variety of sounds, so to take things a step further I seek objects that are intended to make noise. For the fall, I include leaves cut out of paper of differing thickness for leaf-like crinkle and crunch sounds. For the winter, I include bells and plastic icicles.

Olfactory/Smell Play– Smells can rekindle memories, and prove a great way to get my girls interested in the sensory bins. There are many options here. For autumn, I use ginger spice and pumpkin spice. For winter, I use cinnamon sticks.

Optical/Sight Play– Everything in the bin aids in sight play, and by building the bins around seasons each bin tends to be weighted towards one end of the color spectrum.  I try to have a diversity of colors for color sorting by ensuring there is at least one item of every color.

Gustatory/Taste Play– If your little explorer is still interested in exploring and experimenting with their mouths I would suggest using a sensory bin base that is edible – such as cheerios, rice krispies, rice, beans, or dried pasta – something that won’t be harmful if ingested. Find a way to give your YES to sensory play – no matter your child’s age or stage!


Have fun letting your creativity run wild as you create a sensory bin for your little one that is sure to awaken their senses and help enrich their understanding of the world.

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If you are looking for a easy way to say yes to SENSORY play without having to cultivate and curate each bin, you can sign up for our Sensory Bin of the Month Club. A subscription box that arrives to your house monthly. It comes with a seasonally appropriate theme; base material, handmade wooden tools and manipulatives, a How to Play with the contents guide, How to Expand the Play at Home Activity List, and a book list of books to check out from the library in the month’s theme. It takes all the guess work out of putting together a developmentally appropriate sensory bin so you can get right to the good stuff – PLAYING and LEARNING. AND it comes right to your door each month – I love getting this kind of happy-mail!