3 Storybook-Inspired Sensory Bins for Toddlers

Playing with toys in a sensory bin can help build your child's language and fine motor skills.

May 20, 2019



3 Storybook-Inspired Sensory Bins for Toddlers

May 20, 2019

Have you ever finished a favorite book with your child and she just wasn't ready to be "done" with the book? Extending your toddler's experience with a story using a sensory bin is a fun way to clock in more playful learning time.

What Is a Sensory Bin?

A sensory bin is a tactile experience of materials in an enclosed space. Typically, the enclosed space is a plastic bin. But, it could also be the bathtub or a cardboard shoe box.

The materials inside the container usually contain some type of filler such as water, sand, or even dry oats. Then, you add other elements for playful experiences such as toys, scoops, or recycled applesauce cups.

They can be messy or not.

Why Are Sensory Bins Good for Toddlers?

Little ones learn best through hands-on exploration. Everything in a sensory bin is meant to be touched and explored.

During sensory bin play, toddlers build oral language skills, increase their vocabulary bank, and develop fine motor strength.

How Do You Make & Use Sensory Bins?

Sensory bins are great because you can often use items from around the house. They are often based on a theme such as a color, a favorite interest, or as the examples below show, books.

First, you will want a container to hold the sensory bin. Plastic tubs work great because they have lids and can be stored easily when not in use.

Next, you need a filler.  Here are some ideas that work with toddlers: water, sand, dry oats, cereal, fabric scraps, or rice. Please remember to only add items that will be safe for your child. Do not add anything that could be a choking hazard, and never leave your child unattended while playing with a sensory bin.

Finally, you are ready to add your playing pieces. Toys are great for role-playing. You'll also want to add spoons, scoops, or tongs for filling and moving things.

Sensory bins are meant to be open-ended. You create the bin as an invitation for your child. Step back and observe. You'll be amazed at the play and language you'll see and hear.

Storybook Inspired Sensory Bin Ideas

Below are some sensory bins inspired by favorite toddler books.


1. Big Red Sensory Bin

Inspired by Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell, I created a big red sensory bin. This is probably the easiest one to put together. Walk around your house in search of things that are red and toddler safe. Your toddler can even help. Add all the items to the bin and presto you have a big red sensory bin.

As your child is exploring, you might ask her to name the items in the bin. You could also describe how different items feel and compare their sizes.


2. Car Wash Sensory Bin

This sensory bin is inspired by Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia, Scholastic Early Learners: Touch and Feel Trucks, and Linda Bleck's What's In My Truck.

The car wash bin is perfect for outside play or even in the bathtub. Fill two smaller containers with water.  Add soap to one of the water containers to create lots of bubbles. Place the water containers inside your sensory bin.  Add washcloths and toy cars and trucks. Kids will enjoy washing their vehicles and laying them out to dry.

As the vehicles dry, have your child count how many vehicles he washed. Have your child point to a car that matches the color that you say. Or, enjoy another read-aloud as the cars dry.


3. Busy Farm Sensory Bin

Enjoy a delightful story about the farm such as Scholastic Early Learners: Touch, Slide, and Life Busy Farm and Pete the Cat: Old MacDonald Had a Farm by James Dean and then create a sensory bin filled with rice cereal (plain and cocoa), farm animals, small plastic bowls, and scoops.

You can also enjoy the sensory bin experience. Play along with your child as you move the animals around the farm.

Hopefully, these ideas will stir your creativity and there will be lots of storybook sensory bins in your future.

To connect with Jodie Rodriguez visit Growing Book by Book.

Shop Books From This Activity

Raise a Reader Blog
Motor Skills
Age 3
Age 2
Age 4
Early Learning