How to Create Amazing Sensory Boxes

What Are They and Why Make Them?

A sensory box is a simple container filled with preferred filler and/or tools that encourage sensory play. It creates a hands-on, touchable experience that children are loving as of recent. Sensory play is key for any child going through the developmental stages! According to the CDC[1], in the developmental stages, toddlers learn skills such as first steps, waving, speaking, crawling, and learning how to interact with the world.

Sensory activities can do a lot for toddlers: calming, focusing, and even engaging them. Having a box of activities and different fillers teach children different sensations, which will help them process quicker in life.

A sensory bin helps toddlers learn and engage in the five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. It’s an open-ended, hands-on experience that could only benefit toddlers. But the tricky part is creating the perfect bins. Luckily, there are a few steps.

Choose a Good Container(s)

A flimsy cardboard box won’t do for this activity! Choosing the right container should be based on three aspects:

  • Size
  • Sturdiness
  • Feeling

Firstly, the container should be large enough to let any toddler explore freely. Be careful though, because if it’s too large, one may jump in or create the biggest mess anyone has ever seen.

Secondly, sturdiness is key, especially when tools are added into the mix. Having a container that could rip or crack easily, can make a nightmare situation. So be sure to test out if the container can handle the amount of weight from the filler and toys.

Lastly, while it’s not the most crucial aspect, the feeling of the container can add another layer to the experience. If it has a unique texture, it may bring more to the activity!

If you’re still stuck on which container would be best, some families[2] have had great luck with using:

  • Large, Plastic Food Containers
  • Hat Boxes
  • Decorative Boxes
  • Old Suitcase
  • Storage Trays

Choosing the Right Filling

Choosing the right filler is the key component that will set the tone for the entire activity. Some examples include:

  • DIY items: slime, cloud dough, kinetic sand, regular sand, play dough
  • Colored food items: salt, pasta, rice, beans
  • Utilizing water: ice, soapy water, regular water, aquarium rocks, water beads
  • Creative items: paper shreds, fake flowers, tinsel, fabric scraps, buttons
  • Household objects: cotton balls, cotton swabs, packing peanuts, soap shavings
  • Outdoor objects (fake or real): grass, leaves, gravel, feathers, dirt, mud

One aspect to help decide the filler is what amount of supervision will be needed and what theme to go with. While the theme will be discussed later, supervision needs to be discussed now. With smaller objects and large buckets of water, it’s best to give optimal supervision depending on how old the toddler is.

Choosing the Tools

Any successful sensory bin includes fun tools to immerse the toddler in the activity. While a bin full of slime and colored pasta sounds fun on its own, it’s not complete. Tools can help motor skills, promote exploration, curiosity, and a better understanding of the tasks at hand! The possibilities are truly endless, but some easy options include:

  • Kitchen tools: tongs, baster, spatula, sponge, ice cube tray, cups
  • Recycled material: used lids, empty containers
  • Outdoor toys: balls, frisbee, glove, shovel
  • Beauty products: comb, makeup brushes, cleaned mascara wands

Make Themes

Instead of jumbling together any products from around the house, make them into themes! While there are no scientific benefits, it just makes it easier for any parent to jump in with a theme beforehand. Some examples include:

  • The Four Seasons
  • Based on Novels or Films
  • Alphabet: such as using things that begin with a letter A, B, C, and so on
  • Holiday themes
  • Emotions
  • Colors
  • Art inspired
  • Rooms in the House
  • Zoo
  • Nature

Not only can sensory bins be educational, but they can be fun for everyone in the house. Why not create a theme to enhance the entire experience?

            Creating a sensory box is one of the most inexpensive ways to create an entertaining and educational activity at home. Not only does it promote a zero-waste lifestyle, but it does nothing but bring benefits! On those days where everything is piling up, it’s good to use a sensory bin to keep toddlers distracted. Remember to keep trial-and-error in mind when attempting to create the first few boxes. Each child has a preference over time, so experiment as much as possible. Utilize sensory boxes as a tool to bring creativity into the home!

[1] Toddlers (1-2 years old). (2020, March 06). Retrieved October 22, 2020, from

[2] Littlebins, & Serecin, V. (2016, July 24). How to Make Sensory Bins for Sensory Play. Retrieved October 22, 2020, from

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