7 Benefits of Sensory Bins and How They Support Child Development (2023)

Sensory bins are tactile ways for children to play that encourage various skill development. They are essentially a box filled with a textured filler like dry rice, pinto beans, or flour with various toys and tools in them for children to find and play with.

A fantastic sensory bin is like a whole world of learning contained in a box. It promotes free-form play and offers a never-ending supply of chances for experimentation and learning.

Sensory bins help young children get comfortable feeling different materials with their hands in their bodies. Each child is different, so each sensory bin can be tailored to your child’s specific needs in areas of development.

7 Benefits of Sensory Bins and How They Support Child Development (1)

What types of sensory bins and fillers are there?

First, use a large washable container with one or more fillers.

Dry sensory bin fillers are excellent because they can be readily available and recycled time and time again.

“You can put craft feathers in them for a feather sensory bin, packing peanuts, beads, gardening soil, leaves, un-popped popcorn, cotton balls, shredded paper, raffia/crinkle grass, cornmeal, dry rice, beans, and/or pasta, as well as sand,and toys made of small plastic that may be hidden and found, such as play food, play animals or insects, blocks, and magnetic letters.” suggests Laurice Constantine, Digital Managing Editor @ Forbes Middle East.

Sensory bin fillers that are sticky or moist tend to be messier. You can fill them with play dough, kinetic sand, shaving cream, handmade “snow,” equal parts cornstarch and baking soda, water, soap foam (made by blending 2 teaspoons dish soap with 1/4 cup water and optional food coloring), or water beads.

You can also make a mixture of cornstarch and water as a fun science experiment that is similar to making slime. Making slime together can also be a great sensory experience and you can keep a small container of slime in your child’s sensory bin.

(Video) Importance of Sensory Integration

You might have a big Tupperware filled with rice and beans that your child has to reach in to find a toy car at the bottom. You might also have beans that can be soaked in water is a sensory experience for your child.

Extras for Sensory Bins

Tongs, tweezers, and spoons, measuring cups and bowls, silicone muffin cups, ice cube trays, magnifying glasses, whisks, sieves, colanders (for water-based bins), funnels, cookie cutters and molds, fake jewels and rhinestones are some of the best tools and items to put in a sensory bin.

Benefits of Sensory Bins

They are a little bit messy, but here are seven benefits of sensory bins and why they’re worth the effort.

  1. Sensory Exploration

The first obvious benefit of sensory bins is the fact that it encourages sensory exploration in children. Kids can stimulate multiple senses at the same time with touch and sound being the main senses that will be engaged.

Some young children may be averse to certain sensory experiences. Sensory bins allow children to get used to new textures and feelings and develop sensory confidence.

It’s important to encourage your child to really get in there, allow them to dig in the tub, or bury their feet in the filler.

You also want to remember that lots of children learn by exploring objects with their mouth. As such, you want all items to be taste-safe and choke-safe, including anything you are adding to stimulate the smell sense.

Avoid essential oils if your child will put stuff in their mouth as several of these are toxic when ingested.

  1. Improving Motor Skills
7 Benefits of Sensory Bins and How They Support Child Development (2)
(Video) The Benefits of Sensory Play for Early Childhood Development | Jurassic Sands

“Children will enjoy any tools you throw in there, trying to pick up everything and digging into the filler. This is a great way to improve the fine motor skills,” says psychology writer Carl Albarado from UK Writings.

Children gain increased hand strength with tools available to scoop, stir, dig and pour inside the box.

If you use kid-friendly tweezers and spoons or funnels, kids will learn to develop fine motor skills and grasp patterns they require for skills like handwriting and using utensils.

An added benefit is that kids who are enjoying picking stuff up may actually start picking up the small pieces of filler (using a pincer grasp) that have landed outside of the bin.

  1. Increased Socialization

Whether it’s with siblings or friends on a playdate, playing together in a sensory bin is a fantastic way to improve your child’s social skills.

Children learn teamwork, communication, sharing, and communication when playing. There’s potential benefits to this where your child may learn from the person they are playing with, improving their other skills further.

When kids work together, they can come up with creative solutions or new ways to play.

  1. Promotion of Life Skills
7 Benefits of Sensory Bins and How They Support Child Development (3)

“All children have an independent streak where they insist they can do everything themselves. Sensory bins actually allow children to gain some independence and learn these skills in a safe and less messy way,” says parenting blogger Virginia Small of Paper Fellows.

(Video) The Benefits of Sensory Play for Babies and Toddlers | Twinkl Teaches EYFS

Whether it’s using liquids and learning how to pour, helping to deal with the mess outside the bin with tweezers or dustpan, you’ll find that kids begin to learn basic life skills. These skills may be learning to pick up after themselves or to pour themselves a glass of milk.

You might also have a sensory bin that has a mirror that can allow your child to look at themselves and understand different facial expressions.

  1. Language Development

This is a benefit of sensory bins that comes with social play or by you actively engaging your child while they play.

First, kids learn basic concepts like up/down or full/empty while they work their way through the bin. However, if you engage with the child about the toys hidden in the bin, you can give them new adjectives to describe what they are experiencing i.e. soft pom-poms, hard rice, shiny tinsel, sparkly glitter, smooth stone etc.

  1. Calming Activity

A big benefit of sensory bins is the way that it helps your child self-regulate. “Tactile outlets for stress such as fidgets, a soft stuffed animal, or Play-Doh are great in sensory bins” states Katie Ziskind, LMFT, RYT500

While you can engage with your child and should where possible, sensory bins are certainly a quiet activity for children to play with independently if needed.

It helps children understand where their body parts are and can even help them to sort through their feelings in a productive way.

You may find that children begin to use the bin independently when they get upset, as a method of calming and self-soothing.

  1. Improvement of Physics, Math, and Imagination Skills

The number of skills that your child will be able to develop using a sensory bin is the biggest benefit of using this system. Children can be taught to count, how to spell, and basic organization skills for example.

If you hide the letters of your child’s name in the bin, you can then work on putting them in order when they find them all. You could encourage your child to count the number of a specific item in the bin, i.e. stacking cups, or have them organise things by size or colour.

Children can use liquid sensory bins to learn the concepts of sinking and floating. They can learn that certain things like rice will go through a funnel easily, but beans will end up stuck as they are too big to get through the hole.

It even improves your child’s creativity and imaginative skills as they come up with new solutions and new ways to play.

Overall, the benefits of sensory bins for your child’s development are numerous. This is just a high-level look at seven of these benefits and there is much more that children gain from playing with sensory bins.

Whether you want your child to improve their language skills, learn more about the world around them, become more social, learn how to care for themselves, or even just how to deal with their emotions in a safe and productive way, sensory bins are the tool you need.

Yes, they can get messy, they need you to take time to set them up, and will require some clean-up. However, you may find that through playing with a sensory bin, your child wants to help with the clean-up as they develop their fine motor skills and show off their independent streak.

It’s definitely worth taking some time to consider creating a sensory bin for your child.

About the Author

Marketing strategist and writer Rebecca Leigh, Assignment service and Pay for research paper, spends most of her career attending marketing and tech conferences or consulting businesses. Where she can she also contributes articles to online magazines and blogs like OX Essays.

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How do sensory bins help with development? ›

Sensory bins can support cognitive development as children sort hidden items by size or color. Putting number and letter shapes into the sensory bin can provide children the opportunity to learn the alphabet, their numbers and gain practice with counting and spelling.

What are the benefits of sensory bins? ›

Sensory bins offer the perfect hands-on way to allow kids to explore through play.
  • Sensory Exploration: Sensory bins stimulate a variety of senses at the same time, including touch, sight, sound, and smell. ...
  • Fine Motor Skills & Hand Strength: ...
  • Social & Play Skills: ...
  • Calming Activity: ...
  • Language Development/Academic Skills:
23 Apr 2021

What is sensory play in child development? ›

Sensory play includes any activity that stimulates your young child's senses: touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight and hearing. Sensory activities facilitate exploration and naturally encourage children to use scientific processes while they play, create, investigate and explore.

How does a sensory room benefit children? ›

The children are able to freely explore, watching moving lights and bubbles, which develops hand-eye coordination; the effects enhance their colour and shape recognition, the soft play area increases their sense of safety and confidence, and they learn about cause and effect when exploring textures.

Why is sensory processing important for children? ›

As the child is exposed to various sensory inputs, they gradually learn to organise them within their brain and are able to give meaning to them. They become better able to focus in on one sensation and as a result performance improves.

What is Benefits of sensory items? ›

Overall Benefits of Sensory Play

Sensory play encourages learning through exploration, curiosity, problem solving and creativity. It helps to build nerve connections in the brain and encourages the development of language and motor skills.

What are the benefits of sensory tools? ›

Sensory Toys Promote Social Interaction

Helps them develop gross motor skills like brushing their teeth or zipping their jacket. Helps them grasp things with less fear and play more naturally. Helps children to relax, stay calm, and focus on a particular event or situation. Helps enhance coordination.

Why are sensory items important? ›

Improves Cognitive Development

Sensory experiences are key for cognitive development. They help a child learn to process experiences and handle simulating real-world environments. Sensory toys also help children learn about cause and effect, seeing how their actions influence the world around them.

What are the 10 benefits of play? ›

The 10 Benefits of Play
  • It Builds a Healthy Body. ...
  • It Builds a Healthy Brain. ...
  • It Teaches Emotional Intelligence and Boosts Self-Esteem. ...
  • Play Builds Healthy Friendships and Romantic Relationships. ...
  • It Forges a Healthy Parent–Child Relationship. ...
  • It Teaches Cooperation. ...
  • Play Teaches Problem Solving. ...
  • It Stimulates Creativity.
8 Sept 2018

What are the three 3 benefits of children learning through play? ›

The importance of play

Play also helps your child: build confidence. feel loved, happy and safe. understand more about how the world works.

How do you promote a child's sensory development? ›

Sensory play ideas and activities
  1. Create a sensory bin. It's simple for children to enjoy sensory play when you create a sensory bin for them to explore. ...
  2. Playing with food. ...
  3. Sound tubes. ...
  4. Play dough. ...
  5. Balance beam. ...
  6. Calming bottles. ...
  7. Sandbox. ...
  8. Swing, swing, swing.
15 Jun 2020

What are the 6 types of play development? ›

6 Stages of Play and Why They are Important for your child's...
  • UNOCCUPIED PLAY (Birth – 3 months)
  • SOLITARY PLAY (Birth – 2 years)
  • PARALLEL PLAY (2+ years)
  • ASSOCIATIVE PLAY (3-4 years)
6 Feb 2020

Why are the five senses important for kids? ›

The outside world shapes children's development through experiences that they have, which include using their five senses—hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch. Drawing a child's attention to the five senses and discussing them increases understanding of and communication about the world around us.

Why are sensory baskets important? ›

Babies gain a rich sensory experience through sucking, handling and putting items in their mouths. By doing this they are also learning about weight, size, shape, texture, sound and smell. A baby's concentration on a treasure basket can sometimes last an hour or more.

What is Benefits creative play in child development? ›

When getting involved with creative play in the early years, young children can gain basic problem-solving skills. Creative play boosts their intellectual development by improving their cognitive skills whilst allowing them to pay attention, process how things work, and analyse why it works.

What are the benefits of free play for children? ›

Free-play teaches children how to entertain themselves and helps them learn to think independently and develop decision making skills. It provides opportunities for children to discover what interests them and what they are good at. Free-play teaches kids to play with others.

Why is child development important? ›

The early years of a child's life are very important for his or her health and development. Healthy development means that children of all abilities, including those with special health care needs, are able to grow up where their social, emotional and educational needs are met.

What are the 7 types of play? ›

The types of play include physical, dramatic, sensory, nature, music and art, and age-appropriate play. Children need the various types of play in order to support and facilitate meaningful learning opportunities as they develop language, motor, social, emotional, and cognitive abilities.

What are three benefits of play? ›

Play helps:
  • Relieve stress. ...
  • Improve brain function. ...
  • Stimulate the mind and boost creativity. ...
  • Improve relationships and your connection to others. ...
  • Keep you feeling young and energetic. ...
  • Play helps develop and improve social skills. ...
  • Play teaches cooperation with others. ...
  • Play can heal emotional wounds.

How do toys help emotional development? ›

Playing with toys helps improve their communication skills, self-confidence, and release of emotions. Additionally, when playing with other children, they are able to respond to other people's feelings, opinions, and conflicts. All these are important in their emotional development.

How do you support children's play and learning? ›

How can you contribute to your child's learning through play?
  1. sharing information about your child's interests and abilities with their educators so that they can plan play experiences for your child based on their interests and abilities.
  2. playing with your child.

What are the developmental benefits of play? ›

Play improves the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and young people. Through play, children learn about the world and themselves. They also learn skills they need for study, work and relationships such as: confidence.

What are the benefits of child led activities? ›

Child-initiated play supports children's creative and imaginative learning and developmental skills. This also enables them to learn first hand experiences, allowing them to choose how to use their resources.

What is sensory development examples? ›

Babies start reacting to sensory stimulation from birth. They turn their head towards sound, follow objects with their eyes and discover their hands and feet by touching them. What is this? Later they start to develop eye-hand coordination and will use their hands to touch something they see.

What are the 7 characteristics of play? ›

Characteristics of play
  • Active. During active play, children use their bodies and minds in play by interacting with the environment, materials and other people.
  • Adventurous and risky. ...
  • Communicative. ...
  • Enjoyable. ...
  • Involved. ...
  • Meaningful. ...
  • Sociable and interactive. ...
  • Symbolic.
8 Dec 2015

What are the 3 main areas of play development? ›

Jean Piaget identified three stages of play – practice play, symbolic play and games with rules.

When can kids use sensory bins? ›

Sensory bins are good for children over 18 months of age. Before they're 18 months old, sensory bins are not developmentally appropriate because the possible hazards outweigh the benefits.

How do sensory tools help students? ›

How does it stimulate their senses? These types of toys benefit children on the spectrum by helping them engage with their senses, provide feedback to their sensory systems, and regulate their sensory needs.

What are sensory bins for toddlers? ›

Sensory bins are simply containers filled with materials that excite a child's senses. They can be filled with dry food (pasta, beans, legumes, rice, etc.), shredded paper, or even water! They promote learning through hands-on play opportunities.

How do toys promote development? ›

Educational toys can help develop problem solving skills, teach about conflict resolution and how cause and effect work. It also teaches children about sharing, helps develop their fine and gross motor skills and nurtures their creativity and imagination.

How do you promote sensory development? ›

0-3 Months
  1. Hang a colorful mobile above baby's crib to provide visual stimulation.
  2. Encourage baby to hold or shake an age appropriate rattle.
  3. Gently touch and tickle baby to make them giggle.
  4. Play with baby in a variety of positions.
  5. Provide plenty of skin-to-skin contact with a parent or caregiver.

Why are sensory toys so important? ›

But do you know why they're so vital and why they're even more important for children as they grow? Sensory play focuses on activities that engage your child's senses, helping them develop language skills and motor skills. It also helps with cognitive growth, fosters social interactions and encourages experimentation.

Why are sensory toys important? ›

Human brains are made up of trillions of brain cells (neurons) and nerve connections (synapses). Sensory activity can strengthen sensory-related synapses and functions in the brain. Exposing children to various sensory experiences is necessary for a young brain to develop the proper sensory processing capabilities3.

What toys help with physical development? ›

Choose toys that emphasize coordination and balance, and build arm and leg strength. Push or pull toys: Try pretend lawn mowers, shopping carts, or vacuums; baby carriages; animals on a string; a light wheelbarrow. Ride-on toys: These require foot power and can help improve balance.


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