Simplifying Sensory Play

Simple Sensory Play Collection

After years of themed sensory bins, I have gotten to a stage in life where I need to simplify.  We still do the occasional themed bin, but I need to have our sensory materials more easily accessible both for Ladybug and for me!  She still really enjoys sensory materials, and so do my boys.

Earlier this year I reorganized our supplies and we have been using them this way since September.  It has made it so much easier!

I listed out all of the “base” sensory materials we normally use and a few I wanted to add to our collection.  I got out small bins we already had {these are from Target} to store them all in one place. I also got a set of gallon sized zipper bags for the items that wouldn’t fit in my bins.

Sensory Item Storage


I also purchased 5 small bins that rotate through our All By Myself Preschool Boxes.

All By Myself Preschool Boxes - Mini Sensory Bins

I put one of these small pink bins in each of her All By Myself Preschool Boxes, so each day she will have a new sensory material to play with. I chose these bins because they have lock tops but she can open them independently.  The small slim size was also a part of my purchase decision!

I store the baggies and clear bins in my storage room on a shelf. You can see the bag section on the left is overflowing! I would have used all baggies but I had these bins that were empty.  So, I use both.

Sensory Bin Supplies

I also have an area that I keep open to prep the bins each week.  Although, it doesn’t always look like this.  Reality is, the area often gets junked up and I sit on the floor.  But this was my original plan and if clean I do this.  Thankfully it’s clean again since I cleared it to take pictures for you!

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Here is a visual version of our current sensory items…

Sensory Bin Supplies

Sensory Bin Supplies

Sensory Bin Supplies

Many items listed would NOT be good choices for independent play for most tots.  Ladybug is 4 1/2 and has never been one to put anything in her mouth.  She is always close by me and I feel comfortable with what I have chosen for her.  You’ll have to make that decision based on your own child{ren} and your comfort level with certain items.  I am aware that some of the items I listed are not considered “safe” by some people, the decision of whether or not to use an item is yours.

Helpful Links ~

All By Myself Preschool Boxes


See how she uses these sensory items in our Learning with Ladybug blog posts.  Click on an image to see the post, this is a collection of a majority of my posts from this school year!

Home Preschool January 2014  All By Myself Preschool Boxes Aug 2013  Learning with Ladybug Home Preschool January 2014

All By Myself Preschool Boxes Sept 2013   Learning with Ladybug Nov 2013  Learning with Ladybug Age 4

Home Preschool Nov 2013  All By Myself Preschool Boxes October 2013  Home Preschool Oct. 2013

Colored Wheat Berries for Sensory Play

Colored Wheat Berries

{disclaimer ~ affiliate links used in this post}

It’s been many years since I have colored pasta or rice for sensory play, but the process hasn’t changed!  The materials have though!  I was inspired by this post on dyeing barley for sensory play.  We didn’t have barely but I am obsessed with wheat berries {and order them in bulk from Amazon} so I gave it a try!  The results were awesome!

There are a few methods to dyeing stuff, but I chose to use the method I had used years ago as a teacher. All measurements are totally guesses, I didn’t actually measure anything.

  1. put uncooked wheat berries in Ziploc bag {approx. 1 C}
  2. add about a teaspoon of white vinegar
  3. add a drop of food coloring
  4. seal bag and shake/mix it up
  5. add more coloring if desired.
  6. mix well
  7. put parchment paper on cookie sheets {not necessary, but what I did}
  8. dump damp colored wheat berries onto trays
  9. allow to dry {we left ours overnight}

Here’s a bit of a visual version…

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You can see I did some macaroni noodles on the same day…

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She played on the trays the day after they dried, I just forgot to take any pictures!  The next week I surprised her with her new mini sensory bin for her All By Myself Preschool Box time!

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She loved her rainbow wheat berries and played with them for hours!  They will now be put in the sensory item rotation for her boxes each week!

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See more sensory play ideas on my Pinterest board!

Sensory and Messy Play Pinterest Board

Cloud Dough ~ A New Outside Favorite

Cloud Dough

I am certainly not the first one to share this and I honestly cannot remember the very first blog I saw it on.  Cloud Dough is floating around Pinterest everywhere {here’s the search for Cloud Dough so you can see the various ideas}!  I ignored it for a LONG time.  Why?  The MESS!  Then one day I decided it would make  great outside fun. 

We have a seasonal campsite for our camper this year, so I brought the ingredients and we made it together up there! Look how excited they were!

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What are the ingredients?  Get ready, it is SUPER complicated {joking}.

  • 8 parts flour
  • 1 part oil {we used baby, but you can use others}

Isn’t that tough?  We used 8 cups flour/1 cup oil for what you see below.

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All 3 kids played with this for hours!

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These two have continued to play.  We made this batch back in May and now in July it is still up at our camper and we get it out whenever we go!  Cloud Dough -4336


Krash usually adds cars to play with, Ladybug adds Little Pet Shops!

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I wish I would have tried Cloud Dough sooner, a BIG thank you to whoever came up with this idea long ago. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend trying it, but do it outside!  It’s a mess!

Bury It! Fun with Phonics


A simple bin filled with rice has provided my kids with hours and hours of entertainment. This is by far their favorite “sensory bin” and it is the easiest one I have made! Burying things in rice and digging them back out again is attractive to most kids, which is where the bury it idea came from for my ABC Find It! activity.

Recently Ladybug has really been enjoying this rice bin for another use, burying her mini alphabet collection objects and digging them out again!

I keep our mini letter objects in a plastic drawer system I got at Home Depot {I think} and it randomly fit inside of a canvas box my mom had {no clue where it came from}. I got the idea for creating a mini drawer set from Counting Coconuts years ago! I won’t bother explaining it all, since she did such a great job, visit her blog for details!


Each week I pull out the little drawer and use it along with our ABC Basket.


The whole burying idea came from Ladybug and once she started, she has asked to do it every week since, with her new mini collection. Sometimes I have bigger items in her ABC Basket and she will add those in too.


She is pretty specific about it being animals and tiny objects, no actual letters are allowed, although I always try!

All sorts of learning happens with the burying, we do tons of oral phonics work while we play together, it really is so simple and she learns so much.


Eventually we will take things up a notch and combine 2 or more sets of objects and sort them. I have always done this {with my boys}, but never with the rice bin! The rice adds a simple element of fun and attraction for her and entices her to want to work on phonics skills with me. Most of the time she has no clue she is even learning, she is just playing in the bin!


Note: Ladybug has never put small objects in her mouth {none of my kids did as tots/babies, which shocks me}, and she is very good at keeping the rice contained. Krash on the other hand, would have had it everywhere at this age! Use rice with discretion {and a blanket/sheet}!

Fairies & Flowers Sensory Bin

I am a big fan of taking toys we already have and creating learning experiences from them. I love to expand on the natural interests of my young kids and use those interests to make early learning more fun and engaging.  Ladybug’s love of her fairies is my latest example of this.  She is working through her Fairy Printable Pack right now and also enjoying a Fairies & Flowers Sensory Bin!

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She got a fairy set  {it was a big set from Target, I can’t find a link to the one we got} for Christmas so I used them as my fairies, but I also saw these online that are cute too! I looked through our sensory bin small item collections and decided to add mini foam flowers, shiny rocks, mini butterfly erasers and heart/star/flower links {those are from Dollar Tree}.

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On a special theme week, I allow all of the toys within that theme in the schoolroom also, as a special treat.  You can see her fairy house {we got ours at Toys R Us for $30 on sale at Christmas time} and was a part of our play time too.

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Lots of simple learning happens with our sensory bins, below you can see we made colored beds for the fairies.  We sorted, counted, made patterns and enjoyed imaginative play together!

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Krash is almost 7 and still LOVES our bins.  He always finds a way to enjoy them, even if they are a bit “girly” he could care less!  Below you can see his rock pond, complete with flower lily pads for the frogs to jump around on.

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Looking for more Fairy fun? 

If you haven’t read the Montessori Minute post about sensory play, be sure to read that to see why these bins are so wonderful for kids! See a Behind the Scenes look at Sensory Bin play with videos here!

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