With so many of us spending more time at home with our young children these days, we sometimes need to get creative with ideas for play that supports learning and development. Homemade sensory bins are great for developing fine motor skills, problem solving, cognitive growth, and more through interactive and creative play. I’m so excited to announce that we will be bringing you lots of ideas for sensory bins for toddlers here on Fab Everyday with the help of Kimberley Kirby of @365daysofsensoread! Kimberley, who also owns Etsy shop Gray Duck Greetings, is quite the expert on DIY sensory bins through plenty of personal experience. On her Instagram account @365daysofsensoread, she shares new sensory play and reading pairings daily, and she will be sharing some of her favorite ideas here on Fab Everyday in the months ahead. You might remember Kimberley from her article on Must-Have Baby Items (that are actually worth the cost!). Now that her baby is a two-year-old, and with working from home full time since the start of the pandemic, she has become well-versed in crafts and activities to occupy toddlers. In today’s article, Kimberley is sharing some DIY sensory bin 101 with us… and the best part is that everything she used for today’s article cost $20 total! As you’ll see, sensory bins for toddlers don’t need to be expensive! Dollar store sensory bins are just as effective. Kimberley is sharing details on how to create 10 Dollar Tree sensory bins using only dollar store sensory items. You’ll want to pin this one!
How to Make 10 Dollar Tree Sensory Bins for $20
By Kimberley Kirby
SAFETY WARNING: Some of these ideas include small items that may be a choking hazard. These should only be used with adult supervision.
Like many of you, last March I found myself panic buying all the rice, pasta, and dry beans that were left on the shelf. Suddenly I was going to be working from home full time while taking care of a toddler full time. Yikes! At the time, I had no idea how much I would grow to love sensory bins as a tool for learning and development.
Since that time, I have put together more sensory bins than I can count and have learned lots along the way. One of the most important lessons I have learned is that sensory bins for toddlers don’t need to be expensive and they don’t need to be fancy. Dollar store sensory bins are just as effective for learning through play as the fancy bins you may often see online.
I recently went to Dollar Tree and challenged myself to create 10 Dollar Tree sensory bins by stretching $20 as far as I could. The result? It was harder to narrow down the ideas to just 10 worth sharing than it was to find everything I needed.
The dollar store sensory items I grabbed on this trip were:
- An aluminum pan to be used as the bin itself
- Blue gems
- 3 variations of bath toys
- Play dough kit with cookie cutters
- Bubble bath
- Craft pom poms
- Glow sticks
- Animal party favors
- 2 bags of beans
- 2 bags of rice
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- A scoop
- Plastic bowls
- Hawaiian punch drink mix
Yes, all for $20!
Here are my favorite 10 dollar store sensory bins that I created solely with these dollar store sensory items.
10 Dollar Store Sensory Bins for Toddlers
Play Dough Invitation to Play – Blue play doh, gems, and pom poms make a perfect setup for toddlers to create their own mini world, all while exploring different textures. Throw in a few animals and cookie cutters, and they’ll be busy for hours.
Treasure Hunt – Rice makes a great sensory base for hiding loose parts, in this case blue gems. Add a few cups, bowls, and spoons to encourage digging for buried treasure!
Pom Pom Color Sort – Mix together pom poms and beans and then add clear bowls into which toddlers can sort the colorful pom poms.
Bath Toys and Beans – Adding little animals, in this case bath toys, to a bin full of beans is one of the easiest and most effective sensory bins for toddlers. Putting in a scoop just adds to the possibilities for play!
Pom Pom Soup – Water is the least expensive sensory item I can think of, and adding pom poms to the water for toddlers to fish out is so much fun. AND it helps develop fine motor skills!
Animal Swimming Pool – I couldn’t find food coloring at the dollar store, so I picked up some blue drink mix and it was just as effective at creating the animal swimming pool (and it is mixed with much more than a glass of water so it doesn’t feel sticky).
Sunken Treasure Rescue – Oh no! The pirates dropped their treasure into the ocean! Toddlers will have so much fun rescuing it from the deep blue sea!
Bubble Cutters – Soapy water is another great sensory base, and shapes form in the bubbles when cookie cutters are dropped through them.
Glowing Bubbles – Saying that I love glow sticks is an understatement. Glow sticks under bubbles are so fun for toddlers to explore.
Duck Pond – Now, my crowning dollar store sensory bin achievement – dying rice blue without food coloring! 2 tbsp water + one Hawaiian punch drink packet + 4 tbsp vinegar were mixed with one full bag of rice. Spread it out on a tray to dry for a few hours before play!
About the Author
Kimberley Kirby works in the information security industry full time and embraces creative outlets on the side. She owns and operates an Etsy shop, Gray Duck Greetings, when we are not living through a pandemic. Kimberley is ‘Mama’ to a 2-year-old boy who has been home full time since the start of the pandemic and she has therefore become well-versed in crafts and activities to occupy toddlers. At the beginning of 2021, she started the Instagram account @365daysofsensoread where she shares new sensory play and reading pairings daily. Kimberley lives outside of Boston, MA with her husband, son, and dog.