Let’s take a look at how to make individual sensory bins for your students. It doesn’t have to overly complicated, I promise!
Related: Free Preschool Printables
Small, individualized sensory bins can come in handy for a variety of reasons.
Perhaps you’re concerned about preventing the spread of germs between your students.
Or maybe you’d like some smaller sensory boxes for kids who need a break from the classroom hubbub. They’d be great as part of a calm down center.
You might need sensory play boxes for kids who wake up from naps early or you might want to take some sensory bins on-the-go when traveling or going to appointments.
Individual Sensory Bins
No matter the reason, it only takes a little bit more work to get small sensory bins put together for the kids in your class.
I know many teachers have been a bit overwhelmed at the thought of creating small sensory boxes. Hopefully I can help bring that overwhelm down a few notches.
Before you get started on making your own individual sensory bins, you need to decide what containers you want to use.
My first suggestion? Use what you already have! Take stock of the containers that are already available to you. If you’re anything like me, you likely have a stash of empty bins to choose from.
If you don’t have much in-stock, there are a variety of place you can grab containers for your small sensory bins – Amazon, The Dollar Store, Dollar Tree, Target, Wal-Mart, Discount School Supply, Lakeshore Learning, and local craft stores. You might also consider asking parents if they have any to donate.
Before you purchase any containers, decide what size works best for your students. While some teachers prefer smaller individual sensory bins, I rather like something a little more in the middle. Something that could hold papers and has a bit of a lip. This gives the kids a bit more room to work with.
You’ll also want to determine if you want tops for the small bins. I prefer having tops as it’s just easier to store them. However, if you’re going to empty the bins every day, you might not need to worry about tops.
Here are some possibilities to inspire you:
- Colorful storage trays
- Toy storage bins
- Pencil boxes
- Plastic shoe boxes
- Food storage containers
- Photo storage containers
Individual Sensory Bin Bases
Once you’ve settled on the containers for your small sensory boxes, you need to decide on some sensory fillers.
There are so many possibilities here, so I suggest starting with your favorites. Even better – start with what you already have in your classroom. I’m a big fan of using what you already have, in case you haven’t noticed.
And don’t overthink it! You don’t need fancy sensory fillers if you don’t want them or have them. Plus sometimes simple is just better!
Here are some possible fillers for your individual sensory bins:
What are some of your favorite sensory bin fillers?
Tools for Small Sensory Bins
Now let’s talk about tools and manipulatives for the mini sensory bins.
I know I’ve already said this, but I’m going to say it again . . . start with what you already have!
Don’t stress about finding lots of new items for your individual sensory bins. In fact, you don’t really have to add anything to your bins if you’d rather not. The kids can focus on using their hands to explore the materials.
But if you do want to add some manipulatives and tools, I have some suggestions to get you started:
The sky’s really the limit here, though. I could probably list another 50 suggestions, but I feel like this was a good start.
What are some of your favorite sensory tools and manipulatives?
How to Assemble Individual Sensory Boxes
When you have all of your materials gathered, determine how many mini sensory bins you’d like to put together. Do you want one for each child, multiple bins for each child, or a set for small groups?
Keep in mind, they don’t each have to be the exact same type of bin. If you have enough materials to make multiple versions of the same bin, that’s great. If you don’t, that’s fine too!
Once you’ve got that figured out, it’s time to start assembling the individual sensory bins.
Start off by setting all of your containers out on a table or counter. If you have a full set of the same type of container, that’s great. But it’s also perfectly fine if you have a hodge-podge collection of containers.
Then start parceling out the sensory bin fillers. Some teachers like to add just one type of filler to each bin, while others enjoy combining different fillers. For me, it just depends on what we’re learning about and what the kids are interested in.
Again, it’s okay if you don’t have enough of one type of filler to add to all of the containers. Maybe 5 of the bins will have one kind of filler, while 7 others have a different type. Or maybe you want to make each of the sensory boxes with a different filler. It’s up to you. Don’t overthink it!
After the sensory fillers, add a few manipulatives and a couple of sensory tools. You don’t really want to add too many – just enough for one child to use.
Then seal all of the individual sensory boxes, and you’re good to go!
How to Use Mini Sensory Bins
Again, this is going to come down to your personal preferences. Here are a few possible ways to use individual sensory bins in your classroom:
- Label each bin with a child’s name. When you feel like it’s time to switch out the contents, pour the old fillers into plastic baggies. You can then send home the old fillers or save them for another time.
- Label each bin based on the contents. Once one child has had a while to explore the bin, “quarantine” the contents for a while before allowing another child access to it. Be sure to sanitize the tools and manipulatives according to local regulations.
- Let the children use their small sensory boxes during center time. You’ll need to teach them your expectations and give them a lot of time to practicing making appropriate choices with the bins.
- Break out the little sensory bins during transitions. For example, as children are arriving or after they’re done with lunch.
- Use them with children who don’t nap anymore but need something to do while their peers nap. If this will be how you’ll use the bins, make sure the fillers are quiet materials.
There are so many ways to use these mini sensory boxes! I’d LOVE to hear how you use them with your students in the comments below.
More Ideas for Individual Sensory Bins
The great thing about mini sensory boxes is that you can use many of the same things you’d use with larger sensory tables. You just need to portion the items out into smaller containers.
On that note, I thought I’d share some ideas that you could adapt for your own individual sensory bins. Just in case you’re looking for some specific inspiration and don’t want to have to start completely from scratch:
- Rainbow corn sensory bin
- Apple sensory bin with dyed chickpeas
- DIY play sand
- Carrot garden sensory bin
- Chicken sensory bin
- Pumpkin sorting activity
- Candy cane sensory bin
- Printable ladybug sensory bin
- Stellaluna activity and sensory bin
- How to dye pumpkin seeds
- Rainbow sensory bin
- Space sensory bin
- Weather sensory bin
- Coconut cloud dough
- Ocean sensory bin
- Apple pie sensory bin
Hopefully all of this information helps you create your own individual sensory bins. If you get the chance to use any of these suggestions, let me know how it turns out for you!
Done-For-You Preschool Resources
You have a lot on your plate right now. Let Preschool Teacher 101 make things easier with already-planned lessons, math activities, digital resources, dramatic play packs, and much more.
Click on the images below for more information about each resource. Be sure to join our waiting list and grab a free lesson plan set while you’re there.