May 07, 2020

Lina Awshee

Learning Through Play: Sensory Bins For Preschool-Age Children

Topics: Learning Through Play

Rice bin

As we continue to stay at home and navigate teletherapy/academic sessions, I often get requests from our preschool parents of how they can incorporate “school” into the day with their two- to five-year-old children. My answer is always that this young group of children benefit most from purposeful playtime. Worksheets, and craft activities are great to start working on, and continuing to practice early fine and visual motor skills – but truth be told, nothing beats learning through PLAY!

Sensory Bins - Kids Play

An all-time favorite for little ones is the sensory bin. Sensory bins are as simple or complicated as you want them to be! They can be made with pretty much anything and everything, and can incorporate themes. This can be fun if you also have older kids at home. Use some of the themes they are working on in their classes, and have the little one join in with their sensory bin.

Here are some ideas for simple bins that can be put together with materials you probably already have at home.


  • Rice
  • Wrapping tissue paper (tear them up to add in extra fine motor skills)
  • Beans
  • Beads
  • Pasta (dry and/or cooked)
  • Water
  • Paint
  • Water beads
  • Sand
  • Shaving Cream

Rice bin

Add ins:

  • Small toys and manipulatives
  • Flash cards
  • Any “treasures” you want the kiddos to find/play with

Ideas for incorporation:

Now that we are in May, a fun spring “garden” themed sensory bin could be made with sand as the base, small pots to fill with a spoon or scoop, throw in some beads or beans as pretend seeds. You could even add some water in a pail for them to add in to help “grow” the flowers. Using the bin, you can then incorporate “academics” by talking about the life cycle of a plant, spring as a season, the weather, types of flowers, etc.!

Sensory bins are also great for incorporating handwriting, math problems and/or vocabulary practice. For older kiddos who have spelling words – it may become non-preferred for them to repeatedly practice their words with paper/pencil. You can invite them to practice their words in the bin for some novel kinesthetic and sensory feedback which can actually help with retention.

Sensory Bin

Other fun ways I love to incorporate sensory bins into daily life with kids is to use them as a visual perceptual tool when doing any activity. For example, hiding crayons in a bin of beans when doing a coloring task. This adds an extra perceptual task the kids are participating in as they dig into the bin to find the crayon that want.

Family game nights can also be amped up with a fun twist when the game pieces are hidden in rice or bean bins. For example, having to dig into the bin for your rush hour cars before you build the board adds a whole new twist to the game – try feeling in the bin to find the piece you need without looking at it! This is called stereognosis and is a very important skill for our kiddos to learn and develop.

I received a game in exchange for this blog post but the opinions are my own.

Author's Bio

lina4Lina Awshee is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant with a background as a Pediatric Vision Therapist. Currently, Lina is practicing in the school systems where she works with students of all ages. When she isn’t working, Lina enjoys sharing purposeful ways to include skill development into daily playtime. You can find fun suggestions by following her on Instagram

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