Creative Child

Toddler-Safe Sensory Bins

by Rebecca Eanes

When young children explore their environment through their senses, they’re not just having fun, they’re growing nerve connections in the brain, improving fine and gross motor skills, developing language skills, and learning about the world around them. In addition, sensory play often has a calming effect on anxious or frustrated children and can be a great introduction to mindful play. Because babies and toddlers like to put everything in their mouths, I wanted to make sure to provide you with safe bins free from choking hazards! So, I’ve gathered 10 baby and toddler-safe sensory activities below. 


  1. This rubber ducks bin by Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds is the perfect kick off to springtime. Combine it with the book 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle. You’ll just need 10 rubber ducks and a bin of warm, soapy water. If you’d like, you can also add a washcloth for “bathing the ducks” and a few containers for pouring. 
  2. I love this indoor edible sand box by Hands On As We Grow. While you can use pretty much anything you have in your pantry, her idea of oatmeal seems like a tasty choice! Simply pour some oatmeal into a bin and add some baby-safe toys such as a small shovel, bucket, cups, etc. No oatmeal? Try rice, flour, crushed bread crumbs, or crackers. 
  3. Cereal bins are another safe and fun-to-explore option. Try Cheerios, Froot Loops, or other “O” shaped cereals. Throw in spoons, cups, toy construction trucks, or any of your child’s age-appropriate toys!
  4. Taste-safe moon sand is brought to you by Mama Instincts.  Moon sand was an absolute favorite when my boys were little. They loved to get their little bulldozers and dump trucks, and they’d play for a long time! You’ll need 2 cups of flour, ¼ cup of olive oil, matcha powder for green moon sand, or you can use food coloring as well. 
  5. Plain Vanilla Mom had the idea of putting balls of assorted size and texture into a bin for her baby to explore. This is a great activity for babies and toddlers. Add a little warm water and they can explore sinking and floating. 
  6. This ocean bin by Fun Learning for Kids is my absolute favorite. You can use play sand if your toddler doesn’t want to taste everything. Separate the water and sand with a row of seashells and then add in tiny ocean animals from the dollar store.
  7. How much fun is this spaghetti bin from Mama Instincts? Her’s is Halloween themed, but you can make it any theme you like. You’ll need spaghetti noodles, olive oil, natural food coloring (optional), and age-appropriate toys. Cook spaghetti. Strain with cold water and add a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking. If you want to color the noodles, separate them into bowls and add food coloring, mix well, and let sit for about half an hour. Dump into a bin and add toys!
  8. For a quick and simple bin in a flash, if you have some snow left in your yard, scoop some into a bin and bring it inside! Grab some toy people, animals, or vehicles or just create a whole snowy village. Perhaps your little one can even build a tiny snowman.
  9. Create a nature bin with large rocks, pine cones, sticks, flowers, and leaves. Let your little one explore the different colors, smells, and textures of nature without the mosquitos!
  10. Make your own edible zoo like Fantastic Fun and Learning did! You’ll need marshmallows, puffed rice cereal, chocolate cereal, blue and green gelatin, broccoli florets, and some toy animals. Give your child a bin or pan to create their zoo in. They’ll use the foods to create different habitats for their animals. Such a fun and tasty idea!
Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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