Holiday Sensory Bins

‘Tis the Season for Sensory Play – 3 Holiday Sensory Bins

The simplest definition of a sensory bin is a hands-on tactile experience for kids, in a contained area such as a storage container.

I am sharing 3 Holiday Sensory Bins your kids are sure to love! A sensory bin can be easily switched for seasons, holidays, and to reflect your child’s changing interests for a unique experience every time!

In this post you will find a few fun ideas for Holiday, Christmas, and Winter sensory bins, using items from the Dollar Store or from around the house.

Why Use a Sensory Bin?

Sensory bins are awesome hands-on tools for children to learn about their world and their senses! Sensory play may calm a child, focus a child, and engage a child.

Another bonus of sensory bins is what your child can learn while playing.  This includes:


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Practical Life Skills

Sensory bins let a child explore, discover create, and play using practical life skills (dumping, filling, scooping) as well as learning valuable play skills.

Emotional Development & Play Skills

Great for both social play and independent play, sensory bins allow children to play cooperatively or side by side.

Language Development

Sensory bins increase language development from experiencing with their hands all there is to see and do.  This leads to great conversations and opportunities to model language.

Understanding the 5 Senses

Many sensory bins include a focus on a few of the senses! Touch, sight, sounds, taste, and smell are the 5 senses. Children can experience several at a time with a sensory bin. Consider adding a drop or two of essential oils to your bin to add a Christmassy smell.

Holiday Sensory Bins Ideas

With the Winter Holidays here, we thought it was a great opportunity to make some sensory bins to celebrate and get into the holiday mood.

We made 3 festive bins, with different materials and themes. Each one inspires a different play and discovery and includes recognizable seasonal characters.

Below you will find details on how to make:

  • Santa’s Coming to Town sensory bin
  • Winter Wonderland sensory bin
  •  I’ll Be Home for Christmas sensory bin

Remember, these are just inspirations! Let your imagination run wild. Feel free to use what you have on hand. Rice is a great replacement for store-bought snow.

sensory bin supplies

The Budget Busting Craft/Activity Corner

My goal is to provide fun, affordable, craft & activity ideas with supplies purchased exclusively at Dollar Stores around Northern Nevada.

NOTE WHEN SHOPPING: Each Dollar Store (especially Dollar Trees) seems to have a different inventory. The Dollar Tree on Plumb Lane has the best selection of arts and craft supplies, from what I’ve noticed.

Ideal Age Group For This Activity

Ages 2-5

What You’ll Need (General Sensory Bin Supplies):

  • Plastic Bin
    • Tupperware/storage boxes work well for this. I used holiday-themed containers for these themed bins, but feel free to use what you have.
  • Filler
    • This can be anything! We used festive/holiday items from the Dollar Store, but you can use what you have on hand as well.  Colored macaroni, rice, sand, water beads, and salt can also be fun alternatives.
  • A scoop or shovel
    • Spoons, tongs, cups are all great! Your kitchen drawers hold a ton of goodies that make great scoopers.  The Dollar Store also has a great collection of fun containers and kitchen tools.
  • Small Bowl or Container
    • This will hold all of the treasures your Little finds in their sensory bin.
  • Baking pan w/sides
    • I like to “contain the mess” when possible. The sensory bin, small bowl, and utensils were all placed on the baking pan for play-time.
  • Small dustpan and broom
    • Good to have on hand to clean up “filler” that may have escaped from the bin.

 Holiday Sensory Bins

Santa’s Coming to Town:

  • General Sensory Bin Supplies (see above)
  • Foam Balls/Vase Fillers – in a variety of sizes and colors
  • Wooden Beads
  • Small ornaments
  • Jingle Bells
  • Santa & Mrs. Claus figurines
  • Mini drum ornaments
  • Pine Cones
  • Dice — Great way to introduce numbers/counting when found!
  • Recognizable Character – Elmo
sensory ideas winter

Winter Wonderland:

  • General Sensory Bin Supplies (see above)
  • Faux Snow – tiny foam balls
  • Sparkle Snow – fake snowflakes
  • Wooden Beads
  • Pearl Beads in different sizes
  • Dice — Great way to introduce numbers/counting when found!
  • Jingle Bells
  • Gold & Silver Star Beads
  • Snowman figurine
  • Snowman & Tree mini erasers
  • Recognizable Character – Monster Inc.’s Boo

I’ll Be Home for Christmas Supplies:

  • General Sensory Bin Supplies (see above)
  • Pom Poms – in a variety of sizes, colors, and textures
  • Wooden Beads
  • Dice — Great way to introduce numbers/counting when found!
  • Jingle Bells
  • Gold & Silver Star Beads
  • Red Truck and Christmas Camper Figurines
  • Mini drum ornaments
  • Santa and Reindeer mini erasers
  • Recognizable Character – Paw Patrol figurine

How We Did It:

Step 1

Create a Theme – Use your imagination and create a theme for your sensory bin. It can be Christmas-related, it can celebrate snow sports or just a fun bin with items your child will like.

Step 2

Collect & Organize – Collect all of your supplies and get organized.  I like to search my home first to find items that can be used. Beads leftover from an old craft is a great addition.

An old McDonald’s toy that has been forgotten can get new life in a sensory bin. Supplement whatever you don’t have with Dollar Store finds.

Step 3

Assemble – Time to build your bin! Pour the items into your bin, leaving enough space for the movement of material without a big overflowing mess.

If your child is old enough, have them help you assemble.  My daughter loved pouring the sparkly foam balls into the bin. And she really enjoyed tucking Santa and Mrs. Claus into the sensory bin.

Step 4

Shake – Close the lid tightly and shake your bin. This is optional, but I think it’s a fun way to get all of the goodies incorporated. Let the kids give it a shake too!

Step 5

Get Ready – Create a clean, open area for playtime. We decided to play on the open kitchen floor.  Put down your baking pan, bowl, utensils, and sensory bin.

Step 6

Get Set – Explain to your child what they will be doing. We made sure to discuss safety guidelines, and that none of the items were to go inside our mouth.

Step 7

Play —  Get your play on! Let your child explore and play in their new sensory bin. We played in our bin for almost an hour!!!

STEP 8

Clean Up – Teaching your Little to clean up their space is important. After we were done playing, we put items safely away and swept the floor together.

dollar store sensory bin

Holiday Sensory Bin Activities

Now that your holiday sensory bin is complete, the things you can do with it are endless! My daughter freely explored the bin at first.  Then we started to incorporate different games/activities.

Free exploration

Let your child freely explore their new space.

Hide & Seek

Ask your child if they can find the hidden character in the bin.  Encourage them to use the various kitchen utensils to move the character to the adjacent bowl.

Texture Discovery

We included filler of different textures in our bin. This gave my daughter the chance to learn (and feel) the difference between smooth, bumpy, etc.

Find the Rainbow

Have your child separate colored items into the bowl, again using the spoons or tongs.

Shapes & Sizes

Including items of various shapes and sizes allows interactive learning while reinforcing what they already know.

A Word of Caution

Sensory bins should always be used under the supervision of an adult.

Some holiday sensory bins include smaller items, and while your child will have fun touching and playing, supervision is required to prevent those cute things from ending up in their mouth, nose, or ears.

dollar store items

Share with Us

Have you made holiday sensory bins before? If so, what is your favorite filler to use?

If you and your family make some holiday sensory bins this season, don’t forget to take pictures and tag us.  We would love to see what everyone is doing this Holiday Season!

sarah rively

Sarah Bear Rively is a Reno resident for over 30 years and loves the uniqueness of Northern Nevada. Sarah and her husband are parents to a sassy, smart, considerate “three-anger". Sarah has spent the majority of her career helping Reno’s at-risk populations through non-profit and social service work.  She now proudly works for the Northern Nevada Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Sarah considers herself a fun-loving person who enjoys laughing, getting creative, helping the community, and spending time with family.  You can follow her in real life on Instagram and TikTok.