The simplest definition of a sensory bin is a hands-on tactile experience for kids, in a contained area such as a storage container.
A sensory bin or sensory box is a simple container filled with different mediums (or preferred filler). Additional items are put into the filler, and your child will use their hands and utensils to explore!
The container should be large enough to let your child explore without moving the filler out of the container.
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 Valentine’s Day themed sensory bins, using items from the Dollar Store or from around the house.
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:
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.
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 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 sweet smell.
2 Valentine’s Day Sensory Bins Ideas
We enjoy spending Valentine’s Day with those we love, and have learned to appreciate time together as opposed to the gifts given.
Making these sensory bins is a great way to spend time together as a family, doing a hands-on activity celebrating LOVE.
We made 2 festive bins, with different materials and themes. Each one inspires different play and discovery and includes recognizable seasonal characters.
Below you will find details on how to make:
Bucket Full Of LOVE sensory bin
Minnie’s Valentine’s Adventure sensory bin
Remember, these are just inspiration! Let your imagination run wild. Feel free to use what you have on hand. Rice is a great and cheap filler!
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
What You’ll Need (General Sensory Bin Supplies):
Tupperware/buckets/storage boxes work well for this. I used Valentine’s Day themed containers for these themed bins, but feel free to use what you have.
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.
Valentine’s Day Sensory Bins
Bucket Full of LOVE:
General Sensory Bin Supplies (see above)
Heart-shaped plastic pieces in red & pink
Glass Vase Filler in red & clear
Cupcake mini erasers
Heart-shaped gems & jewels
Recognizable Character – My Little Pony
Minnie’s Valentine’s Adventure:
General Sensory Bin Supplies (see above)
Unicorn & Robot mini erasers
Heart & Flower shaped gems & jewels
Pastel-colored plastic beads
Wooden Beads in various shapes
Recognizable Character – Minnie Mouse
How We Did It:
Create a Theme – Use your imagination and create a theme for your sensory bin. It can be Valentine’s Day themed, creative bins celebrating the upcoming Saint Patrick’s Day holiday and Spring, or just a fun bin with items your child will like.
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.
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 beads into the bucket. And she really enjoyed tucking Minnie Mouse into the sensory bin.
Shake/mix – 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! If your container doesn’t have a lid, give it all a good MIX.
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.
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.
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!!!
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.
Sensory Bin Activities
Now that your 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.
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.
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 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.
Share with Us
Have you made a sensory bin before? If so, what is your favorite filler to use?
If you and your family make a sensory bin, don’t forget to take pictures and tag us. We would love to see what everyone is doing to celebrate the love.
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.