Sunday, August 16, 2015

50 Non-Food Sensory Bin Fillers {Free Printable List}

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We like to use a variety of sensory bin fillers at our house, including both food and non-food items. However, I know there are a lot of people who prefer not to use food in their sensory bins. So I have compiled 50 non-food sensory bin fillers to try with your kids, including example sensory bin ideas for each single item. And to make your life even simpler, I've included a free printable list of all 50 sensory bin fillers. That way you can reference it when you want to create a sensory bin of your own. The possibilities are endless!

50 non-food-sensory bin fillers to try with kids with free printable list and over 125 example sensory bin ideas that don't use food! from And Next Comes L

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50 Non-Food Sensory Bin Fillers for Kids

1. Pom poms

Fuzzy, sparkly, small, large...the possibilities are endless, but kids will love the soft texture of pom poms and they're great for scooping and practicing fine motor skills.

Ideas to try: Pom Pom Sensory Bin Ideas | Counting Pom Poms Sensory Bin | Pom Pom Sensory Bin

2. Cotton balls

Another great soft and fuzzy texture for kids to explore. You can also add color or scents to the cotton balls to enhance the sensory experience.

3. Straw or hay

Straw and hay is an interesting and unique texture for kids to explore.

4. Packing peanuts

An awesome sensory bin filler is to reuse all those packing peanuts you might get from parcels. You can also build with them if you add toothpicks or skewers to the mix!

5. Epsom salts

Another interesting dry texture, epsom salts can also be dyed or scented with essential oils. Epsom salts also make great writing trays for kids to practice handwriting skills!

Ideas to try: Gold & Silver Epsom Salts | Writing Tray on Light Table | Rainbow Epsom Salts | Calming Epsom Salt Sensory Play

6. Water

What kid doesn't love playing with water? Add some color or some glitter or even some scents to boost the sensory experience. 

Ideas to try: 20 Water Sensory Soups

7. Shredded paper

Shredded paper is ridiculously fun for kids to play with! Recycling for the win.

Ideas to try: Music Themed Sensory Bin | Easter Sensory Bin | Winter Sensory Bin with Paper Pulp | Life Sized Easter Sensory Bin

8. Grass (fake or real)

Use fresh grass clippings as a base for a farm sensory bin or use the plastic Easter grass for an easy Easter sensory bin filler. Don't feel limited to farm or Easter bins as there are lots of other ways to try grass as a sensory bin filler!

9. Leaves (fake or real)

Fall is the perfect time to use leaves as a sensory bin filler since they're so colorful.

10. Water beads

If you haven't tried water beads before, then you should! They're squishy, slimy, bouncy balls of fun. The giant water beads are lots of fun too! 

11. Sand

You can try colored sand or regular sand as a sensory bin filler. It's a perfect base for an ocean themed sensory bin!

Ideas to try: Spring Craft Sand Sensory Bin | Sand & Rock Sensory Box | Digging for Shark Tooth Fossils Sensory Bin

12. Kinetic sand

It's no secret we love kinetic sand. If your kids don't enjoy the texture of sand, then they will likely prefer this alternative. It doesn't stick to hands like sand does. Plus, it can be molded and shaped like play dough.

Ideas to try: 35 Kinetic Sand Activities | Kinetic Sand Activities

13. Aquarium gravel

These colorful little rocks are a neat texture for kids to explore.

Ideas to try: Teeny Tiny Ocean Small World Activity Bin | Pet Frog Sensory Bin | Sorting Shapes Sensory Bin | Space Themed Sensory Tub

14. Rocks 

My boys love playing with rocks! So go on a scavenger hunt, collect some rocks, and make a sensory bin with them.

Ideas to try: Simple Rock Sensory Bin | Rock Sensory Bin | Construction Themed Rock Sensory Bin

15. Glass stones

These round, flat marbles are so versatile. They're especially great for sensory bins on the light table. They have a cool, smooth texture that my kids absolutely love.

Ideas to try: Rainbow Stone Soup | St. Patrick's Day Sensory Bin | Watermelon Soap Foam

16. Buttons

Buttons come in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and textures, making them a great sensory bin filler.

Ideas to try: Buttons Soup | Button Sensory Bin | Buttons & Eggs | Button Water Play

17. Ice 

Brrrr! Ice is a great sensory filler, especially for winter themed sensory bins.

Ideas to try: Arctic Small World Sensory Bin | Rainbow Ice Ball Sensory Bin | Arctic Ice Sensory Bin | Rainbow Ice

18. Coins (fake or real) 

My three year old loves coins. He used to hoard real coins in his pockets all the time. Try using them in a sensory bin!

Ideas to try: Piggy Bank Coins Sensory Bin | St. Patrick's Day Sensory Bin

19. Shaving cream

Looking for something messy and squishy? Try shaving cream! It's also great for handwriting and mark-making practice.

Ideas to try: Kool Aid & Shaving Cream | Shaving Cream & Water Beads | Starfish & Sand Dollar Shaving Cream Dig | Rainbow Shaving Cream Dig

20. Play dough

My kids love play dough! Play dough is a great sensory bin filler, especially for small worlds, because you can make it any color and/or scent you choose.

Ideas to try: Play Dough Sensory Mud | Snow Play Dough Bin | Play Dough Ocean Small World Sensory Play

21. Feathers 

Feathers are a great soft texture for kids to explore and they come in a variety of colors, shapes, and textures.

Ideas to try: Rainbow Feathers Sensory Bin | Thanksgiving Sensory Bin | Gold at the End of the Rainbow Sensory Bin

22. Dirt

Most kids love to dig in the dirt, so why wouldn't you include it in a sensory bin?

Ideas to try: Dirt Sensory Bin | Garden Sensory Bin | Spring Garden Sensory Bin

23. Snow

We get a lot of snow here, but it's also fun to bring inside to explore with.

Ideas to try: Arctic Small World Sensory Bin | Real Snow Sensory Bin | Snow Painting Sensory Bin

24. Mud

Messy, glorious mud. My youngest loves to play in mud!

Ideas to try: Build Your Own Mud Pond

25. Soap shavings

Soap comes in a variety of colors and scents, but try grating or shaving it with a vegetable peeler and using it as a sensory bin filler.

Ideas to try: Fairy Mud | Ghost Mud | Rainbow Clean Mud

26. Soap foam 

Goodness, we love soap foam here! It's easy to make, versatile, and easy to clean up. You definitely must try soap foam!

Ideas to try: 25 Soap Foam Sensory Activities

27. Fabric scraps

The perfect first sensory bin filler for babies or small toddlers is fabric scraps. Provide a variety of fabric types and colors to keep it really interesting for small hands.

Ideas to try: Fabric Scraps Sensory Box for Baby | Cloth Napkin Sensory Bin | Fabric Scraps Sensory Bin

28. Baby oil

As an alternative to using other liquids, try baby oil!

Ideas to try: DIY Sensory Bottles with Baby Oil | Ice, Baby Oil, & Glitter

29. Tinsel

Before you pack up all that tinsel after Christmas, try it in a sensory bin. It's really a unique and sparkly texture for kids to explore.

Ideas to try: St. Patrick's Day Sensory Bin | Christmas Sensory Bin | Valentine's Day Sensory Bin

30. Ribbon

You can either use fabric ribbon or curling ribbon as a sensory bin filler.

Ideas to try: Letter R Sensory Bin | Ribbon Sensory Bin | Ribbons & Bells Sensory Bin

31. Raffia

Raffia is what I like to call craft straw or hay, but it provides a really cool texture for sensory bins.

Ideas to try: Letter R Sensory Bin | Fall Sensory Bin | Farm Sensory Bin

32. Flower petals (fake or real) 

Have a flower bouquet that's about to be tossed out? Save it and try it as a sensory bin filler. Fake flower petals work great too!

Ideas to try: Fine Motor Flowers Sensory Bin | Rose Petal Sensory Bin | Flower Sensory Soup | Silk Flowers Sensory Bins

33. Beads

Beads come in all sorts of shapes and colors! Try wood beads, perler beads, pony beads, or plastic beads. The possibilities are endless!

Ideas to try: Wood Bead Sensory Bin | Pony Beads Sensory Bin | Beads & Stones Sensory Bin | Beads Sensory Bin

34. Foam bits or blocks 

Kids seem to enjoy the texture of foam so it makes sense to try it as a sensory bin filler.

Ideas to try: Foam Bits Sensory Bin | Foam Block Building Sensory Bin | Foam Blocks Quiet Box | Square Themed Sensory Bin with Foam Blocks

35. Corks

Save all those wine corks and fill up a sensory bin with them! Kids will love to stack and build with them.

Ideas to try: Cork Sail Boat Sensory Bin | Corks Sensory Bin

36. Seashells

Seashells have such a great variety of textures: bumpy, pointy, smooth, ridged, etc. They make a great sensory bin filler!

Ideas to try: Seashells Sensory Bin | Seashells & Shaving Cream

37. Aloe vera gel

Soft and squishy, aloe vera gel makes for a really fun and messy sensory experience. Plus, it's great for the kids' skin!

Ideas to try: Earth Inspired Sensory Bin | Slimy Aloe Vera Sensory Play for Babies | Arctic Penguin Habitat Bin

38. Cut up straws 

Get the kids to work on fine motor skills by helping cut up some straws. The cut up straws provide a really unique sensory experience when used as a sensory bin filler.

Ideas to try: Plastic Straw Sensory Bin | Drinking Straw Sensory Tub | Straw Spring Sensory Bin | Halloween Sensory Bin with Straws

39. Cotton batting

Batting is a great substitute for fake snow in a sensory bin. Kids will love the soft, fluffy texture.

Ideas to try: Winter Theme Sensory Bin | Polar Bear Sensory Bin | Weather Sensory Bin

40. Tissue paper

If you recently had a birthday party or celebrated some other gift giving occasion, save the tissue paper for a sensory bin filler. It's simple and fun, but the kids will love ripping and tearing it as they play!

Ideas to try: Tissue Paper Sensory Bin | Ghost Sensory Bin | Airplane Sensory Bin | Tissue Paper Squares Sensory Bin | Tissue Paper Sensory Box

41. Crepe paper or streamers

Similar to tissue paper, kids will love being able to rip and tear the crepe paper.

Ideas to try: Wild Kratts Sensory Bin

42. Play silks or scarves

Another great sensory filler for babies and small toddlers who are just starting to explore sensory bins. So many wonderful colors and textures to explore!

Ideas to try: Spring Time Sensory Basket for Toddlers | Rainbow Scarves Discovery Box | Play Silks & Textured Balls Sensory Bin

43. Polyfill pellets 

Here's another fun sensory bin filler. Kids will have a blast scooping and pouring the pellets.

Ideas to try: Glowing Letter Recognition Sensory Bin | Christmas Ornament Sensory Play | Magnetic Christmas Sensory Bin

44. Balls 

From ping pong balls to spiky balls to ball pit balls, you can easily make a fun sensory bin using just balls. Or try making a full-body sensory bin by doing a ball pit! Balls make a great first sensory bin filler for babies and small toddlers!

Ideas to try: Sensory Ball Pit for Baby | Snowman Sensory Bin | Exploring Textures Through Balls Sensory Bin

45. LEGO

Whether you use the small bricks or the DUPLO bricks, LEGO is a great texture to explore what with its hard and bumpy edges.

Ideas to try: LEGO Sensory Soup | LEGO Sensory Bin

46. Sticks

My kids love sticks! So let your kids go collect some sticks and use them to fill up a sensory bin.

Ideas to try: Sticks Sensory Bin | Build an Apple Tree Sensory Bin | Cherry Blossom Tree Sensory Bin

47. Wool roving

Soft and fluffy, wool roving would be a lovely sensory bin filler. You can even get it in a variety of colors.

Ideas to try: Make a Lorax Themed Bin with these Truffula Trees

48. Yarn or string 

You can find a variety of textures, colors, and sizes of yarn or string so they work nicely as a sensory bin filler.

Ideas to try: 4 Yarn Sensory Bins | Yarn Sensory Bin | Christmas Light Sensory Bin | Small World Stables

49. Jingle bells

Add a little sound to your sensory bins by adding jingle bells.

Ideas to try: Jingle Bells & Cookie Cutters | Jingle Bell Sensory Bin | Jingle Bell Soup | Ribbons & Bells Sensory Bin

50. Rubber bands or loom bands

My kids are always drawn to rubber bands and they would love to play with a sensory bin filled with them.

Ideas to try: Sensory Bag with Loom Bands & Glitter | Rubber Loom Bands in a Discovery Bottle | Rainbow Loom Sensory Bottle

50 non-food sensory bin fillers to try with kids {free printable} from And Next Comes L

For even more suggestions, check out these amazing books that focus on using non-food items for sensory play! Or here are 50 more non-food sensory bin fillers to try!

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  1. hey,
    Thanks for the list of sensory bin fillers. I work with 3 year old children who love sensory play, but i'm constantly having trouble to find sensory items to use in the room.

  2. Water beads are also a lot of fun and a great sensory experience for kids!

    1. I just saw it on the list, missed it the first time!

    2. Haha no worries! If it wasn't on this list, then it was for sure on my second list of 50 non-food sensory bin fillers. :)