Create 3 Sensory Bins for Just $3 with Affordable Target Finds

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A sensory bin is the educational & frugal activity for bored kids everywhere!

kid holding funnel playing w/ sensory bin

Need a new way to entertain the kiddos?

Every parent should know about this screen-free, developmental activity for all ages – Enter, sensory bins! A sensory bin can improve fine motor skills, cognitive development, social skills and so much more. Plus, they can be made with just a few materials from around your home or inexpensive themed items, like from Bullseye’s Playground.

A sensory bin is… “A large container filled with materials, objects, or toys designed to stimulate the senses.”

RUN to Target to make 3 Valentine–themed sensory bins for around $3!

paper cups, funnel, and heart erasers in bin with rice

You’ll need:

  • Valentine’s paper cups 6-pack – $1
  • plastic funnel – $1
  • heart erasers 60-count– $1

If you have rice + food coloring at home this sensory bin will cost ya just $3!

Have pom poms at home? Try this: 

pom poms in colored rice

Make paper hearts to reinforce their ABC’s.

paper hearts in pink rice

HIP TIP: Target & Walmart dollar spots are a treasure trove for sensory bins so keep an eye out!

Their inexpensive knick-knacks and kids ‘playsets’ make for the BEST sensory bin experiences and they’re stinkin’ adorable too! (But remember, these items don’t last for long– so don’t wait!)

Top 3 sensory bins for toddlers

1. Shaving cream (or Cool Whip)

kid playing with shaving cream sensory bin

Made for less than $2, a shaving cream sensory bin is quick and inexpensive to make. You can add a few drops of blue food coloring to give it an ‘ocean’ theme and fill it with ANY bath or ocean-related animals, plants, toys, etc.

*NOTE– you may also substitute shaving cream for Cool Whip for a taste-safe option.

2. Water Station –

hand scooping letter out of water

When you need a completely FREE sensory bin in a pinch, water is the go-to for any season, and time of day (just be sure you’re okay with them getting a little wet 😉). You can quickly turn a tub of water into a sink or float experiment and use endless items around the house. Add a few drops of soap and ‘wash’ animal toys, cars, and hot Wheels. Sponges are also a phenomenal and inexpensive way to add color and use fine motor skills to grab & squeeze.

3. Rainbow Pasta –

dried rainbow pasta sensory bin filler

You likely already have this sensory bin filler on hand, and compared to the other fillers, when stored properly, it can last for months, so you only need to make this filler once for lots of play!

Sensory bin fillers

The most sensory stimulation will come from your sensory bin filler, so it’s important to choose the right one! There are edible bases (recommended for babies), natural, store-bought, one-time-use fillers, and so many more.

hand holding dinosaur in kinetic sand

Use this list of 30+ sensory bin fillers to help get you started… 


  • taste-safe moon sand
  • ground cereal dirt
  • whipped cream or cool whip (instead of shaving cream)
  • water
  • cooked grains (rice or quinoa)
  • cooked spaghetti noodles
  • tapioca pudding – the ‘beads’ make a great sensory experience!

*Note that these are likely also one-time or one-day use only and may have to be thrown out after first use. 


  • slime
  • kinetic sand
  • water beads *recommended for ages 13+
  • shaving cream
  • dry beans, rice, noodles, popcorn kernels, or chickpeas
  • rocks or pebbles
  • sticks
  • leaves
  • dirt
  • flowers
  • shredded paper
  • colored salt
  • pom poms
  • cotton balls
  • fabric scraps
  • tissue paper
  • foam blocks, bits, or pieces
  • seashells
  • fake snow
  • plastic Easter eggs
  • plastic balls or ping pong balls
  • plastic straws (cut into pieces)
  • pool noodles (cut into pieces)

heart in

Rice sensory bins are great for themes/ holidays!

Rice sensory bins are one of the best sensory bin fillers (for older kiddos who don’t put things in their mouth) because it’s inexpensive and can be easily dyed for holidays, seasons, etc.

Try black + orange colors rice for Halloween, red + green for Christmas, green “grass” for Spring, and of course pink or red for Valentine’s Day!

hands grabbing pink rice in bin

How to make a DIY sensory bin:

A sensory bin includes three easy parts: the filler, toys/ manipulatives, and containers! Once you’ve decided on the filler, you can add any small toys/ manipulatives to go inside. (My kids have a bin of random toys from old playsets, kids’ meals, tiny erasers, goodie bag fillers, and more so I always have a stash 😂)

For the containers, it’s nice to recycle plastic containers from food items (sour cream or butter tub), plastic bottles, old Tupperware, kids’ plastic cups & bowls. Or you can grab a sensory tool set and reuse these items in every new bin you make!

sets of sensoy bin tools

Try this mess-free sensory bin idea– no ‘bin’ required!

hands finger painting on ziploc bag

On the days when you want a sensory experience without the potential mess, all you need is some paint, paper, a gallon ziploc bag or saran wrap, and tape!

Here’s what to do: Place a few dollops of paint on a piece of paper and slip it into a gallon ziploc bag. Tape all four edges to a table or flat surface. Encourage little ones to ‘finger paint’, make shapes, blend colors, and more. As another option you can tape a piece of paper with paint to a table and cover with saran wrap.

Extra Sensory Bin Recipes


Supplies Needed

  • cornstarch
  • light brown sugar
  • coconut oil (melted)
  • uncooked pasta
  • food coloring
  • water
  • cereal
  • uncooked rice
  • vinegar
  • ziploc bags
  • baking soda
  • white hair conditioner



Taste- Safe Moon Dough

Mix 1c. cornstarch, 1c. light brown sugar, and 4 tbs. coconut oil (melted) until you get a powder-like consistency. Should be able to form clumps in hand like real sand.


Rainbow Pasta

Measure 1/2- 2 cups of pasta for each color you desire and separate into bowls. Add 1 1/2- 2 tablespoons of liquid watercolors to each and mix. Let stand for about 15 minutes and dry on parchment paper.


Rainbow Rice

Add 1 cup uncooked rice, a few drops of food coloring, and 1 teaspoon vinegar to a plastic bag. Shake and massage the bag until the rice is coated. Spread rice onto wax paper or tray to let dry. Note that it will likely feel dry in under an hour, but it’s best to wait until the next day. 


Edible ‘dirt’

Got stale or leftover cereal? Turn it into a taste-safe sensory bin filler! I prefer a chocolate-based cereal (ie. cocoa pebbles) but any variety works! Place in the blender or food processor and blend until it looks like dirt/ sand. Easy peasy!


Fake Snow

Mix 1/2 c. pure baking soda with 1/2 c. white hair conditioner in a large bowl until you can mold it and not too much sticks to your hands. Too wet? Sprinkle baking soda until desired consistency. Too dry? Add conditioner slowly.

kid playing with sensory bin

Winter break may have come & gone, but keep these sensory bin ideas in your back pocket for the next rainy day or school break and you’ll be the master of boredom!

Beat boredom outside with this DIY Puffy Chalk recipe!

About the writer:

Chelsey is a writer & photographer with both a Bachelor's and Master's Degree from Arizona State University. She holds 3+ years blogging experience not only for Hip2Save, but various other publications in the health, lifestyle, and education field.

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