Sensory bin – cold spaghetti

We had some spaghetti leftover from our dinner yesterday (I’m useless at judging how much to cook!) and so we used it in today’s sensory bin.  I also cooked some pasta shapes just to bulk it up a bit.

I used some food colouring and coloured the pasta shapes blue and the spaghetti green (it went a bit murky but Lottie didn’t mind!) and added a very small amount of vegetable oil to each bowl just to stop it sticking together too much.  I separated the two in the sensory bin with a line of uncooked mini pasta stars that have been knocking around the cupboard for ages – not that I was clearing out the cupboard or anything!

Messy play, sensory tub/bin, sensory play, learn through play, EYFS, early years, pasta, spaghetti, rice

Lovely, squidgy, messy fun!

Messy play, sensory tub/bin, sensory play, learn through play, EYFS, early years, pasta, spaghetti, rice

I gave Lottie a selection of kitchen utensils to play with but she wasn’t really interested in them, preferring to just get her hands in and get messy – that’s my girl!

She enjoyed mixing it all together and picking out the little star shapes.  She also enjoyed pulling the spaghetti pieces apart and making the longer pieces smaller – great chance to explore cause and effect!

While we played we discussed the temperature of the pasta (it had been in the fridge overnight so was pretty cold), the colours, the texture and the differences between the types of pastas used.  This was a simple and cheap sensory bin but one that provided lots of opportunities for rich language.

This was what the bin looked like when Lottie eventually lost interest in it…


Supplies and Suppliers:

Assorted pasta

Food colouring

Vegetable oil

EYFS links:

CL: communicating, listening

PD: sensory exploration

Maths: measures

UW: exploring the world



Sensory bin – kinetic sand

Lottie loves this sensory bin and we get it out a lot.  It’s easy and quick to put together and so much fun.  You can make your own kinetic sand (and I will post up the recipe I use in a later post) but you can also buy it.  I bought the sand used for these pictures and it’s great, it holds its shape well but is a lovely texture to squish and squeeze too!

If you’re unsure what kinetic sand is, it’s mouldable sand.  It can be used to build shapes easily and never dries out.

We simply have the sensory bin with the sand in the bottom (I used 2 packs here (3lbs) and to be honest we could have done with another 2 but it was enough) and then a variety of beach toys, scoops, spoons etc.

Kinetic sand/sensory/messy play, early years, learn through play, EYFS, tuff tray

Silicone ice cube trays work really well with kinetic sand.  We bought some from Ikea very cheaply and they make flowers, fish and starfish shapes.

I absolutely love kinetic sand, not just because Lottie plays so well with it and gets so much from it, but because I love playing with it too! If you’ve not tried it yet, have a go, it’s a definite family favourite!

Supplies and Suppliers:

Kinetic sand – either homemade or bought (the stuff used in these pictures is from here:

Assorted spoons/scoops/jugs/pots etc

Beach sand toys

Silicone ice cube trays

 EYFS links:

PD: sensory exploration, fine motor skills, manipulation

UW: exploring the world



Sensory bin – just rice – unintentionally!

For this sensory bin my initial plan was to have a deconstructed aquarium consisting of the blue rice in the tub and all the other aquarium themed bits just around the side. My vision was that Lottie could choose what bits she wanted to use and then make her own aquarium.

Sensory bin/tub, sensory play, rice, aquarium, measures, early years, learn through play, EYFS

This failed spectacularly! She totally ignored all the aquarium items and just immediately started playing with the rice on its own. I grabbed a few spoons, measuring cups etc and that’s all she wanted to use!


She spent ages tipping rice from one container to the next and this gave us a lot of opportunities to explore measures and use mathematical language: Were the cups empty or full? Which spoon was the smallest/largest? What happened when we tipped a larger cup into a smaller cup? etc etc.


She then decided to fill up some of the larger scoops using only a spoon to pick up the rice. This was entirely her idea and it held her interest for a long period of time. It was a fantastic activity to develop her fine motor control and to help develop her wrist and finger muscles – all good preparation for when she (in good time – she’s not 2 yet!) learns to hold a pencil correctly.

Although this sensory bin didn’t start out as I intended it to at all, Lottie had a great time and I’m sure got far more out of it by using her own imagination to develop her play.

Supplies and Suppliers:

Rice – coloured blue and white (see this post for a How to guide)

Assorted spoons/scoops/jugs/pots etc

 EYFS links:

PD: sensory exploration, fine motor skills, co-ordination, control, manipulation

Maths: measures



Sensory bin – dinosaurs/our own Jurassic Park

My LO is currently obsessed with dinosaurs. I think it probably stems from George in Peppa Pig (“dinosaur, roaaaaarrrrr”) so I decided to make her her very own Jurassic Park. She’d picked up some plastic dinosaurs in a gift shop a few weeks earlier and these dinos had been everywhere with us since (and I mean EVERYWHERE!)

Sensory bin/tub/tuff tray dinosaurs/Jurassic park, learn through play, sensory play, small world

I used a few pieces of bog wood bought from our local aquarium supplies shop, some fircones we collected, black coloured rice, plastic jewels, some little handmade volcanoes and her four beloved plastic dinosaurs.

Lottie enjoyed the feel of the rice, she let it run through her fingers for ages. She also loved the noise it made as she sprinkled it back into the tray from high up.


She then discovered she could pour the rice from one ‘volcano’ to the next. You can just about see from the photo that the volcanoes were made from egg carton bits, turned upside down and dribbled with red, yellow & orange paint to look like lava. Oh and I also drew some black rocks on with a sharpie – gotta love the detail!


Much fun was had by all with this one… and there were lots of shouts of “dinosaur, roaaaarrrrrr” as she played!

Supplies and Suppliers:

Dinosaur toys

Bogwood/sticks/wooden bits and pieces

Fircones/leaves etc

Rice – coloured black (see this post for a How to guide)

Plastic jewels –

Egg cartons – cut up and painted

EYFS links:

CL: communicating

PD: sensory exploration, fine motor skills, co-ordination, control

Maths: space, measures

UW: imaginative play, exploring the world, animals



How to – dye/colour rice with paint

I have previously used food colouring and vinegar to colour rice before and I am usually disappointed with the wishy washy colour (and the fact I can always smell vinegar afterwards!) so I experimented with paint instead.  It worked well so here’s what I did:

  1. Split the rice into sealable bags depending on how many colours you want.
  2. Squirt a decent sized blob of paint into each bag. I used non toxic, child safe acrylic paint for mine.
  3. Seal the bag and squidge it until all the rice is covered with the paint and it looks like a mess! (If you’re brave enough this bit is great for children to help do).
  4. Open up the bag and spread the rice out on a covered baking tray for it to dry.  Mine didn’t take long to dry at all but you can speed it up a bit by putting the baking tray in the oven on a very low temperature (I tried 60 deg C) for 20 mins or so.

Et voila – beautiful bright coloured rice with no vinegary smell, perfect for sensory bins, tuff trays and all sorts of messy play!

Early years, sensory play, dying/colouring rice with paint, learn through playSupplies and Suppliers:

Rice – I used Aldi value rice, cheap and copius!

Paint in pretty colours – I used acrylic as I had some in the cupboard and its non-toxic and safe for children. I’m sure other paints will work just as well though.

Resealable (zip-lock) bags


Sensory bin – under the sea

I absolutely love tuff trays but we live in a flat and sadly we just don’t have the room for one.  I managed to find a decent sized plastic lid in a garden centre (I think it’s the lid for a seed irrigation tray but I may be wrong!) and so we use that as our tuff tray/sensory bin.

This week’s efforts have been sea themed.  We are very lucky to live near the sea and we visit it a lot.  I wanted to bring a little bit into our living room so I made this:

Sensory bin/tuff tray/sensory tub of an aquarium, fishes, under the sea. Messy play, sensory play, learn through play, early years.

I used blue and white rice as the base (see next blog post for how to colour rice using paint), some bits of bog wood bought from our local aquarium supplies shop, some wooden and plastic fish and sea creatures, two plastic aquarium plants and some plastic ‘jewels’ (see end of post for list of suppliers).

Lottie loved it! She spent a long time running the rice through her fingers and feeling the different textures.

Sensory bin/tuff tray/sensory tub of an aquarium, fishes, under the sea. Messy play, sensory play, learn through play, early years.


Fantastic messy fun! We explored a lot of the different textures and colours together and she started to role play the fishes swimming about.  I also encouraged her to pick up the jewels and collect them in a pot to help develop her fine motor control.

Supplies and Suppliers:

Rice – coloured blue (see this post for a How to guide)

Bog wood/sticks/wood pieces

Plastic fish (ours are just bath toys)

Wooden penguin –

Wooden crab –

Plastic jewels –

Plastic plants

EYFS links:

CL: communicating

PD: sensory exploration, fine motor skills

EAD: imaginative play

UW: imaginative play, exploring the world, plants, animals