How To Make A Simple and Frugal Sensory Tub

Sensory experiences for kids don’t have to be a show stopping three ring circus. I like making elaborate sensory tubs especially for my son since he is getting older and needs ones with specific tasks ( like finding letters, words or sorting objects in them) but a true basic sensory bin is an amazing educational tool. My toddler is just getting to the perfect age for this at 16 months. Exploring the small hard filler, using a spoon and scoop to transfer the grains from one spot to the next and practicing things like sharing with me as we play. Please don’t feel like you need to have all the bells and whistles because for toddlers it’s best to keep it simple and let them discover.

  1. Gather your materials. For this tub I bought some popcorn, barley and dried beans. Total cost for the grains was $2.34. The pumpkins were bought at a patch for $1 for 2 and the spoons and scoop are from my kitchen.  The tub was under $2 and I reuse it by putting the filler from previous tubs into ziplocks and storing to re-use. We had a canning funnel to play with but all she wasnted to do was this which was cute but we moved it to the side so we could get down to digging.
  2. A tip when doing a sensory bin with small grains and a small child. Do it on carpet, if a spill does happen it won’t scatter. You can easily vacuum it up.
  3. Also I am asked all the time how I deal with my daughter putting the beans and grains in her mouth. She doesn’t generally but that is why I use such small grains , they will taste gross if she tried to chew them but they are so small they pose a very small risk of being a chocking hazard. Still stay within arms reach at all times. I used our coffee table ( which is technically a bench)  and sat on the opposite side the while time the tub was within her reach. If your child is not ready for these try this one we made last year
  4. Practice scooping , pouring, talk about the colors of the spoons. Today I think we may have learnt which spoon is yellow and which is orange … I think. I do know we practiced sharing the spoons back and forth accross the table.
  5. I found this interesting, she is cleaning up some of the grains that spilled out. Not something her brother was interested in at her age.

We played with this simple sensory tub for much of the time we had between lunch and picking her brother up from school.  Simple, fun and educational.

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  1. Michelle says

    How do you keep her from dumping the whole thing out? I tried a sensory tub with my son who’s 15 months and he played for a few seconds before grabbing huge handfuls, throwing them on the floor and then dumping the whole thing over. I would love to do more of these, but I hate the idea of having to just throw away all the beans/rice/corn/noodles/etc after it’s done because it’s all over the floor.

    • admin says

      Well funny you should say that I don’t really have a magic answer. Both my kids have needed only a little reminder in general for sensory tubs but I am right there inches away playing with them. Now breakfast which I make her and also make my son’s lunch as she eats a few feet away … yeah that ends up all over my kitchen floor. Keep trying give a warning then if they do it again take it away and try again later. The key for us seems to be proximity to mom, the busier I am when she eats the more food is on the floor, I am always right there playing with her with these tubs… but every kid is different. Keep trying you will find your key to success.

  2. Laura says

    Your toddler is better behaved than mine lol. I made the Halloween sensory tub for my daughter and she had more fun dumping the contents all over the place than in digging around in it. Oh well.

  3. says

    Cute! Never thought of adding barley! I think this is a great activity – I have one with dry beans & rice in it, but I don’t get it out much b/c of the clean up… 🙂 My daughter, though (23 months), is one to pick up the beans & put them back in – like you said, something my son (almost 4) never did! 🙂 Funny how each kid is so different! 🙂


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