Snug Vest

Child playing with leaves in a big sensory bin

Sensory bins are amazing learning tools for all children, and particularly useful for those with autism.  Sensory bins allow children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to safely explore their senses in the most effective ways possible, with fun and creativity.  Everyday life situations, such as going to a grocery store or being on a crowded street, may be too much of a sensory overload for children with autism. Instead, controlled environments can help them learn about the world around them and all of the sensations that it has to offer.  Sensory bins can be customized with different themes and fillers based on whatever your child enjoys!

Here are some suggestions for sensory bins that can be both fun and educational:


Themes about nature have many, many possibilities.  Often, individuals with autism will have a particular affinity towards animals.  Creating a sensory bin around your child’s interests is an excellent way to cater to your child individually.  This can also apply to other popular Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) themes such as trains or LEGO, or whatever else appeals to your child.


You can’t go wrong with the ocean!  Just fill a bin up with water and start populating the ecosystem with plastic fish from the dollar store,  and perhaps add a few crustaceans and shells for the ocean floor.  Another option would be to dye rice blue or use blue water beads as filler instead, which can provide an alternative sensory experience.

Ocean sensory bin for children and individuals with autism


Possibly the easiest to make if you choose to, all you need are cotton balls and penguins!  Alternatively, for a great sensory experience you can freeze a small tub of water as the filler and add the animals on top.  Sugar cubes and blue or white pebbles also fit it in well with the Arctic theme.

Artic sensory bin for children and individuals with autism


This can be a great visual activity to teach your child about space and planets.  Black beans or grey sand are possible options for the filler.  Astronauts, coloured pebbles, plastic planets and glow in the dark stars are all fun aids to educate your child about the great beyond!

Space sensory bin for children and individuals with autism


Holidays can be a tough time for all of us, including children with ASD.  The lack of routine and influx of new stimuli that the holidays bring are tough obstacles to face, both for the individual and their family.  Introducing these holidays beforehand and with regular consistency, can slowly familiarize and spark conversations for what is to come in the next season.


Probably the biggest holiday of the year in North America!  These sensory bins can be done with plain white rice or peppermint dyed rice, with a touch of sparkles.  Fun accessories can include candy canes, pinecones, tree ornaments, tiny Christmas trees, snowmen and the list goes on.  There is most definitely no shortage of options to put in this one.

Christmas sensory bin for children and individuals with autism


Similar to the space bin, black beans can be used for the filler.  This can be coupled with small pumpkins, bats and spiders.  Adding cotton to look like cobwebs would also definitely add to the Halloween feel.

Halloween sensory bin for children and individuals with autism


The Easter themed sensory bin can be an egg finding game.  Using either shredded coloured paper or store bought Easter grass, plastic eggs with treats can be stored and hidden. Add in some other toys like little chicks or rabbits to make it interesting.  Stay with the Easter theme of bright colours!

Easter themed sensory bin for children with autism


Sensory bins are inherently engaging and can teach children a variety of real world skills.  Some of these include basic fine motor skills such as dumping, refilling and stacking.  Interactive sensory bins give children with autism, safe, low stress opportunities to be curious and explore.

Sand toys and rice

This is essentially a mini sandpit but instead of sand, you can use rice or corn.  Toys like bulldozers, funnels, cups and shovels are all simple and effective ways to learn fine motor skills. 

Individual with autism plays with a sand sensory bin

Salt Tray

Salt trays can act as interactive drawing boards.  Put salt on a tray and use it to make designs. Want to make it more exciting? Try a Rainbow Salt Tray. Glue different colored paper strips on the surface of the tray so that it looks like a rainbow, then add the salt.  This way, when you move the salt to draw, your letters and pictures become rainbow colored!

Salt tray sensory bin for children and individuals with autism

Every child has their own likes and dislikes. If you can find what your child’s likes are, you can utilize them in a fun learning environment. Sensory bins are a great example of ways to keep people actively engaged.  Sensory bins can also be an excellent group activity for you and your child, or a playdate with other children.  It is a way to take learning into your own hands that is both affordable and fun to make.  Remember though, every individual is different and whether your child loves the bin or simply isn’t interested; try to take it for what it is.  By providing them with the tools and environment necessary to learn, you are allowing them to discover the world at their own pace and in their own unique way.

If you liked this article, check out these:

         Autism-Friendly Holiday Tips                         What is Tactile Dysfunction?                         Autism and Bullying: What Can We Do?
Autism-Friendly Holiday Tips    What is Tactile Dysfunction?     Autism and Bullying: What Can We Do?

Written by Ryan Leung — October 06, 2015



Oh my goodness. These are the COOLEST thing I’ve ever seen for kiddos! I am totally making these for my toddler in the coming week or so. I especially love the one with the penguins. All of these are awesome.

January 06 2016

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