Coffee bean sensory bin, using coffee beans as the base of the sensory bin and adding in construction trucks and equipment #sensorybin #sensorybox #sensoryplayfortoddlers #sensoryideas

Coffee Bean Sensory Bin

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A few weeks ago, I made two huge mistakes in one day. The first mistake was that I went to sleep extremely late and was woken up extremely early AND I didn’t have any coffee. One of THE BIGGEST mom fails ever. 

The second mistake, was that I loaded up both kids, hit the grocery store to grab said coffee; only to return home and realize I bought the WRONG KIND of coffee. Not like oh it’s a different brand kind of wrong coffee, but instead I bought whole coffee beans (of which I do not have a grinder) instead of ground coffee. 

What was a mom to do? Well, I did a lot of complaining and shoved the coffee beans into my pantry and tried to forget about this terrible coffe-geddon day. 

But a few weeks later my coffee beans surfaced, and I decided to turn lemons into lemonade. Or I suppose, in this case, I turned them into a coffee bean sensory bin activity my kiddo LOVED and played with for HOURS. So I will call it a mom win after all!

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Sensory Play

We are huge fans of sensory play around here. I can usually throw together a sensory bin pretty quickly and the return investment is huge. There is something special about running your hands through the bin and watching your child’s imagination go wild.

Coffee beans (not ground coffee, that would be super messy) are actually an amazing material to use as the base of the sensory box. The beans are large, and yet can easily flow through your child’s hands.

They allow your child’s sense of smell to be activated, while also using their sense of touch. Sensory play is so important to child development! I love this article from Very Well Family that discusses why sensory play is important.

My daughter (age 3) can spend up to an hour playing, scooping, and doing some imaginative play amongst the sensory bin without much prompting from me.

Coffee bean sensory bar done two different ways #toddlersensorylplay #sensoryplay #sensorybin #sensorybox

Coffee Bean Sensory Bin Two Ways

Often times I will set a sensory bin up and we play with it on and off throughout the week. 

This coffee bean sensory bin was played two ways. On day one, we did a simple coffee bean coffee bar! I simply added some coffee mugs, play sugar, cups, and let my little barista do her thing. We already had this super cute coffee making set, and I added it to the mix. She even pretended at one point she was in the drive through of a coffee store (wonder where she learned that) and asked to take my order. 

Coffee bean sensory bar. Using pretend play and creating a little barista station! An easy sensory bin activity for toddlers and preschoolers.

We also tried predicting how many beans we thought it would take to fill up one coffee cup? And then how many scoops would fill a coffee filter. 

On day two, we used our imagination and pretended the coffee beans were rocks and a giant construction site. I added some dump trucks, bulldozers, etc, and again let my daughter’s imagination take her wherever she wanted to go.

Construction sensory bin for toddlers and preschoolers #pretendplay #sensorybin

To make the construction site a little more learning friendly, I asked her how many handfuls would it take to bury the bulldozers? Then how many of the little bulldozers scoops would it take to fill the big dump trucks. 

If she needs prompting, I love this list of four indoor sensory bin enhancers, that we can use whenever we need some extra oomph in our sensory bin.

Simple Sensory Bin

Sensory bins should be EASY and not over complicated. This coffee sensory bin came together quickly, the entire setup took about five minutes. I simply dumped my coffee beans into a large plastic container, added the sensory bin tools, and allowed my child to play freely!

Pick a Container- I love buying small shoe bins from the dollar store for some activities. For a little bit larger bins, I love using these bins. Keep an out at your Target’s dollar spot, places like TJ Max and Homegoods, or just use good old fashioned tupperware. 

Coffee beans make a great filler for any sensory bin

Pick a base- That day I bought coffee beans instead of coffee grounds, I happened to buy a bulk version. The bulk was just enough to use in our large plastic container. Make sure that you have enough coffee beans in order to cover your whole box enough that your child can run their hands through it. 

Add Sensory Bin Tools

For the construction site I added: dump trucks, construction cones and bulldozers that we already had around the house

For the coffee bar: I added play coffee set, play food including sugar and milk, play coffee mugs, spoons and scoops. I also added reusable muffin tins and a few coffee filters. If you do not have play coffee cups, try plastic solo cups or any other plastic cups you have at home.

Sensory Play Rules

My daughter is three and she is well past the stage of putting things in her mouth. Although coffee beans are non-toxic, I did not necessarily want her “eating” coffee beans (caffiene + a 3 year old + sleep, don’t really mix). I explained that we could smell and touch the beans, but we could not put them in our mouth.

Also, everything needs to stay in the box. Messes WILL happen, but that is part of your child’s learning! I wanted her to understand the boundaries of the box and do her best of not spilling and dumping outside the box. 

I love putting down large fitted sheet underneath sensory boxes with the folded edge facing upwards and then grabbing the sheet and taking the leftover mess with it.

Have Fun With Sensory Bins

The last rule, HAVE FUN! I explain that there is no right or wrong way to play, but usually my kiddo is already deep into scooping and having fun. Does this look like a sensory bin your kiddo would love?


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  1. I need to work on sensory play. I’m so type A! Worst case scenario my whole house will smell like coffee!!

  2. We already tried this out after reading your post today and my kids were entertained during that awful period between afternoon snacks and dinner! They decided to remove the cars and make “soup”…But they were very busy creating! I need to be better about sensory play for sure 🙂

    1. Ahh yes I am veryyy familiar with that hour!! Glad that the entertained them for a bit. Sensory Bins are always a huge hit an our house and so easy to throw together.

  3. Christine – what a great idea! I haven’t seen coffee beans in sensory bins before (and I bet it smells delicious!) I need to pull out our bins more often! The mess is worth the entertainment!

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