Indoor activities for toddlers. Adding a few simple play through learning ideas to a sensory box. Discussing sorting, shapes, letters and fine motor skills. #parenting #toddlers

Indoor Sensory Bins For Toddlers

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The hours are long, the days are long, lunch is long, the weeks are long, but the years are short? Is that the saying? I’m not sure, but it’s only 8am and it currently feels like it’s 8pm. By the time both kids have eaten breakfast, and after spending an hour convincing them to get dressed, the lido deck is open and it’s time to come up with stimulating toddler activities. 

If you are out of ideas, and over sitting in front of a TV; did you know that there are lots of fun activities for toddlers or preschoolers that you can incorporate into sensory bins? Creating an indoor sensory bin for toddlers is a great way to spend the mornings or long afternoons inside.

Sensory play for toddlers is a fun way for children to get messy (but not too messy), have fun, and learn by adding a few simple things into a sensory box.

Whether your child is working on shapes, colors, letter recognition, or fine motor skills; indoor sensory bins for toddlers are a great play-through-learning activity. It’s so much fun to get their little wheels turning and watch their imaginations go wild.

Parents can sit on the sidelines, and coach through play, while the child gets to be the leader and decide where the activity will take them.

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Making A Sensory Bin

The boxes should be large enough to explore without having to take everything out of the box to discover what is underneath. I really like these boxes and a huge bonus, they have a lid. Check out your local home store’s clearance section, often times you can find really great deals on these.

The Best Sensory Bin Fillers

You probably already have tons of stuff around your house that would make a good base for any sensory box. Some of my favorites sensory box fillers include:

Trick To Mess Free Sensory Bin

In the summer time taking your sensory boxes outside is your best bet. If things get messy, well you are already outside. However, you are probably here because the title says “indoor activities” for toddler. Don’t worry, one small hack will allow your child all the fun but no mess for you.

One of the best mom hacks I’ve ever come up with is using a fitted sheet underneath a sensory box. Turn the sheet inside out with the corners facing up, and place it underneath your sensory box for fast and EASY cleanup. When you are done you just grab the corners and it will easily collect whatever is left behind from the sensory box, so you have zero cleanup.

Sensory Bin Activities For Toddlers

Sensory boxes should be about your little one exploring, using their imagination, and getting “messy”. My daughter loves nothing more than to let her little hands sift through the rice, oats or water beads.

Aside from just playing in the bin, you can also encourage learning by implementing a few “games” or learning experinces into your sensory box. Configure the games based on your child’s current skill set. Below are some activities you can incorporate in your next sensory box.

  1. Water Bead Color Sorting

You want to know the trick to keeping your kid entertained for HOURS (yes, I said HOURS), It’s water beads, and they actually offer several days of fun.  The night before you are ready for water bead play, follow the directions on the package. A little bit goes a long way!

Explain to your children that they will “grow” overnight, but only if they get lots of sleep. They will LOVE waking up and seeing that the tiny little pebbles expanded overnight.

Water bead sensory bin

Squishing your hands around is so much fun (even for the adults). Enhance the activity by doing some simple sorting with colors. Ask your child to place all the red beads in one measuring scoop, and purple in another, etc.

Depending on your child’s age you could also use the beads as a way to practice counting. Add 4 beads into the blue cup. Now add three purple beads into the blue cup etc.   After the learning, add spoons, scoops, measuring cups, and things you already have around the house and let their imagination go wild.

2. Adding A Puzzle To The Sensory Bin

Another fun sensory bin activity, is to hide puzzle pieces in the sensory box and have your child dig for the missing pieces. They can put the pieces back into the puzzle as they find them, or all together at the end. My daughter loves doing this on repeat over and over again. I love these puzzles they are inexpensive, yet durable. 

Sensory Play activities for toddlers

3. Letter Recognition Activity

If your child is just getting into learning the alphabet, hide the letters in the sensory box, and ask them to find an A, then the B, then C, etc.

If they already have mastered letter recognition, on a seperate piece of paper write out their name, and ask them to sort and find the letters of their name (almost like putting a puzzle together).

You can also ask them to find all of the green letters, blue letters, etc. and go over which each letter is as you place them in piles.

I love using these Melissa and Doug magnetic letters. They have both uppercase and lowercase that you can work with your child on, and easily take them out of the sensory box for use on a chalkboard or other magnetic surface.

Fun toddler friendly sensory bins

4. Grouping Objects 

Walk around your home until you find some small toys that you have several of (I’m sure you won’t have to go far). Think: Little People, Match-Box cars, Barbie shoes, blocks, army men, or other small figurines. I love counting bears they offer so many opportunities for learning, outside of just being cute. Hide a few sets of the alike things within the sensory bin. Now ask your child to search the box and make piles of similar things.

You can even kick it up a notch, and hide 3 different objects and ask them to place all of the ___ colored objects in a pile. Remember go at your child’s pace, and if they get distracted, that is ok.

edible Cheerio sensory bin for toddlers


What Are Your Favorite Indoor Toddler Activities?

What do you and your toddler do to keep busy during the winter months. Let us know and snap a picture, we would love to feature it on our Normal Life Mom social media channels. Send us an e-mail at or keep us posted in the comments.


The best mom hack for easy cleanup after sensory box play. Easy cleanup using one small thing you already have around the house in order for easy cleanup #sensorybox #toddler #preschool #parenting

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  1. I LOVE these ideas!!! I’m going to save this for when my baby is a little older and try to think of a few modifications I can do to start a few sensory activities now! I think he’ll LOVE them!! 🙂

  2. ive always wanted to make something like this for my little one and this is such a great idea to help with a few sensory activities! thanks so much for sharing these great ideas!

  3. Haha, I LOVE what you said about telling your child the water beads will only grow if they get lots of sleep! This sets the stage for both a great night’s sleep and a fun day of play. Thanks for sharing these ideas; I have never thought about adding pasta or cereal to a sensory box before and the fitted sheet idea is absolutely genius!

  4. I need to be more proactive about putting things like this together for my toddler. She would love sensory bins! Thanks for the instructions and ideas!

  5. I LOVE this idea! I’ve been wanting to start more of these activities with my 12 month old and this is just the reminder I needed! I’ll hopefully be making some of these this weekend!

  6. I can’t wait to use these ideas! My daughter is always very busy and likes to be playing with something and firing something out at all times. I’m was thinking of creating a sensory bin for her but didn’t know where to start. Now I do! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yes, I do reuse all the items. I reuse the water beads for as long as I can. I have also find that once they dry up you can usually add a bit of water and they will perk back up. I re-use old noodles and cereal as well.

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