Fall and holiday sensory creations

by Brittany Gilbert

I’ve always loved sensory bins. The variety of materials and the creative play that is attached to this type of activity captivates me as well as my children. Sensory bins are most commonly some sort of plastic tub that has different materials or objects that stimulate the senses. 

This simple idea leaves so much room for a kid’s imagination to soar. Kids learn so much better when they can touch and feel things, and sensory play is so beneficial. There are several ways to create sensory bins. You can use shredded paper, rocks, sand, small figures, beads, water, etc. 

Here are some really fun fall- and holiday-themed sensory bin ideas that you can create at home.


Playdough sensory bins are one of my favorites. Playdough is easy to shape and create so many things. You can stamp objects into the dough, too. Leaves look so pretty when they are stamped in dough. Also, when you use edible dough, you don’t have to worry about constantly cautioning your child to avoid putting it in their mouth. Objects for a fall-themed bin would be fake leaves, pinecones, acorns, twigs, rocks and a fall theme cookie cutter.

Let your child use their imagination and go wild with this one. Don’t feel like you have to stick to what I’ve used. Use whatever you can find or whatever you think your kids might enjoy. Also, switch up the colors and themes for the different holidays. Create a Halloween-themed bin or a Christmas one. There are so many possibilities.


Sand sensory bins are really popular. Kinetic sand is one of the most fun sensory experiences. It’s not necessary to use kinetic sand; however, it’s easier to clean up and feels smoother than regular play sand. Cookie cutters, molds, small shovels and cups are great to use with sand. Create a treasure hunt by hiding different small objects in the sand, and then give your children a challenge to find everything. Use construction toy vehicles and hide rocks in the sand to be dug up. The same ingredients you use with the playdough fall bin can be used with sand as well.


Rice is another great product to use for sensory bins. It is easy to dye, so you can create a really colorful sensory experience. To dye rice, place a few tablespoons of vinegar along with food coloring and a couple cups of rice in a Ziploc bag. Swish it around until the rice is saturated with color and then dump on to foil to dry for a couple of hours. Repeat with other colors.

Unlike playdough and sand, rice isn’t moldable, but it’s still a valuable sensory opportunity. Use empty paper towel and toilet paper holders with funnels and create tunnels that the rice runs through. Hide dinosaurs, puzzle pieces or cars in the rice, or just let them get their hands in the rice and play with it. Filling and emptying cups can be really therapeutic, too.

Make sure to have a large plastic tub for both sand and rice bins. As you can imagine, both ingredients are easy to get all over the place. Don’t let that deter you from providing this experience to your kids. Sensory bins are excellent for kids with sensory processing disorders, but are also really awesome for everyone. As an adult, I find myself running the ingredients in my hands and feeling relaxed.

Get creative with the theme and colors. Like with anything, it’s easy to get bored doing the same thing all the time, so mix up the toys for the bins with the holidays and seasons.

Brittany Gilbert
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