DIY Sensory Tub {at very little cost!}

I don’t think I really understood the uses or need for a sensory tub, but I decided to look into it to find some explanations for why so many preschool teachers use these hands-on teaching tools. I learned that it really isn’t about “teaching” them something or making something, but more about simply giving their little hands the opportunity to experience different touches, textures, temperatures, and to flex those little finger muscles to prepare for writing. I was won over by the pure fun of it all, so I set out last night to put together my own sensory tub for Little Bug.

Many teachers will use a sensory table, but we don’t have the room for that. Instead I made a trip to Dollar Tree and spent a whopping $6 and put together a decent sized sensory tub for our house.


  • Plastic tub large enough for little ones to really dig into. {Dollar Tree has an entire wall of plastic containers and tubs to choose from. It was actually hard to pick the best one!}
  • Cups, spoons, sifters, ladles, tongs, scoops, funnels, and anything else that they can manipulate and tinker with. I found a set of measuring spoons and measuring cups and a huge set of plastic tongs at Dollar Tree.
  • Something to put in your sensory tub. I filled mine with rice. Later in this post I’ll list a ton of other ideas that could be used in the sensory tub.
  • Something a little bigger to hide in the tub for them to play with to add variety to the play. I found these vase-filler gems at Dollar Tree. They had them in many different colors, shapes, and sizes. I loved these huge ones because they fit right in the palm of his hand and he can easily pick them up with his new tongs.


So far it’s a hit. Of course, there’s rice EVERYWHERE, but that’s kind of part of the process. He’ll learn to keep it in the tub {hopefully}. He’s scooped, poured, transferred, carefully practicing his dexterity with the tongs, and just having a fun time overall letting the tiny pieces of rice run through his hands. So I was thinking of some other things that might be great in a sensory bin or sensory table, and this is the list I came up with:

  • Rice
  • Dry pinto beans
  • Dry black eye peas
  • Flour with drops of baby oil
  • Ice cubes
  • Different sizes of Lego blocks
  • Confetti
  • Shaving cream
  • Small rocks
  • Sand and seashells
  • Craft feathers
  • Sugar cubes for stacking and sorting
  • Buttons
  • Mesa mix {crushed corn mixture that’s used to make corn tortillas and corn chips- you can find it near the flour. It has a grainy fine texture that I think little ones could love}
  • Play dough with cookie cutters
  • Potting soil with rocks
  • Oatmeal
  • Beads of different shapes and sizes
  • Oobleck {1 1/2 cup Corn starch, 1 cup water, food coloring}
  • Colored water with fun shaped sponges
  • Fiberfill {sold at craft stores and used to stuff pillows and stuffed animals}
  • Vase filler gems
  • Jello
  • Cotton balls
  • Baby Powder
  • Dish soap with toy cars or small animals to slip and slide

If you have any other great sensory tub/table suggestions, please share! This activity captivated Little for nearly an hour, and I think it will be something I can keep out everyday and change up once a week or so.





Filed under Activities, Creative Ideas and Crafts

4 responses to “DIY Sensory Tub {at very little cost!}

    • Yeah, when I first saw these, I thought “MESS!” but then I realized the fun it could be to just feel different things and explore sorting and sifting and pouring and all kinds of fun things like that, so I really don’t mind the mess. {And trust me, there is a MESS!} He had a blast with it.

  1. Cimarron

    We have one for both kids. They love them! I used several different kinds of dried beans, some plastic dinosaurs and bugs and lizzards, with some different gems and rocks. They each have small horses, a couple of matchbox cars, a handful of rice, and spoons/ladles/forks/cups/etc. My sister-in-law did hers with dried pasta and rice with all sorts of toys. I’ve seen them with the fake snow the craft stores carry in the winter. The possibilities are practically endless. Love them! And ours stay under the bench on the patio. It’s enclosed so good for all weather. We used to just get Emmas out when we were playing outside-that helped keep the fun and intrigue.

    • That’s an awesome idea- I was having a hard time trying to figure out where to put it when I picked it all up today. I love the idea of having it outside under a covered area (or just with a lid on it). In researching more about them, I’ve seen all kinds of themed ones. One that I think I’ll do for Easter has plastic eggs in there instead of the normal scoops and spoons. They can fill the eggs up with whatever is in there, shake them, sift them, sort them, transfer them, stack them, whatever. Cute ideas!

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