25+ Non-Food Sensory Bin Items for Play

More than 25 of our favourite non-food items to add to your sensory bins to encourage rich hands-on play in Early Childhood.

Many of you already know how much we love using sensory bins for play but sometimes it's just not practical to use food stuffs as a sensory bin base. It might be because you're in a classroom setting with too many germy hands or because it attracts pests but this doesn't mean your children have to miss out on rich sensory play, it just means looking for non-food alternatives. 


Here you will find more than 20 of our favourite materials for non-food sensory play that are simple to find and store.



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25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey
Every so often the discussion about using food vs non-food in sensory bins pops up in discussions around the web. We use both but when it comes to food, I do try and use expired or out of date food or like the day a new 2kg bag of flour fell of the top shelf of our pantry and onto the floor - food that would have only made it to the bin otherwise. 

Of course, cooking with your kids is a fantastic way to experience hands-on play with food in a respectful manner.

1. PLAY DOUGH

Some preschoolers may disagree but play dough is not food. It does allows for plenty of different ways to play. Why not set up a pretend environment to encourage play? A handful of Schleich animals and your preschooler will want to play all afternoon.


20 Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play | you clever monkey


2. PAPER PULP

Paper pulp is easy to make from recycled shredded paper and provides such a rich sensory experience. You can't help but touch it and mush it together again and again it's feathery texture is so inviting. It's a great way to stay cool on hot days too.

Why not make some of your own paper after play? Here's how to make your own paper.

20 Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play | you clever monkey

3. CLEAN MUD

Or try making some clean mud. It's silker than paper pulp and can be turned into beautiful artwork after play making it a more sustainable choice of material than some.

25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

4. ROCK SALT

Rock salt is available in bulk and was perfect for creating this 'Frozen' inspired terrain. We need to create a suitable setting for our DIY Anna and Elsa.


25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

5. ROCKS

Rocks we love! Easy to find, simple to store but so many different ways to play. Perfect for making invitations to play! Check out these DIY projects to try.


25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

6. KINETIC SAND

Kinetic sand is a new favourite here. Expensive to buy but ours has lasted well and no-one can keep their hands out of it! And it so versatile, we keep finding new ways to play with our supply.

25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey


7. SOAPY BUBBLES

We loved recreating these rainbow soapy bubbles like Fun At Home With Kids.

25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

8. SHAVING FOAM

Shaving cream  - so simple and the clean-up is surprisingly easy considering the mess. Play with just the foam or add some food colours to turn it into paint.


25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

9. ICE + SHAVING FOAM

Hot weather? Shaving cream and ice are a great way to spend a hot afternoon.

25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

10. JUST ICE

Frozen blocks of ice are another way to play on a hot day. We love our Schleich animals for creating small worlds for play.


25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

11. FAKE SNOW

Fake snow offers another alternative for warm weather days. Add some glass gems and some animals to recreate to Arctic small world.

25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

12. FABRIC SCRAPS

Use some fabric scraps to create your own small world like Little World Big Adventures has done to create their day at the beach.

25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey


13. PAINT

Paint! Finger painting never gets old whether your child is a toddler or a tween.


25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

14. FOUND OBJECTS

Found objects = the cheapest, simplest way to play! And I always find the ownership of this play by the child is always high.


25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

15. SHREDDED PAPER

Shredded paper. Better when there's lots to play in!


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16. BIRDSEED

Again this one was super easy to clean up when played outside and the birdseed made such a lovely sound being poured from one container to another.

25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

17. CUT STRAWS

This sensory bin filler proved a big hit with my students. With many still learning how to use scissors correctly, I had created a cutting invitation using plastic straws not realising that that cut straws would prove to be the perfect sensory base for many other invitations in class. They feel lovely running through your hands and make a lovely sound too.

25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

18. I SPY OBJECTS

All of the objects in our I Spy sensory bin were chosen to build math rich language during our play.

25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

19. SLIME

Slime can be used as a based for your sensory bins and the choices of what can be added to your basic slime recipe is endless. Little Bins for Little Hands is my go to place when it comes to slime recipes like their rainbow slime.


25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

20. POM POMS

Possibly the quietest of all the sensory bin materials to chose. Perfect for promoting early maths skills and building language as shared by Let Them Be Little.

25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

21. WOODEN BEADS

This might take a while to collect this many wooden beads but just imagine the type of play it would encourage! I love this idea from Rubberboots and Elf Shoes.

25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

22. WATER BEADS

Another quiet sensory rich material to try except for the squeals of delight when children start to play!

Just add water and watch with amazement as the water beads grow and grow right before your eyes. These things are super bouncy and shouldn't be used around any child still prone to mouthing objects. 

They are a fantastic sensory material for play as And Next Comes L shows us.

25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

23. WATER BEAD + SHAVING FOAM

Adding water beads to our shaving foam made for the perfect invitation to pretend as you can see from our icecream sundaes we made.

25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

24. SAND + SHAVING FOAM

This sand foam recipe from Paging Fun Mums is simple enough to get your kids making it. 

25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey

25. AUTUMN LEAVES

Use what the seasons provide and add some Autumn leaves to your sensory play. Picklebums did just that with engaging results.

25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey


What has been your favourite non-food base for sensory play? There really is more that could be in this list - shells, glass gems, fresh glass clippings, sand, pop beads, mud, water, lids, buttons, cotton wool, tinsel, packing peanuts, coloured sand.... What would you add?

25+ Different Non-Food Items Perfect for Rich Sensory Play in the classroom or at home | you clever monkey



8 comments

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Michelle :) I know my kids have enjoyed them all.

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  2. These are great ideas! I am pinning this to my Toddler Activities board.

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  3. Great ideas! I love the ice cube bin with the penguins and polar bears!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My kids love their animals! The water was soooo cold though - best attempted on a very hot day for sustained play ;)

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  4. We love ice sensory play and yours looks like alot of fun! Wow, that shaving cream was messy but I always say the messier the more fun!! Fun ideas, pinning and will be re-sharing. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share with us at our FB Share Day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Surprisingly easy to clean up thankfully ;)

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