Easy Sensory Bins and Indoor Activities to Keep You Sane

I am writing this post while it is snowing. It has been snowing all day. It is supposed to keep snowing tomorrow.

If you’re anything like me, you’re stuck at home and indoors when we have winter weather. Cabin fever will set in eventually, and there is a good chance that my five-year-old and two-year-old will mutiny if I don’t keep them busy. To avoid locking myself in the bathroom to hide from their whiney demands, I’ve put together a few cheap, easy, tried-and-true ways to keep them occupied when we can’t go out!

The Shaving Foam Bath

Next time you are at the store, stock up with several cans of shaving foam. This one costs less than $1 a can, smells great, and works like a charm! Strip the kids down, plop them in the shower, and hand them a can or two. Bonus: your bathroom will smell great! You can add food coloring for some extra fun!

A good ol’ bubble bath is always a crowd pleaser for my water-loving munchkins. And, occasionally, we get silly and we eat a popsicle in the tub! Our motto: when in doubt, add water!


Ice Scoops

Empty your ice bucket into one side of your sink or a large mixing bowl. On the other side of the sink or around the bowl, set up several small cups or bowls. Give the kiddos tongs and let them go to town. Bonus: use this time to clean out the ice bucket, the freezer, and even the fridge! Like I said above, adding water is a guaranteed way to entertain the kiddos! Just playing in the sink can be a real treat.



Bake with the Babies

The next time there is a sale on boxed baking mixes, buy one of each! Grab some cans of frosting and some food coloring. Let the kids go wild decorating cakes or cookies!

A favorite activity at our house is making Bread in a Bag. I suggest using butter and eating it when it is still warm!

I haven’t tried Snow Ice Cream yet, but it is snowing while I’m drafting this post, so there’s still time!

No-Fail Sensory Bins

What you’ll need:

  1. A large, durable container. I like this one because it is shallow enough that my toddler can easily reach in to play and because it has clips that help keep the lid on.
  2. Tongs. Pick something like this: easy to use and small enough for little hands.
  3. Measuring cups.
  4. Spoons and other assorted scoops. Like these!
  5. Filler. The easiest, cheapest, and most readily available fillers are 20-lb bags of rice and beans.  You can order these phenomenal water beads or find them in some craft stores.

Fun themes:

  1. Dino Dig! We bought shoe-box-sized bins like these and filled them with rice, beans, and these fossils for my son’s 4th birthday. The kids got to dig with their friends, and then take their bins home as a party favor!
  2. Get buggy with it! These bugs were colorful and fun! Fill the bin with soil if you have any!
  3. Visit the south pole! Fill the bin with snow and bring it inside for the littles. Or, make a warmer version of snow with corn starch and water!  Add some animal friends and have a blast!
  4. Take a nature walk! Before Thanksgiving, my kiddos and I spent about an hour combing the trails near our house for acorns. We added them to a bin with rice. We sorted acorns with caps and acorns without. It kept us busy for an entire afternoon.

Sensory bin tips:

  1. Pick a place that is easily cleaned, like the tile floor of your kitchen.
  2. Try putting down a tarp to help with messes.
  3. If you don’t have a child-sized vacuum, consider getting one!
  4. Teach sensory bin etiquette. How to keep filling in the bin. No throwing. No eating.
  5. Start with short play time and low expectations.
  6. Supervise! Or, prepare for major clean up.
  7. Be as creative as you want! Or, be resourceful with what you already have in your house!
  8. When in doubt, just type “sensory bin” into your Pinterest search bar! You won’t be disappointed. Neither will your kids!
Britt is a former nomad, who happily put down roots in the Kansas City suburbs to start her own family close to her parents and siblings. After three professional degrees and a brief stint as an elementary teacher with Teach for America, Britt now spends 40 hours a week working in the legal world. In what little free time she has left over, she pretends to do yoga, installs toilets, cans vegetables, quilts, entertains family and friends, and seeks adventure around KC and beyond with her two favorite boys. Though she and her husband, David, are new to parenting their 8 month old son, Benja, they already agree that they love him more than coffee. They just not-so-secretly hope that no one ever makes them choose between the two.