Whether you’re looking for a specific month or a specific occasion, this list of sensory tubs will undoubtedly include what you need!
What Are Sensory Tubs?
Sensory tubs are a hands-on way to allow your child to learn through exploring objects, the colors and the feel of them, especially.
The Ultimate List of Sensory Tubs
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is a favorite of mine with vibrant colors, lively festivals, and profound traditions.
Our Chinese New Year bin is simple. I’ve made the mistake in the past of making sensory bins too “noisy” and overstimulating for my boys. I wanted simple colors and a few cultural items. I colored rice a bright red to use as the base. My boys were in love with the simplicity and truly enjoyed this Chinese New Year sensory activity.
I went to our local international market to pick up the rest. I am certain that Amazon carries many wonderful Chinese New Year items for kids. I included kids chopsticks for tweezing items like coins, charms, lanterns, and snakes. Our favorite item is by far the Buddha. I also purchased small bowls and cups for pouring and transferring.
Before we played with the sensory bin, we read this great children’s book on Chinese New Year titles Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Chinese New Year: With Fireworks, Dragons, and Lanterns. I highly recommend it as an introductory activity. Here are a few additional children’s books on Chinese New Year that I recommend to you. The boys had a great time playing with the bin and I trust I’ll pull it out every few days over the next month.
We visited the amazing Natural History Museum in Brewster, Massachusetts last week. Among the number of wonderful exhibits and learning activities, they offer children and adults was a Whale Eating Krill Sensory Tub. Very neat idea integrating fun fine motor skill development, science and, well, a whole lot of water sensory fun! Both my 3 and 1.5 years old enjoyed the tub.
Objects for this Sensory Tub:
- A tub filled halfway with water
- Tongs of various sizes to capture fish and whales
- Fish figurines
- Whale figurines
- Parsley or Thyme to serve as Krill and doubles as a lovely olfactory experience too
- A comb to simulate the whale’s teeth/mouth scooping up krill
- A mat, tarp or shower curtain to lay underneath the tub if you cannot do this activity outside
Additional Whale Resources & Tips:
- Take the comb and rake up the herbs floating around the tub. Explain to the child what the herb and the comb represents.
- Encourage use of various sized tongs to stimulate fine motor development with a challenge
- I found this great Krill printout. You should check it out.
- What do Whales Eat? I discovered this information loaded website. A good resource for tricky whale questions!
I dug out our supply of water beads and went nuts filling a galvanized tub. We explored and squeezed and bounced the water beads. Tablespoons helped for scooping. My boys enjoyed carrying a single water bead to our water table. We used tongs for to transfer the yellow porcupine balls and the slippery water beads.
June Sensory Tub
I had only one word in mind as I was creating this Montessori inspired June Sensory Tub: YELLOW. Granted we’ve been having lovely weather here in Seattle but we could use even more brightness to get us through to the true summer season.
So what we the main ingredients to this big, beautiful, bright yellow sensory adventure?
- Split peas (Pantry)
- Corn kernels (Pantry)
- Pom Poms (Amazon)
- Egg Shakers (Amazon)
- Ribbon for wrapping gifts (Own)
- Mini watering can (Dollar Tree)
- Mini yellow school bus (Dollar Tree)
- Mini planting tub (Dollar Tree)
- Bee figurines (Dollar Tree)
- A toy car (Own)
- Mini foam numbers and letters (Own)
- Four medium-sized widgets (Own)
- Porcupine Balls (Amazon)
- Flowers (Dollar Tree)
Cinco de Mayo Themed
We couldn’t let Cinco de Mayo get by us without a sensory tub! While playing with this tub, we listened to a Cinco de Mayo playlist I created from iTunes.
Everything I purchased for this Cinco de Mayo sensory tub was inexpensive from the Dollar Store & Amazon.
- Mexican Flags
- Green, Red and White Pom Poms
- Mini Sombreros
- Melissa & Doug Maracas
Earth Day Theme
For this Earth Day themed sensory tub, I decided to focus on the colors of the earth – brown (land), blue (water), green (plants), yellow (sun) and white (clouds).
I started with a base of globe bouncy balls and real pine cones (borrowed from our nature basket). Then I added a few items like egg carton scraps from a recent egg carton challenge, green and yellow porcupine balls, pom poms, cotton balls, and tree figurines. I added tongs, silicone cups, and a scoop for fine motor work.
Discuss the various items and what each represented in the tub:
- White pom poms and cotton balls > Clouds
- Blue pom poms > Water
- Green pom poms and porcupine balls > Plants
- Yellow porcupine balls > Sun
- Egg carton scraps > Reusing and recycling
Sensory Tub with Worms
When the pasta was all ready to bring out back for the “big surprise” as I phrased it to my toddler, the rain began to pour down. It was a mild day so I asked my boys, “Who wants to get soaked??” They jumped with glee. We put our rain gear on (sort of) and raced outside.
Our sensory tub from last week was still available for play in the backyard. So I took the spaghetti noodles, dumped them into the soil-filled container and shouted, “Oh, yuk! Worms! Everywhere!” What young boy would not jump with absolute excitement! It was pretty awesome. When the rain really started to pour down, our garden tub became a garden soup.
Spring Garden Tub
We launched full force into Spring with a gardening sensory tub. Originally I thought we’d be doing this tub indoors but we lucked out with weather today. We used a 28-quart storage container. We collected rocks on the beach yesterday. Last night I painted them so that my preschooler could hunt for the rock letters and spell S-P-R-I-N-G and E-A-R-T-H.
Spring critters galore with a few broken-down egg cartons for scooping and planting! I picked up kids-sized gardening tool including gloves at Target. We used black beans, potting soil, green lentils and coffee grounds for a base. My toddler added in the rocks we collected yesterday, carefully placing them on the soil.
So pretty. Great sounds and colors.
These adorable carrots were great for scooping and fine motor skills. I picked up from Target.
A complete list of what we included:
- 28 quart sized storage container
- Kids sized gardening tools
- Kids sized gardening gloves
- Egg cartons for scooping
- Bug figurines
- Rocks without and with painted letters to spell SPRING and EARTH
- Potting soil
- Black beans
- Green lentils
- Small watering can
- Coffee grounds
- Plastic Carrot Easter containers
- Melissa & Doug Fruits & Vegetables
- Green porcupine balls
St. Patrick’s Day Theme
Green, green, green. Shamrocks, gold coins, large shimmery green pom poms, small fuzzy green pom poms. Shiny green confetti. Leprechaun hats and glittery shamrocks. I added some green and white leis and green and gold beaded necklaces. Plus tongs and a few big cups to scoop.
I purchased most things at Dollar Tree and a few items (gold coins and pom poms) from Amazon. Once we’re done with the holiday, I am going to pack everything up in the same bin we used to explore the sensory bin (including St. Patrick’s Day books, stickers that were not included in the sensory bin activity).
Well, brace yourselves for a mess but this sensory experience will surely delight your child! My general concept was a deconstructed turkey dinner. I added some fun bits like the boat and mini football. My favorite part was the texture of the instant potatoes.
What we added to our bin:
- 3 boxes of uncooked instant potatoes
- Finger puppets of pilgrim turkeys (eBay)
- Corn kernels
- Kidney beans
- Dried cranberries
- Fake wishbones
- Dried bread bits
- Mini footballs
- Mini boat
- Measuring cup
My son ended his experience by climbing into the tub and pretending to fall asleep. I explained that that is what people usually do after a big turkey dinner. Then he helped me sweep and vacuum up the mess. So, you see, we had a sensory and practical life experience. Not bad for a morning’s work!
As I mentioned, this one was messy so I suggest either doing it outdoors, placing a tarp under the bin, or placing the bin in a larger container (erh…like a plastic kids pool!).
It was a lot of fun so just prepare yourself for the messiness and enjoy watching the sensory madness!
Under the Sea
Per my usual MO, this sensory tub is pretty darn simple. I bought red and blue rocks from our local pet store. Coming in many shapes and colors, aquarium rocks are great for sensory tubs.
Along those same lines are aquarium plants. All sorts of wonderful shapes, sizes, and textures from which to choose. I bought a handful to use as we progress along with our various sensory experiences. I added water for some good pouring, sea creatures (of course) and a few scooping and pouring devices like a tablespoon and measuring cup.
Beach Themed Sensory Tub
When the temperatures rapidly declined here in our neck of the woods, I pull out our beach activities! We love to revisit some good old sunshine fun.
We included lots of fun stuff in this beach-themed sensory tub. Most of the goodness you see in this tub was purchased at a local pet store. We added the tractor, dinosaurs and measuring cups to maximize playing and scooping pleasure!
The sand you see in this photo is sand that one would use in a reptile tank (if one were so bold to own reptiles). The sand is very fine and wonderful to run little fingers and hands through…
I put some sand in a measuring cup and also in the base of the tub beneath the rocks. The rocks are for the same purpose but for a fish, or whatever kind of creature you may want to own tank. I purchased big rocks that are smooth to the touch.
The plants I put in the tub are for fish tanks too. There are all sorts of varieties of fun fake plants from which to choose. I bought several for future creative sensory use!
We also added a few sea creatures that we purchased from our local aquarium. You can buy these creatures online at Amazon for a reasonable price. We had loads of fun playing in this tub.
We even added some water in one version to truly get an Under the Sea feel. I like the idea of bringing this tub out during the dead of winter when it’s too cold and rainy to truly enjoy playing outdoors. The mind is a powerful thing. Imagine the beach and sunshine and it just may take you there…
Things to consider including in a Treasure Tub:
Various beads (local bead shop), gems (Amazon) and mineral stones(local Pet Store) as the “treasures” but honestly digging up most things is exciting for kids. In fact, we added little animals, dinosaurs and sea creature figurines (Amazon) too.
I created mini “I Spy Bottles“, which you can see in the photo. I bought the bottles at Storables but I am sure there are great finds like these bottles at thrift stores too. They were 99 cents each. In these mini bottles, I added rice and hid all sorts of goodies in them.
One cool fine motor and practical life aspect to this activity are that the mini bottles are for spices generally and have a top with holes. So my son would screw the top off (and on again) and could shake some of the rice out of the bottle if he was having trouble finding the hidden treasure.
Good scoopers and diggers are a must. I added a measuring cup(own), a tablespoon (own), colored popsicle sticks (super cheap on Amazon) and plastic eggs (Super cheap at Target) leftover from Easter. The other key item we included is the handheld pasta strainer.
This tool makes for a wonderful rice sifter. Your child will be thrilled to dig around and sift out hidden gems! Oh, and don’t forget a fun little “treasure bag” (I had this bag buried deep in my dresser to hold jewelry) and magnifying glass, both very important items when one goes on a treasure hunt!Â My son loves finding treasures and adding them to his treasure pouch. The bag is the small black square in this photo.
The joy is endless with Treasure Tubs. There is the hunt, the exploring, and the general sensory goodness. Watch your child go wild over finding treasures and “dig a little deeper” with his imagination!
Oats and Water Mash
Seriously, kids’ activities don’t get much easier than this one.
All you need is a bin, water, dry oats, and a whisk. My son grabbed a measuring cup and I added a lemon squeezer and a spatula just for fun. Oh, I also recommend a towel, mat, or small tarp to place under the bin.
This one can be a bit messy. I also added some spice to the mix (or my son did). We added traditional flavors with oats, a little cinnamon, and brown sugar. Yum.
The texture is mushy and potentially ‘gooey’. My two-year-old had loads of fun whisking the oats and water using his imagination to tell me what he was cooking up.
This activity helps develop sensory, fine motor, and practical life (whisking and food) skills.
Super Simple Oats and Pasta
This tub was created on a whim to buy me a bit of time one morning. I opened up the kitchen cabinets and perused the shelves. So simple: oats, egg noodles, a tablespoon, chopsticks, and a measuring cup. My son added a few other items like the dump truck, lily pad, and animal figurine.
My point with this post is not so much to suggest that you recreate this tub, although oats and egg noodles make for good sensory fun, instead to remind you that these exercises can be easily and simply integrated into your daily routine.
In this exercise, we explored food, fine motor skills, measuring/math, and textures. How simple was that learning?
Here is what we included this month:
- Orange colored rice (I have a 30 lb bag of rice stored away for these occasions. Coloring rice is simple. Food coloring or gel, a little vinegar, a plastic bag and bake at a low temperature or let dry overnight.)
- Black beans (beans from farmers’ market tucked away in our cabinet)
- Mini pumpkins (local grocery store)
- Baked pumpkin seeds (from a gutted pumpkin)
- Various sized black and orange pom-poms (ordered a huge bag from Amazon. Super inexpensive.)
- Rubber insects, mice, spiders, bats and skeletons ($1 per package at Target)
- Misc. shiny Halloween table scatters (Target)
- A scoop (already own)
- A cup (already own)
- A pair of mini tongs (already own)
- A mini ladle (already own)
- A tablespoon (already own)
Growing up in New England, my affinity towards the fall season is a little extreme. I love the crisp air, the smells, and the deep, beautiful colors. So, of course, I am excited about fall activities.
The Farm Sensory Tub is simple and fun. Great sensory exploration and fine motor skill development as my son enjoy cracking the peanuts, too!
What We Included:
- Critter feed that includes birdseed, corn kernels, and peanuts in their shells
- Farm figurines
- A silicone measuring cup
- Measuring cups from his kitchen
- A teaspoon
- A few matchbox cars including a tractor
- Letters F-A-R-M
The best part about this sensory box, at least for us, is that the critters come to visit us a lot more often. The beautiful bluejays and even the squirrels scurry up for a taste of peanuts.
A great learning experience for him, my son adores these visits and so does The other day I said to my husband, “Huh, the bluejays seemed to have disappeared on us.” He reminded me that I had put away the sensory bin. Good point.
I grew up in New England and I just love the warmness and fuzziness of fall. I have wonderful memories of running through apple orchards with my cross-country team, wearing wool sweaters that itched my chin, and, ah, the smell.
So, yes, fall is by far my favorite season – apple picking, apple cider, crisp air, turning leaves…As you can imagine, I was excited to create a fall sensory tub.
This tub includes (lots of “fake” stuff because I’d like to store it away – we’ll add the real deal soon enough):
- Real and fake acorns
- Real and fake pinecones
- Cinnamon Sticks
- Fake leaves of all sorts of colors
- Broken bits of raw spaghetti to simulate hay on a farm
- Fake gourds
- Magnet letters that read “A-P-P-L-E”
- Farm figurines
- A scoop
- A pair of tongs