Christmas Sensory Bin and Ways to Extend Learning

I love putting together a new sensory bin for the kids. Last week the kids started exploring our new Christmas sensory bin. Watching them as they dig into it the first time is always so much fun. I am always intrigued by the different ways the kids utilize the elements of the bin.

Christmas Sensory Bin and Learning Activities for Kids

Big Buddy usually lines up all of the items when he first plays with a new sensory bin.

Sorting and Patterning with Sensory Bins

Lovey usually looks for things that make sounds or have a scent.

Sense of Smell Activities with Christmas Sensory Bin

Tinker looks for things to gather. She quickly recognized these sparkly stars and spent a long time collecting all of them one-by-one to bring and show me. I love her sweet baby talk, “Tar, Mommy, Tar!”

Developing vocabulary with sensory bins for toddlers

Why play with sensory bins?

If you haven’t used sensory bins yet or if you are not sure why you would, The Outlaw Mom gives a good, brief description of sensory bins and their benefits.

Our Christmas Sensory Bin

Christmas Sensory Bin

The bin is full of small pieces that remind us of Christmas. Some of the items include:

  • Leaves and flowers from fake poinsettia plants as the base
  • Different size jingle bells
  • A basket, a bag, and a small stocking
  • Star-shaped battery operated tea lights
  • Small gift boxes
  • Pine cones-some natural, some covered with glitter in various colors
  • Stars in various colors
  • Ribbon of various lengths and colors
  • Small plastic tree ornaments in various finishes
  • Small plastic containers with scented cotton balls (cinnamon, vanilla, peppermint)

Ways We Will Extend the Use of Our Sensory Bin

Starting this bin a few weeks before Christmas will give us many opportunities to use it in different ways.

Exploring: This first week I will simply leave the bin out for the kids to explore on their own. This self-directed learning and sensory exploration is the primary focus of sensory bins.  The kids will feel the different textures, smell the scents, and observe the objects. During this time I will also watch to see what they are naturally doing with the objects so I can decide which activities we might do next.

In the next week or so once I see that the kids are done freely exploring the bin, I will start using some of these options for extending its use. These are more adult-directed than free exploration, but they will allow us to focus on specific skills.

Language Development:

  • Name objects in the bin for Tinker (20 months) and ask her to locate them.  As she is able, ask her to pick up an object and name it.
  • Name the colors of objects in the bin.
  • Play “I Spy” with Lovey (3 years) by describing an object using its physical description (color, shape, size, texture).
  • Smell the scented items. Talk about what those scents remind you of.
  • Make up a story using some of the items in the sensory bin.


  • Choose a kind of object. Find all of those items in the sensory bin. Count how many in all.
  • Choose two different kinds of objects. Find all of those items in the sensory bin. Count how many of each. Then compare the two numbers (more, less, the same).
  • Roll a number cube (with either dots, numbers, or number words). Find that many objects.
  • Roll a number cube. Decide what number is one more than the number rolled. Then find that many objects.
  • Roll a number cube. Decide what number is one less than the number rolled. Then find that many objects.

Sorting: Sort objects from the bin by:

  • Color
  • Shape
  • Size
  • Texture


  • Select some of the objects and make a pattern.
  • If your child is just beginning patterning, make a pattern for the child. Then ask him or her to copy it or extend the pattern.

More Resources for Christmas Sensory Bins

Christmas Sensory Bin from 1+1+1=1

Winter/Christmas Sensory Bin from Play Create Explore

Christmas Sensory Tub from The Imagination Tree

Christmas Sensory Bin from H is for Homeschooling

Christmas Sensory Tub from Nuturing Naters

Are you making a Christmas sensory bin? What will be in it?

Hands-On Holidays eBook-Get even more inspiration for your advent calendar. 

Less stress, more connecting this holiday season? Yes, PLEASE!

From the arrival of fall to Halloween to Thanksgiving and Christmas, the last four months of the year can be a wonderful opportunity for making family memories and spending time together, but they can also be stressful as we try to collect ideas, recipes, and activities to try together.

Stephanie Morgan, founder of Modern Parents Messy Kids, a site that’s been voted Best Craft Blog in Parents Magazine and one of’s Top 50 Craft Mom Blogs, recently released a new eBook to help us have a little less stress and more time to connect with family this year.

Stephanie’s goal is to make it easier on all of us to enjoy the holidays with our kids. Hands-On Holidays is 100 pages full of her family’s very favorite ways to connect as a family over the holiday season. I love the convenience of having so many ideas in one place, and most of them are simple enough for even my toddler to participate in.

The book includes picture book suggestions, DIY decor, activities, and treats. Bonus sections also offer even more ideas to enjoy. Click here to view more details.


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  1. Great bin! I’ll be featuring it tomorrow on The Sunday Showcase. 🙂

  2. Thanks for linking up to Tuesday Tots! I am featuring your post this week on In Lieu of Preschool: Please feel free to stop by and grab a featured button! Off to pin. Thanks again!

    • Thanks so much for featuring this post. That’s quite a collection of sensory activities you’ve got! I also shared via my social networking sites.

  3. Your sensory bin is beautiful! What fun! Thanks for linking up & sharing on TGIF. Have a GREAT week,
    Beth =-)

  4. What a visually stunning sensory bin you created for your kids! Thank you for linking up to my Enchanted Thursdays Blog Hop this week!

  5. we love sensory bins! what a fun lesson! Feel free to stop by and link your post up to Learn and Link
    Have a great weekend!

  6. I love sensory bins! I do the every 2 weeks in our classroom. Kids really love it! Always looking for new ideas! Thanks for sharing!

  7. what a fun sensory bin filled with so many different items. will be pinning this. thanks also for linking up to tip-toe thru tuesday!

  8. Great description of the ways you can use a sensory bin for learning! This info is so important.

  9. Thanks for sharing on Hey Mom, Look What I Did at Adventures In Mommy Land…hope to see you again soon 🙂

  10. I teach English to small groups young French children in my own home.
    I’m going to use this idea for them! They’ll learn some new vocabulary,
    and they’ll strengthen skills like numbers and colors. Merci for this lovely idea!

  11. Wow, what a great Christmas sensory bin. Love the ideas you shared. I have not dug out all of our sensory items packed away from last year. Thanks for the reminder to get that bin out and start playing with it!

  12. This is awesome, Shaunna! And I love your extensions! Thanks so much for linking up with Montessori Monday. In addition to featuring your sensory bin at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page, I pinned it to my Kids’ Christmas Activities Board at

  13. I love your Christmas Sensory bin. It reminded me that I need to put Bug’s together this week!

    • Thanks, Amber! I just took a look at your blog. Congrats on your first month blogging! Last month was my first month, too. Hope Bug enjoys the new sensory bin.

  14. What a lovely bin and a complete explanation of what to do with on. great post.

  15. I love your sensory bin! I may have to add some of your elements to mine! And the extensions are great! Thanks for sharing!

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