When it’s too cold outside to play, bring some sensory fun inside to break up the monotony of winter! Sensory bins don’t have to be time-consuming and you don’t need to purchase a bunch of new toys. Just grab a plastic tub and add some materials you may already have at home!

Here are 10 ideas for winter sensory bins that can be done with toddlers and preschoolers. Children can help put most of these together and then enjoy them with you and their friends. A variety of skills are developed using these sensory ideas including fine motor skills and cognitive development.

Fake snow and arctic animals

Children can place animals in the snow and talk about how the animals live where it is cold and snowy all the time.
Materials needed: Fake snow (homemade with ½ cup Suave conditioner and 2 cups baking soda), or real snow! Small plastic arctic animals.

Hot chocolate theme

Children can “serve” hot chocolate to each other.
Materials needed: Pinto beans, cotton balls, plastic mugs, whisk, ladle.  (Chocolate tea bags can be used to scent the beans for a more real experience.)

Painted snow

Children of all ages can enjoy painting the snow.
Materials needed: Snow, paintbrushes, watercolor or tempera paint.

Treasure hunt

Children can dig through the sand to find hidden treasures.
Materials needed: Hidden “treasures,” sand, shovels

Letters in the snow

Older children can practice tracing their letters in flour.
Materials needed: Flour, children’s fingers!

Cloud dough

Children of all ages can enjoy the soft texture of this dough.
Materials needed: ¼ cup baby oil, 2 cups flour

Ice cream shop

Children can create and serve ice cream to each other.  Using the scoops and tongs for the cotton balls works on fine motor development.
Materials needed: Cotton balls (colored if desired), ice cream scoop, small bowls, tongs

Panning for gold

Children can help paint the rocks gold, then later find it in the sand using shovels and sand sifters.
Materials needed: Rocks, gold paint, sand, shovels and sifters

Snowman assembly center

Using the markers, draw different parts of the snowmen on the ping pong balls.  Children can put together a snowman by finding the three parts that go together.
Materials needed: Ping pong balls, markers, cotton balls, white marbles

Colored rice

Shake the following materials together until all rice is colored.  Let the rice dry completely on a paper towel.  Measuring cups, spoons, etc. can be used with the colored rice.
Materials needed: 1 cup rice, ½ tsp vinegar, food coloring.

10waystoprepareforkindergarten copy

10+ Ways To Ensure Your Child is Prepared for Kindergarten


Splish, Splash! Learning Through Water Play

Plasticine modeling clay in children class. Teacher teaches in school.

Kindergarten Preparedness: Over 10 Strategies to Ready Your Child


10 Brain-Boosting Activities for 4- and 5-Year-Olds


Why Routines are Important for Children

Eryca Atkins Teacher Spotlight

Teacher Spotlight: Eryca Atkins