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Sensory Boxes

Sensory Boxes

What is a Sensory Box?
Sensory boxes/tubs/bins as you may see or hear them called are absolutely FANTASTIC!
They provide hands on learning that is both visually and texturally attractive.
I personally think they are a great starting point if you have never gone out of your way to provide sensory rich opportunities before.

What are the benefits of Sensory Boxes?
They don't take too much preparation, they don't cost much to make, they don't take up much room, media's are mainly contained so 'mess' is minimal. They provide many learning opportunities that keep children and adults entertained and interested for longer than 5 minutes.

Exploring the array of content provided children and adults not only receive the sensory stimulation, but they are learning about cause and effect, developing their fine motor skills, engaging their imagination and creativity. There are opportunities for problem solving, decision making and can boost confidence and self esteem along with many other skills.

They are a fantastic addition to topic work and also tailoring them to suit the interests and age stages of the children in your care.

What do you need to make a sensory box?

- Theme
To begin with you need to decide on a theme so you can select and decide on your objects.
Your sensory box can be themed to literally anything:
Colours                 Seasons                   Holidays
Places                   Animals                   Habitats
Interests               Characters                Shapes

Textures               Gardening                 Patterns
Sorting                  A film                       A Programme

- Container
I use under bed storage boxes for mine which are very handy! They are a good size, easy to access, easy to clean, and see through. They come with a lid too to help keep the contents in the box, clean and to keep pets out!

- Variety of items to stimulate the senses.
For example rice, pasta, scents, water beads, glitter, textured objects linked to your theme, tinsel, sticks, shells etc

Before you read on I would just like to add that if you are a parent, child care setting, child minder etc who is looking for more information with regards to potential learning outcomes for providing sensory boxes - I have a separate posts that you may find very useful which can be viewed HERE. It contains all possible learning outcomes from the EYFS - Take a peek, even at a glance you can see how useful these boxes can be!

Important Information
I would just like to add that it is paramount that you consider the age and stage of your children and the suitability of the items you include in your boxes. Make sure that all items are suitable to reduce risks and remember to always take into account any allergies your children may have.

Our Sensory Box Experiences


I started by doing a Christmas Sensory Box.
I brought three bags of supermarket rice and coloured it green.
I did this by pouring the rice into a large mixing bowl, one bag at a time, I added a small amount of colouring into the bowl. I then stirred - working the colouring through the rice and adding more as required.
I found that 1 green food colouring bottle was needed to get a nice green colour for the quantity I had purchased.
I left the rice to dry completely on trays - after 30-60 minutes I used a spoon to stir air into the rice to make sure it dried throughout and not just on top. I did this several times.
Once it was dry I poured it into the boxes to make my base.
If you children are older I am sure they will love helping you colour the rice.

I then added various interesting media's for Little N to explore that I had collected from a variety of places:
- Candy Sticks - which smelt divine
- A small red, sparkling Christmas tree
- Glittered white snow flakes
- Shiny Baubles
- Prickly Tinsel
- Noisy Beads
- Metallic Wrapping Bows
I also included some coloured stacking cups at the sides of the box to collect the objects, scoop the base and pour if she wanted to.

The outcome:

Sensory Boxes

What happened?
Little N was very interested in the Christmas Tree once we put it up in our living room - this sensory box came in so handy as every time she went to pull anything off  the tree I was able to get the sensory box out and she was free to explore.

She turned the Christmas tree upside down in the box and used the stacking cups to fill the tree up.

She enjoyed smelling the candy canes and putting the baubles into containers.

I offered a range of containers to the side of the box which she happily selected independently and transferred and transported here, there and everywhere.

She also liked the sounds the beads made as they clanged against the sides of the box as she attempted to pull them out. She held the glittery snow flakes in her hands and paused taking in how they looked and felt.

This box was a success - most of the contents were purchased from supermarkets and pound stores.

Once Christmas was over I threw the rice away and I have stored all the other bits ready for next year.

I will also add a few more items.


After the success of the Christmas box and Little N that little bit older now I set about planning my next box. This box had an Easter/Spring theme:

The Outcome:

Sensory Boxes

Coloured Rice - 3 bags dyed yellow
1 bottle of yellow food colouring
Painted bird house
Glittered eggs on sticks
Fillable plastic eggs which I had filled with different pastas
Silicone flower cup cake cases
Textured egg
Textured bunny
Pipe cleaners
Small flower basket featuring ladybirds which Little N loves at the moment
Measuring spoons for scooping

What happened?
Little N was attracted to the eggs at first and enjoyed shaking the eggs and listening to the sounds. I had filled them with pasta, chicks, pipe cleaners and rice. She then sat and opened each egg smiling to herself as she successfully discovered what was hidden inside. She would pour the contents into the rice before moving onto the next egg.

She used the measuring spoons really well and together we re-filled the eggs and began to fill up the flower basket with rice. She enjoyed pouring the rice back out and into the box. As the rice pinged off the eggs she got really excited at the noise it made. We played hide and seek with the chicks too which she found funny. When they were hidden she would put her hands up and say 'all gone'. When she located them she smiled happily and said "here it is".

Again another successful box - time to plan the next one.....

So Easter was now over and it was time to plan for the next box.....
I had all the lovely coloured eggs that Little N was still really enjoying playing with and lots of yellow rice that I wanted to utilise with one more box before using a different media altogether.

I decided to make two different kinds of sensory boxes.

The first box I used the yellow rice....

Farm Sensory Box

Little N is really into her animals at the moment so I thought she would enjoy playing with her farm in the box.

The outcome:
Sensory Boxes

What happened?
Nanny was round to play today. Little N selected this activity independently so she enjoyed Nanny playing along side her.

Sensory Boxes

She enjoyed discovering the farm animals and moving them around through the rice. She has a small farm tractor too which she pulled along carrying an animal and the farmer.
Little N sat and watched Nanny as Nanny spoke to the animals and made the animal noises that Little N is now familiar with. Little N went on to copy and used the noises in her play.

The second sensory box was where I included the eggs-

Soapy Water Sensory Box

The Outcome:

Sensory Boxes

What happened?
We put a large bath towel down on our living room floor and filled the bowl with warm, soapy water.
Little N was amazed at the bubbles. She really loved the indoor water play. She scooped the eggs up with the utensils and dropped them into the coloured bowels. She would then 'mix' them all around, saying "mix, mix" as she did so.

The eggs have little holes in the bottom so as they filled with water she watched with amazement as the water streamed out the bottom as we lifted them up into the air.

She quickly opened the eggs once the water stopped flowing and would say "all gone, more more".
I think we will be doing lots more water play indoors like this.

Once Little N was in bed I washed off and dried all the items in the box and emptied all the water.
I then places them back in the box so she could access them all the next day, this time without the water.

Utensil's Sensory Box

The Outcome:

Sensory Boxes

What Happened?
I added a couple of extra bits to the box for play today. Kept her busy for ages!
She enjoyed opening the eggs and concentrating to shut them again, some she could do - others she would come and ask for help.

She scooped the eggs up, filled up the bowls and again mixed them all up.

She left the box to go to pick up her kitty teddy. She sat him up the sofa and I thought that would be the end of the play in the sensory box. No - she was extending her play. She returned to the box. Picked up a bowl full of the eggs and went and placed it next to the cat. She went back to the box, selected the metal ice cream scoop and went to sit next to kitty.
She then pretended to fill the scoop with food and she put it up by kitty's mouth saying "mmmm".

Was absolutely blown away - she melts my heart.

Cereal Sensory Box

Another great sensory box idea I forgot to mention before now was one I made for Little N's first birthday.
We were having a get together with close family and friends and I wanted to have a few activities out that would be fun, safe and enjoyable for all children.
I had children ranging from 9 months to 6 years old so there was quite a range in ages and abilities. 
Having a sensory box out appealed to me but I was conscious that this presented hazards for the younger children meaning their parents would need to watch them like a hawk or the smaller children would have to miss out - and I wanted neither. 
I wanted everyone to be able to join in and have fun together!
So here's what I did:

Sensory Boxes

I filled my brand new sterilized sand and water tray table with cereal.
The table did come with legs but again this wasn't accessible to the younger children so I left the legs off and placed it on the floor. I purchased this table from Argos - Its on sale for around £70 but has many additional features.
None of the children had allergies.
It was safe, edible and fun to explore for EVERYONE.
Inclusion for all is very important to me. Its something that I am very passionate and committed to doing - making activities accessible for all no matter on their age or ability.

I selected corn flakes and rice crispies.
I added sterilised textured bridges and cups to scoop up the cereal with. 
All of the children explored this sensory box - whether they tasted, felt, created, poured etc
It was enjoyed by all. 
Highly recommend this!
So now Summer is here ......
Time to get creative once again.
Little N loves getting messy so I decided to introduce some custard play....

Custard Sensory Box

The Outcome:

Sensory Boxes

What happened?

What a play opportunity this was! Little N played with this for almost an hour.
She was in her element collecting the custard, mixing, stirring and pouring.
I did put her in some old clothes to play with this and was a good job I did as the custard to my suprize stained her clothes quite bad.

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