With so much information about sensory play bombarding us these days, it’s hard to know where to start. Sensory boxes, sensory tables, sensory integration equipment. What does it all mean and how can you provide your toddler with great sensory play opportunities? Well, let’s look at what some of these terms mean.

Sensory Tables

sensory tables

Sensory tables are essentially pieces of equipment of toys that can be set up to allow one or more toddlers to join in activities that engage their senses from a standing position. These tables are small enough for a toddler to reach over but must be strong also, as children this young will probably lean on the table for support or try climb on it! These are mostly used in play groups, child care or early childhood education settings. The use of sensory play tables in a childcare setting becomes an excellent resource for a childcare provider to observe children developing likes and dislikes; learning about cause and effect; mirroring each other’s actions; deciding to play independently or collaborate. Sensory play can, of course, be more structured and used for individual development too.

Sensory integration equipment is equipment and toys that are used to help children with sensory processing disorder, autism spectrum disorders or other difficulties. For children without these difficulties, sensory integration happens naturally through life, living and playing, but for children who have trouble processing sensory experiences, specific equipment can be useful in therapeutic activities. 

Sensory Boxes

Sensory boxes (also called sensory bins) are simply a decent sized container (often clean, new kitty litter trays are used, or plastic storage containers) that are filled with a variety of ingredients and objects that stimulate the senses and provide opportunities for open-ended play.

Sensory boxes allow random objects and textures to be included with no set agenda for how they are played with. Investigation and experimentation of this nature provides the perfect environment for children to discover likes and dislikes about the types of toys, textures, sounds and play they like. Anything can be added, so if a child has a preference of toys or objects they can be incorporated too.

Sensory boxes are great for fine motor skills but also for language development, concentration, confidence, imagination, creativity, exploration and of course, the chance for children to play with a variety materials and textures which stimulate the mind beyond what plastic can achieve. There are no rules about how to play with a sensory bin, it is self-directed learning.

So how do you create great Sensory Boxes for toddlers and little ones?

You’ll need to start with a container of course. Then you’ll need a base ingredient. Finally, add some objects to enhance play opportunities. After that, leave children to explore and play freely.

Here are some ingredients you might like to try as a base for your box:

  • Dried Green Split Peas
  • White Rice
  • Shredded Paper
  • Oats (dry, uncooked)
  • Fish Tank Gravel
  • Dry black beans
  • Small Pebbles/Gravel
  • Rainbow Rice
  • Cotton Balls
  • Birdseed (then feed it to your birds when you’re done)
  • Dry Pasta
  • Un-popped Popcorn
  • Wheat
  • Water
  • Playdough
  • Coffee Grounds (Dry)
  • Dry Black Eyed Peas
  • Rainbow Pom-Poms
  • Fake flowers and leaves
  • Kinetic Sand
  • Ordinary sand
  • Water beads

Here are some great objects to add to your sensory boxes. You can create boxes with a variety of themes if you want to get creative.

Toy Cars

toys cars

Toy Animals

toy animals

Scoops & Containers

scoops and containers



Glass Stones/Marbles

glass stones and marbles

Alphabet & numbers

alphabet numbers



Craft materials

craft materials

Toy Trucks

toy trucks

Toy Ocean Animals

ocean animals


Toy Dinosaurs


Sticks, Wood & Logs

Sticks, Wood & Logs

Miniature Trees or Branches

mini trees or branches

Coloured Stones

colored stones

Toy Wooden Figures

toy wooden figures

Toy Wooden Blocks

toy wooden blocks

Here are some sensory boxes you can buy ready to go:

Garden Discovery Box

Reptiles Discovery Box

Reptiles Discovery Sensory Box

Ocean Discovery Box

Ocean Discovery Sensory Box

Dinosaur Discovery Box

Dinosaur Discovery sensory Box

Creating a Sensory Toolbox

Sensory boxes are containers filled with materials that children can explore and play with, but children are not always going to be in a position to play with sensory boxes. There are many occasions when having a box filled with objects that stimulate the senses can be a way to help children calm down, keep them occupied and provide  some mess-free tools for children to explore. A toolbox is a box filled with sensory toys for children.

Your sensory toolkit could contain these types of items:

Fidget Cubes

Fidget Cubes

Textured Balls

Textured balls

Toys to Squeeze

Toys to squeeze

Liquid timers

Liquid timers

Toys with Lights

Toys with lights

Fidget Blocks

Fidget blocks

Fidget Tangles

Fidget tangles

Playable Art

Playable art

Thinking putty (older kids)

Thinking putty

Hoberman Sphere

Hoberman Sphere

Grasping Toy

Grasping toy

Lacing Cheese

Lacing cheese

Glitter Wand

Glitter wand

Spinning Tops

Spinning tops



Rain Stick

Rain stick

Pop Toobs

pop toobs

Gel Maze

gel maze

Clip Connectors

Clip connectors



Sensory boxes are just one of the many tools that parents and educators can use to provide open-ended, child-led play which engages the senses. So if you’re looking to supplement your child’s play in a way that will help them develop focus, expand vocabulary, engage their mind through the senses, improve fine motor skills, boost confidence, then a sensory box is an easy way to do all of that and more. And if you’re looking for an excellent way to help children with sensory processing issues or find ways to help any child to calm down and focus, a sensory tool kit is a great plan.