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Sensory boxes

Preschool sensory box sensory box ideas

Sensory boxes are a fantastic addition to any preschool setting.

They provide opportunity for movement, sensory play, fine motor skills, cooperation, turn taking, imagination and more.

You can put almost anything (once it is child friendly and safe) into your sensory box - the list is endless, but I know how a little bit of inspiration goes a long way when you are busy in your day to day work so I’ve put together a list to inspire and help you begin.

You can make your sensory boxes to a certain theme depending on the time of the year/season/current interests of the children or you can make them up randomly and add new textures and variety every month

You can create wet or dry boxes depending on the amount of mess you can handle or the time of year etc - wet sensory boxes are great to put on a tiled area or in the garden in warmer months

First you will need a box!

The best box to use is a large, fairly shallow (about 7 - 10 inches deep) plastic box. You can buy large rectangular storage boxes which are ideal.

Don’t have your box too deep as it will inhibit play and the children will get tired leaning in. The larger your box the better as it gives scope for play without the children needing to extend their play onto the surrounding floor or table too much.

If your sensory box is intended for one child to play with at a time then the dimensions can be smaller.

The best place to put the box is on a child height table - this allows for complete freedom of movement, the children can comfortably stand and play and move around the box without leaning or kneeling or sitting.

If you want to limit clean up time you can spread a large plastic or fabric sheet under the area where the children are playing, this can then be gathered up once they are finished and all the items which have fallen out can be poured back into the box.

Alternatively you can leave some small dust pan and brush sets close by for the children to use to clean up as they go.






dry leaves, twigs, brown wooden curtain rings, acorns, chestnuts, orange lentils, black glitter, dry beans, seeds (check for allergies) pine cones, small pieces of fabric in a variety of textures in autumn colours - brown, gold, orange, yellow etc, small forest animals, scoops, cups, spoons,


White pom poms, dry pudding rice, dry white beans (black eye beans, butter beans) white fabric, polar bears, white dry pasta shapes, bubble wrap, white curtain rings, white socks filled with rice or couscous and tied closed, silver glitter, scoops, cups and utensils


pale green leaves (you can buy fake flowers in a discount shop and cut the leaves off), yellow ribbon, poms poms in pale yellow, pale pink pale green etc, green pasta, baby animals, small plastic or glass hearts, polystyrene eggs, plastic egg shapes, egg boxes - cardboard or plastic, gold glitter,


Sand or dry couscous, pasta shells, bright yellow and blue pom poms, pasta bows, small dry flowers, very small watering cans, small tin buckets, very small spades (you can buy miniature ones similar to ice cream spoons), sea sponges, shells, sieves, shiny blue paper or foil strips, yellow circles of funky foam, pebbles


Other theme ideas

Aliens and space

The jungle

The farm

The zoo

Plant life

Christmas/Halloween/Easter/Valentines etc



Colours - make all your objects one colour with a variety of tones

Baking - add cupcake holders, scoops, mini weighing scales, sprinkles etc

Shapes - try and have everything a similar shape - circular/oval/round


Sea life


Inspiration list


Dry box ideas

beans                                       wool

pasta                                        cotton wool

peas                                         bubble wrap

couscous                                  pom poms

rice                                           fake fabric/silk flowers

coloured rice (recipe below)     polystyrene shapes

lentils                                        beads

pudding rice                              shredded paper

spaghetti                                   funky foam

glitter                                         flour

oats                                          popcorn kernels

seeds                                       bark chip

flour                                          cloves

Wet box ideas

Shaving foam                            bubbles

water                                         food colouring

slime                                         cooked rice

flour and water

wet sand

corn flour and water

baby oil and water

cooked pasta or spaghetti

jelly - made up according to the packet

You can add dry items and let the children see and feel what happens as they gradually wetter - things like pasta and rice will change texture, some things will float. some will sink, some will soak up lots of liquid, some won’t, some items (fabric etc) change colour, sponges are a great addition

IMPORTANT: you will need to keep a closer eye on your wet box more than on a dry one as there is tendency towards more mess, foodstuffs need to be monitored for hygiene and freshness and children must wash their hands after play.


Additional extra


Clothes pegs                                               Feathers

toy cars                                                       Wiggly eyes

small figures - people and animals             Pebbles

pool noodles cut into small pieces              Small rocks

nuts and bolts                                             Pipe cleaners

cardboard tubes                                         Cookie cutters

cardboard                                                   Small diggers

egg boxes                                                   Dump trucks

curtain rings                                                Twigs

plastic cutlery                                              Dry leaves

real cutlery                                                  Craft matchsticks

ice cream scoops                                        Lollipop sticks

cups                                                            Ice cube trays

small bowls


funnels of varying sizes


tweezers of varying sizes


Sense of smell

Sprinkle scented essential oils onto bits of fabric or cotton wool to place in your box:

Some work better than others so experiment

Rose Geranium

Lavender Bergamot

Lemon Clove


You can also add natural items which will add scent:

orange/lemon/lime peel give a lovely fresh scent

Cinnamon/five spice/clove/ in small amounts - add it to a sock filled with cotton wool and tied closed

Scented potpourri

Scented talcum powder - again be careful the children can’t inhale it - add to a tied up sock with some flour or wadding

Coffee - whole fresh beans if possible

Earl grey tea bags

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