Dinosaurs are always popular in our playroom and we were keen to incorporate them into our sensory play by creating some dinosaur sensory bins for our toddlers to explore. From mud worlds to hatching eggs, there are lots of fun ideas and learning opportunities for dinosaur sensory bins.
Dinosaur Sensory Bins tip: we use the Ikea Flisat table for all our space sensory bin play. Don’t worry if you don’t have sensory table, you can use craft trays or storage bins to the same effect. If you have an Ikea Flisat table then check out our Ikea Flisat table hacks and, our favorite, the Ikea Lego table hack.
Dinosaur Sensory Bins
Sensory play is fantastic tool to encourage kids to explore, engage and create. Our dinosaur themed sensory bins are focused on developing a range of skills including:
- Fine motor skills: it is not easy to dig out a dinosaur! Our dinosaur dig sensory bin took at least 20 minutes of chiselling to get to the dinosaur. Scooping and funnelling rice and using pipettes in our other sensory bins mean little hands will work hard on all these sensory activities.
- Dinosaur learning: we talked to our toddlers about the different dinosaurs which once roamed the earth and introduced the concept of a baby dinosaur hatching out of an egg.
- Language and vocabulary skills: my three year old knows more dinosaur names than me after these play sessions!
- Creative skills: the open ended play opportunities of the dinosaur worlds are endless.
- Independent play: our older toddler has engaged in some great independent play sessions with some of the taste safe dinosaur sensory bins. His play sessions have lasted up to 45 minutes and have been fantastic to observe.
5 Easy Dinosaur Sensory Bins
We’ve included our 5 favorite dinosaur sensory bins which are relatively easy to set up and were mostly created with toys and ingredients already in the cupboard and playroom! Our dinosaur sensory play is still a work in progress so we will make sure to share any new dinosaur sensory bins which our toddlers enjoy!
Dinosaur sensory bin tips: I created and used these dinosaur sensory bins with my three year old in mind. Our one year joined us for some play sessions. I always supervise them extremely closely when working with sensory bins to ensure they do not put anything in their mouths – things like mini dinosaurs and stones can be choking hazards. Please make sure that your sensory bins, fillers and accessories are age appropriate and be aware of choking hazards.
Dinosaur Sensory Bin Essentials
A dinosaur book, mini dinosaurs and a realistic dinosaur set feature in all our dinosaur sensory bins. It’s likely you will have some or all of these in your playroom already! We use the following:
- Dinosaur Book: We often accompany our sensory bins with some toddler appropriate books and opted for Nat Geo’s Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs. The book is a wonderful resource for introducing younger kids to dinosaurs and includes facts, activities and beautiful dinosaur art.
- Realistic dinosaur play set: we rescued our dinosaur set from the nature box in our playroom! If you need to grab a set we like the realistic dinosaur sets – a set similar to this dinosaur set will work great!
- Mini Dinosaurs: mini dinosaurs (a set like this) work best for sensory bins as they are small enough to hide in the filler and you can use then as the centrepiece for dinosaur eggs.
Mini dinosaurs are excellent for sensory play
1 | Rice and mud dinosaur world
Colored rice and play mud are always among our favorite sensory bin fillers and both are excellent for creating a realistic dinosaur world. Colored rice is easy and quick to make and toddlers can explore with sorting bowls, scoopers and funnels. Play mud is messy and fun and easy to equate to the real world.
For the colored rice sensory bin you will need:
- Rice: note, uncooked rice is toxic so this is an activity to monitor closely to ensure none of the ingredients are eaten.
- Food coloring or non toxic paint: we use Wilton Icing colors for most of our sensory activities as it gives such vibrant colors. This is the Wilton set – we used it for the green rice and also in the play dough we made below.
- Wooden scoops: a wooden scoop set works really well with a small ingredient like rice – something similar to this set will work great.
- Wooden bowls: we love our Grimms stacking and nesting bowls – we have this set in natural.
- Mini dinosaurs: this set is similar to the set we use across our dinosaur sensory bins.
For the mud sensory bin you will need:
- Play mud: play mud can be created with a mix of flour, cocoa powder and water. You can check our guide on how to make play mud for more details. We like to add some ground coffee and moss for added effect
Dinosaur Sensory Bins tip: we find rice and mud to be really messy sensory bin fillers! If you want to minimize mess then put a crib sheet on the table so it goes under the trays and catches spillages. You can also put a sheet under the table for the same effect. For the mud, you might want to have your kids wear an old t shirt and have the bath ready for after!
2 | Dinosaur Dig
A dinosaur dig sensory bin is an amazing way to unleash your child’s inner palaeontologist! Hide some eggs under a sensory bin filler – we find rice works well as it doesn’t stick to the eggs – and guide your child through hatching the egg. As soon as our three year old discovered the eggs he went straight to work to dig out the dinosaur!
Dinosaur sensory bins tip: we purchased a set of dinosaur dig eggs but it’s also possible to DIY some dinosaur eggs with sand, corn starch and water and leave them outside to dry. Don’t forget to pop a dinosaur in the middle of the mix! We used baking soda for a DIY dinosaur egg with a surprise, read on for more details!
You will need:
- Dinosaur dig eggs: we purchased a set of dinosaur eggs which included fact cards and chisels/paint brushes to excavate the dinosaurs – check out the dinosaur eggs here!
- If you meet a dinosaur: If you meet a dinosaur is a toddler book where the dinosaur lays and protects her egg. It is one of our reading favorites and we revisited the book to help bring the concept to life more – we have the paperback version of the book.
- Colored rice: we used the colored rice from our dinosaur world described above.
Dinosaur sensory bins tip: a dinosaur dig is a great way to spark your child’s imagination on jobs they can do when they grow up. Our toddlers love imagining themselves as fire fighters, astronauts and doctors so it was great to introduce palaeontology and archaeology as careers. It was so funny to see our three year old light up at the prospect of spending his days digging for fossils given he spends hours digging in the garden and his sandpit!
3 | Fizzing Dinosaur Eggs
The classic baking soda and vinegar experiment is always a huge hit with my kids! When baking soda and vinegar mix the reaction results in foam and bubbles pouring from the dinosaur egg. It’s a great opportunity to talk about chemical reactions. If your kids are younger, like ours, the excitement of watching the reaction happen is more than enough but they still understood that the vinegar was doing something special!
First you will need to make your dinosaur eggs by freezing an egg shaped mix of baking soda and water (we like the consistency of 4 parts baking soda to 1 part water). Don’t forget to pop a dinosaur in the middle!
Add the frozen dinosaur egg to your sensory bin when you are ready to play. Then add some vinegar to a jumbo pipette, drip it on to the egg and watch in amazement as the dinosaur egg foams and bubbles in response!
Dinosaur sensory bins tip: we used our play mud as a base for our fizzy dinosaur fun. The reaction will mean you need to bin whatever filler you use so you might want to do this one on a separate tray.
What you need:
- Baking soda
- Jumbo eyedroppers: we use this set of Jumbo eyedroppers and they are another of our sensory favorites
- Food coloring: add some food coloring for extra effect. As before, this is the Wilton set we love and used in the green rice and also in the play dough we made below.
- Mini dinosaurs: we used the same set across all of our sensory bins
4 | Play Dough Dinosaurs
The play dough dinosaur tray is a really simple dinosaur sensory bin which can be created with regular or DIY play dough.
You will need:
- Dinosaur cookie cutters: you can make your dinosaurs free hand but our toddlers like using cookie cutters to shape their play dough – this is our favorite dinosaur set for play dough
- Dinosaur colored play dough: bright colors and greens work really well for the dinosaur world.
Dinosaur Sensory Bins tip: we made our play dough from a quick mix of some cupboard staples (flour, vegetable oil, cream of tartar, salt, water and food coloring). The recipe is taste safe and always goes down a treat with our toddlers. We love the Wilton icing colors and find the vibrancy of their colors amazing.
5 | Frozen dinosaur egg hatching
Frozen dinosaur eggs are a great sensory bin activity and offer a fantastic opportunity to introduce scientific concepts. I involved my toddlers in the freezing of the dinosaur eggs and we were able to explore and discuss the concepts of freezing and melting water.
Add the frozen dinosaur eggs (we made 8 eggs in total) to your sensory bin when you are ready to play. I talked to my toddlers about the best way to help the dinosaurs escape and have the eggs hatch. After trying a toy hammer and banging the eggs off the table (not great for my beloved Flisat table or their little hands!) I guided them to the pipettes and water.
They dripped warm water onto the eggs and watched in awe as they started to hatch!
Dinosaur Sensory Bins tip: we used sand as our base but you can use any sensory bin filler you don’t mind getting wet!
You will need:
- Ice moulds/balloons: we’ve made our dinosaur eggs using balloons, and more recently, ice moulds that we purchased to make our drinks fancier! We use sphere ice moulds and square ice moulds – these are our sphere ice moulds. It works best if you part freeze about 1/3 of the water first, add the dinosaur to the part frozen bit and top up with water. Regular balloons (like these) also work fine, just fill with water and pop a mini dinosaur inside before freezing.
- Jumbo eyedroppers: as above in our fizzing dinosaur eggs bin, this set of Jumbo eyedroppers are another of our sensory play staples.
- Play sand: we make our own DIY moon sand/homemade sand and the recipe is taste safe. The great thing about moon sand is that it is so easy to make: it requires just 2 cupboard staples, flour and oil – check out our detailed guide on how to make moon sand with just two ingredients.
- Mini dinosaurs: we used the same set across all of our sensory bins
- If you meet a dinosaur: we have the paperback version of the book. It is the same book we used in our dinosaur dig bin
Other Dinosaur Sensory Bin Ideas
We’re huge fans of incorporating our existing toys into our sensory themes so if you have any other dinosaur themed accessories then be sure to incorporate them in your dinosaur sensory activities. These can really help set the scene and bring the story to life. It’s also a great way to revive older toys which might not be getting much use at the moment. Some ideas are:
- Dinosaur books and nursery rhymes: as well as our much love Nat Geo dinosaur book we also read our old favorite, If you meet a dinosaur. We also reread the dinosaur books in our playroom. You can also use audio books or You Tube for dinosaur themed nursery rhymes – I always make sure to check in advance that the content is age appropriate. I also set my phone face down and only focus on the audio element so my kids aren’t distracted by screen time during our play sessions.
- Jigsaws or games: I set up some puzzles during one of our play sessions and used some dinosaur props to bring it to life. Our favorite is this Orchard toys jigsaw (this one) Our one year old loves wooden puzzle boards and we included one for her – I’m not sure where we got ours but this Melissa and Doug puzzle is similar.
- Coloring and painting: I brought out our magic (just needs water) dinosaur coloring book (this is the version we have) and some paint and paper so the kids could get creative.