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Simple Under The Sea Ocean Sensory Bin For Kids

Use water beads to make this ocean sensory bin for kids! Learn all about how to use water beads and how to make your own ocean-themed sensory bin. 

Much like my colored rice sensory bin, this ocean sensory bin is the perfect tool to let kids learn with their senses of touch, sight, sound, taste, smell, and hands-on activity! It’s also terrific for building fine motor skills!

Toddlers, preschoolers, and even young elementary-aged kids will love this fun ocean sensory experience. Young children will delight in digging, scooping, squishing, and manipulating the fish and other items through the sea of water Beads.

Whether or not you live near the beach, you can bring the beach and ocean to your kids and explore different areas of ocean life!

If you and your kids love sensory play, be sure to also check out my DIY Rainbow Spaghetti For Sensory Fun!

What are water beads for sensory play?

Water beads are the craziest thing! You just put tiny beads (the size of peppercorns) in water and watch them “grow” over time. They will absorb water and become MANY times their original size to give you a bin full of squishy, slippery balls.

They’re made with a water-absorbing polymer and were originally created to help hydrate plants. But they also double as a fabulous sensory material.

I have never seen a kid who doesn’t love water beads. They keep kids of all ages (and adults too) busy for hours with an inexpensive, low-mess activity!

Safety Note: **USE WATER BEADS WITH PARENTAL SUPERVISION** Because they’re so small, adults should supervise small children who play with water beads. to make sure they aren’t swallowed. 

What are sensory bins with water beads?

My kids love good sensory bins and will happily stay occupied all morning (or afternoon) long. They’re just so much fun – especially this ocean sensory bin!

This ocean sensory bin is also a terrific learning lesson for younger children who don’t live near the beach because you can combine fun with learning about the ocean and ocean animals.

Just add mini sea turtles or other sea creatures of your choice for an ocean sensory play activity perfect for a hot summer day.

How to make a sensory ocean bin with water beads

Here’s everything you need to know about making your own ocean-themed sensory bin with water beads to encourage sensory development.

Supplies needed

  • Sensory bin container – this could be any small to medium plastic bin
  • Water beads – as well as water, a pitcher, a colander, plus a tablespoon
  • Palm tree toys
  • Mini flamingos
  • Mini fish figurines – the more colorful fish you can find, the better!
  • Other ocean creatures figurines – such as sea turtles and other plastic ocean animals.
  • Sea shells scallop toys or scoops
  • Toy starfish


Just follow this process to create your own ocean sensory bin experience for little hands!

Step 1

Prepare the water beads. Follow the directions on your water beads packaging (but learn more down below).

I used 1 tbsp. of water beads in ½ gallon of water and added a little more water as the beads expanded.

Step 2

Once the beads are full size, pour them into a colander and allow the excess water to drain before proceeding with your ocean sensory bin.

Step 3

Pour the water beads into the sensory bin.

Step 4

Add palm trees, starfish toys, other sea life toys, and seashell scoops to the bin.

Step 5

Now here’s my favorite part – let your kiddo play with the ocean sensory bin! 

Sensory play ideas with sensory bins and water beads

Besides creating an ocean-themed sensory bin, there are tons of ways to play with water beads. Here are a few of our favorite ideas!

  • Create different themes with different types of figurines! Some ideas include dragons, dinosaurs, jungle, insects, farm, and more!
  • Make it a learning (and fun!) experience! The animals you put inside this sensory bin can help you create fun and educational hands-on play along with the best sensory experience!. For example, using the animals in an Ocean Toob will make it easy to talk about ocean habitat! Or get a different set of small toys with tons of different ocean animals. 
  • Add tongs or a scooper Small scoopers are fantastic for kids who could use fine motor practice or are hesitant to dive in with their hands.
  • Bowls, cups, measuring cups, muffin tins, silicone molds, etc. Mix, match, pour, stir, swish, and more!
  • Add shaving cream for a cool sensation addition!
  • Smashing them with a hammer, your hands, or other items when you’re ready to throw them out. It’s fun!
  • Experiment with your water beads. Check out how much they shrink and expand – let your kids come up with creative ideas!
  • Math skills – practice adding, subtracting, counting, sorting according to color, etc!
  • Turn it into a sensory bottle! Just add small figurines (if they’ll fit) and your water beads to a clean liter bottle (or other size if that’s what you have) to create a home play activity you can take on the go! With a sensory bottle, there’s always a fun surprise to find!

How to hydrate water beads for your ocean sensory bin

Although the package directions on ours says to use 1 gallon of water for each tablespoon of dry water beads.

However, I’ve found that when we use that ratio, we have too much water, so I use 2 tablespoons of beads for each gallon of water. You’ll need to let the beads sit for several hours (around 4) to hydrate.

Sensory Table Ideas

If you want something a little more sturdy and less portable (and tippable), there are several routes you can go. You can start with a basic sensory kit. Or upgrade to adjustable bin tables that can actually hold water and sand!

If you want something more, I absolutely LOVE this adaptable 3-in-1 picnic table with an umbrella to keep the kids shaded! And the Cadillac of all sensory tables would be this see-thru sensory box table

Just think of all the great ocean activities you can create with any of these tables – from a simple ocean sensory bin to a sandy beach and more! Just add your favorite ocean theme items, some squishy water beads (or actual water), and a variety of sensory tools to create hours of imaginative play for your kiddos!

If you want to make this ocean sensory tub be more like the beach than just the blue water of the ocean, add play sand to one side of the bin before you add the water beads to the other side of the bin. Then give your kiddo a sand sifter and some sand molds in addition to the fun ocean animal toys!

I hope your kiddo loves this fun ocean sensory bin and all the hands-on activities you can do with it as much as mine have!


I often see lots of questions about making a kids sensory bin ocean-themed. Here are some of the most common ones!

Are water beads toxic?

NO, they aren’t toxic and ARE biodegradable. BUT, they aren’t edible. You don’t need to worry about your kids playing with them (unless they’re likely to put them in their mouths).

How long does it take water beads to hydrate?

It takes several hours for ours to fully hydrate – typically around 4 hours. Then they’re ready for your ocean sensory bin!

Can you reuse water beads?

Yes! Once your kids finish playing with the water beads, let them dry on a towel or tray. After they reach their original size, keep them in an airtight container with a lid. Then simply rehydrate them when you’re ready to use them again!

Do water beads shrink back down?

Yes, if you let them sit out in the air with no water around, they will shrink to their original size.

How often should you replace water beads?

Once you see mold, it’s time to throw your beads out. The timing will vary on how you use the beads. If you let them dry out every time you use them for an ocean sensory bin, they could last as long as 6 months. However, if you just put the lid on your container without letting the beads dry out, they may only last a couple of weeks.

How do you disinfect water beads?

Simply soak dry beads in water and vinegar. Allow them to dry completely again, then add clean water to use next time.

Do water beads need warm or cold water?

They will work with either warm or cold water. However, warm water will help them grow faster.

What happens to water beads when they dry?

They will shrink to their original size. Store them in an airtight container.

How do you dispose of water beads?

You can throw them out in the trash or add them into the soil of indoor plants to water the plants as they dry up. Do NOT put water beads down the drain or in the sink or sink garbage disposal.

More fun activities for kids

If you love this ocean sensory bin, check out these other ideas too!

  • Fork Flower Painting For Kids
  • Egg Carton Painting Activity
  • Drip-Painted Flower Pots
  • Lion Fork Painting Activity
  • How To Make Outdoor DIY Puffy Paint

The post Simple Under The Sea Ocean Sensory Bin For Kids appeared first on Made In A Pinch.

This post first appeared on Made In A Pinch, please read the originial post: here

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Simple Under The Sea Ocean Sensory Bin For Kids


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