We love sensory bins in our home. Give us a theme, and we’ll have a sensory bin to go with it! When I chose our featured book, Usborne Lift-the-Flap Sharks, and Safari Ltd. Shark figures TOOB for our shark activities, I knew we needed a shark sensory bin where we could play with the shark figures.

I’m sharing this two different ways, because I wanted an option where you could play in the water–I mean, hello, ocean! But, I also loved the idea and texture of the blue rice.

A disclaimer before we get started

When creating sensory bins you need to customize for your kiddos and their temperaments. For example, The shark figures are technically for ages 3+, but I know my two-year-old will do ok with them. I’ve observed her with similar figures, and she rarely puts things in her mouth anymore. Also, she is always supervised when playing in her sensory bins. But, you may want to leave out some or choose different fillers for your sensory bin if you think any of the following aren’t appropriate for your child.

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Getting Started

What you’ll need:

Dye your rice

Pour two pounds of rice in a Ziplock bag. Squeeze 10 drops, or so, of the blue liquid watercolor onto the rice. Zip the bag closed and shake until the color is worked through the rice. Add more liquid watercolor if needed to get the color you desire.

Pour the colored rice into a bowl or onto a cookie sheet to dry. It dries very quickly–within minutes.

Repeat if you’re using a larger bin and would like 4 pounds of rice.

Place items in the sensory bin

Place the rice in the bin, then add the glass gems, shells, and sharks. Scatter them throughout the bin to make it inviting for your child.

Introduce your child to the sensory bin

Before you show your child the sensory bin, read a book about sharks (we recommend Usborne Lift-the-Flap Sharks).

If sensory bins are a new development in your home, you may want to go over some guidelines. In our home, we have a strict no throwing policy. Each time we open the bin, we remind our daughter that the rice, sharks, and shells stay in the bin. Of course, there will be some mess and spillage, but as soon as she starts throwing or purposefully dropping handfuls outside the bin, we close it. She knows this, but we remind her each time we open the bin. She’s incredibly motivated by sensory play, so she usually does pretty well. Boundaries are your friend.

Open the bin and let them explore. Talk about what is in the bin. Name each of the sharks and talk about facts you learned from the book.


After some initial play, you may want to introduce some other tools–bowls, tongs, measuring cups, spoons, and the like.


Because we’re using the sharks for other activities right now, we collect the sharks and put them in a bowl to sit back on our shelves. Then, she takes a little broom and dustpan to sweep up bits that have fallen on the floor while she played.

Watch set up and a bit of play

Using Water instead of Rice

You can use all of the same materials and replace the rice with water. It gives a very different experience and can be especially fun outside on a hot day.

Have fun! And don’t be afraid to get a little messy.

Click to see more of our S is for Shark Shark Activities

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