STEM Construction Sensory Bin and Book For Young Builders (2024)

Do you have a young builder in your family? I have such a great activity today for your little one. It is a sensory, exploratory, building, STEM inspired busy box for kids. Fantastic for preschoolers and kindergarten, this Construction STEM Sensory Bin is a wonderful way to encourage curiosity, exploration, critical thinking skills and more, plus it pairs beautifully with one of our favourite book series!

Construction Sensory Bin for Little STEMists

What you will discover in this article!

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What are Sensory Bins?

A sensory bin is a hands on, predominately tactile sensory play experience for kids in a container or bin. Although predominately exploring the sense of touch, other senses can be engaged as well.

Sensory bins are a great way to encourage sensory play in young children. Sensory play encourages children to explore and use their senses: touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight and hearing. Depending on the sensory play activity, it may use one, two or all of these senses.

Sensory Bins are bins, usually large plastic containers with a lid, that you fill with a variety of items and objects to promote sensory play. The bins help contain some of the mess and also provide the opportunity to put a lid on the bin. This allows you to keep the bin clean and ready for play anytime, and also allows the bin to be easily transported.

We love creating sensory bins around a theme. Especially when we can tie them into a great book. Bringing in a literacy component helps encourage imaginative play, while also making reading less intimidating for children.

And of course, in our world, if we can bring in STEM components into our sensory play, that makes it even better!

This Construction Sensory Bin includes literacy and STEM concepts, plus encourages use of the touch, smell, sight and hearing senses.

Why Sensory Bins and Sensory Play?

The importance of sensory play for all children is something that been researched extensively in recent years. The benefits are significant and help build a strong foundation for your child now and throughout their lives.

Research is showing many benefits for sensory play including:

Scientific Process

Sensory activities facilitate exploration and naturally encourage children to use scientific processes while they play, create, investigate and explore.

Build Brain Pathways

Research shows that sensory play builds strong, positive pathways and nerve connections in the brain. This improves a child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks by providing them with the opportunity to apply critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Supports Skill Development

Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction. Especially when you pair it with a great book and STEM skills, like we have done with this sensory bin.

Memory Enhancement

Children, and even adults, learn best, form the strongest memories, and retain the most information when they engage their senses. When a child engages in sensory play it also aids in developing and enhancing memory.

Calming and Emotional Regulation

If you have a child that is struggling with anxiety, frustration, or other big emotions, sensory play is a great tool for helping to calm them. Think about your own habits, when you are stressed, do you like to eat, exercise, use essential oils, or cuddle with a beloved pet? Engaging the senses is great for calming an anxious or frustrated child.

Better Understanding of the Senses

Finally, and this one is pretty obvious, but as children use their senses they build their vocabulary and understanding of their senses and how they can interact with the world. They will learn what is too loud for them, if they like the texture of certain things, how to check if something is hot or cold, and how to use their senses to gain a better understanding of the environment around them.

Free Senses Printable

You can reinforce learning of the senses with our free printable 5 Senses activity pack that is available to members of the STEAM Powered Family mailing list. Join here to unlock your free printable.

Pete The Cat Sensory Play

Have you introduced your child to Pete the Cat? When my son was younger this was his favourite book series. If you haven’t read Pete the Cat, definitely check it out. The original books are fantastic, plus they have many books that partner beautifully with activities.

Like Pete the Cat Construction Destruction and this Construction Sensory Bin.


Bin or Large Container
Sand (we used blue!), or Rice works too
Construction vehicle toys
Pom poms
Craft sticks
Straws (cut them to provide a few lengths, short ones can be used as connectors!)
Sensory tray (we like to use plastic containers with a lid)
Pete the Cat Construction Deconstruction by James Dean (you can get it at your library, or see below for a free reading of the book on YouTube)
Add any other items you child might want to include, like little children figurines, Lego, etc.


Read the book, Pete the Cat Construction Destruction by James Dean. Talk about the story and especially about building and construction.

Pour a thin layer of sand at the bottom layer of the sensory tray. Spread the sand out evenly.

Add the colorful stones, construction toys, popsicle sticks, pom poms, and straws.

A great addition is to set up a tablet and let the child play while watching a reading of the book on YouTube. The auditory and visual input of the video reading helps reinforce literacy concepts while the child is relaxed and engaging in sensory play.

Encourage your child to build their own playgrounds and get creative in their construction and deconstruction of their dream big playground! Just like Pete the Cat did.

While playing and using their senses, they will also be learning important concepts around engineering and physics as they build, explore, create, learn and grow!

Have fun playing in this multi-discipline, multi-sensory activity.

More Sensory Play

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

As an expert and enthusiast, I have personal experiences or expertise. However, I can provide information on the concepts mentioned in the article.

Sensory Bins and Sensory Play

Sensory bins are hands-on, tactile play experiences for children that involve exploring different senses. These bins typically consist of a container or bin filled with various items and objects that promote sensory play. While the primary focus is on the sense of touch, other senses such as sight, smell, taste, movement, balance, and hearing can also be engaged.

Sensory play is a valuable tool for encouraging children to explore and use their senses. It provides opportunities for them to develop and enhance their cognitive, motor, and problem-solving skills. Sensory play supports language development, social interaction, and the scientific process. It also helps build brain pathways and improves memory retention. Additionally, sensory play can have a calming effect and aid in emotional regulation for children who may be experiencing anxiety or frustration.

STEM in Sensory Bins

Incorporating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) concepts into sensory play can enhance the learning experience. STEM-themed sensory bins provide opportunities for children to explore engineering principles, develop critical thinking skills, and understand basic physics concepts. By combining sensory play with a literacy component, such as reading a book related to the theme, imaginative play is encouraged, making reading more engaging for children.

Pete the Cat Sensory Play

"Pete the Cat" is a popular book series for children. The article suggests using the book "Pete the Cat Construction Destruction" to accompany the construction-themed sensory bin activity. The book can be read to the child, and then the child can engage in sensory play while watching a video reading of the book on YouTube. This combination of auditory and visual input reinforces literacy concepts while the child is relaxed and engaged in sensory play.

Supplies for Construction Sensory Bin

To create a construction-themed sensory bin, you will need the following supplies:

  • Bin or large container
  • Sand or rice (blue sand is suggested in the article)
  • Construction vehicle toys
  • Pom poms
  • Craft sticks
  • Straws (cut into various lengths, some can be used as connectors)
  • Sensory tray (plastic container with a lid)
  • "Pete the Cat Construction Destruction" book by James Dean
  • Additional items that your child may want to include, such as small figurines or LEGO pieces

Activity for Construction Sensory Bin

To engage in the construction-themed sensory bin activity, follow these steps:

  1. Read the book "Pete the Cat Construction Destruction" and discuss the story and the concepts of building and construction with your child.
  2. Pour a thin layer of sand at the bottom of the sensory tray and spread it out evenly.
  3. Add colorful stones, construction toys, craft sticks, pom poms, and straws to the tray.
  4. Consider setting up a tablet to play a video reading of the book on YouTube, which can reinforce literacy concepts while the child is engaged in sensory play.
  5. Encourage your child to build their own playgrounds and get creative in constructing and deconstructing their dream playground.
  6. Through play and sensory exploration, children will also learn important engineering and physics concepts, as well as develop their creativity, learning, and growth.

Have fun engaging in this multi-disciplinary and multi-sensory activity!

STEM Construction Sensory Bin and Book For Young Builders (2024)


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