1 Plastic Bin for the Win: How to get your monies worth out of one $4 bin

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Is there anything better than having a simple item that you can really get your money out of?  I think not. Back in the fall right after my second was born I was looking for cheap ways to keep my toddler entertained over the winter.  I had this storage bin that I was storing toys in and one day it just spoke to me… Okay not really spoke to me but my teacher side surfaced and my wheels started to turn.

I follow lots of accounts of amazing moms who do these intricate activities.  I wanted that level of fun without the prep, work or cost haha! So, I took my silly little $4 bin and a took the leap.

Sensory bin

The number one thing that I use our bin for is sensory play.  Below are just a few sensory activities we’ve done in our $4 bin.

Water beads

This was the first sensory bin that we ever did.  I just happened to have a small pack laying around.

If you haven’t used these yet GO NOW and grab some.  Talk about hours of fun! I found my small pack while I was out one day but you can grab a great deal here for a bunch of colors for cheap!

All you have to do is soak the beads in water a few hours before you plan to use them, pull some kitchen tools like cups, scoops, etc and pour them in the plastic bin.  That’s it!

Colored rice

I said cheap and I meant it.  This bin required rice, vinegar and food coloring.

  • Take 4-5 cups of rice in a plastic bag or large bow with a lid
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of vinegar
  • add desired amount of food coloring
  • shake, shake, shake
  • let dry for a few hours spread out

Make one color or a whole rainbow- the best part in when you are finish you can store and reuse it over and over.  Hours of fun for the cost of things you may already have in your house.

You can add puzzle pieces for a puzzle hunt, kitchen items for scooping, or just let the kids play in it.

Flour monster trucks

This is for my #boymoms but also for any girls who dig monster trucks.  We all have that bag of flour in our pantry that we opened for one recipe and then forgot about… just me.. okay heh heh

  • Well, grab some flour, dump it in your handy bin
  • add monster trucks
  • enjoy the time you will have to yourself while your littles play!

Bubble foam

I got this genius idea from one of my favorite blogs- Busy toddler Two words- bubble foam!  If you don’t know what it is check it out!!

She has a great recipe for bubble foam . This is what I used.

It took 5 minutes and was a blast.  You can whip this up in no time.  The best part is the options are endless!  It’s such a simple thing- bubbles but kids love them.

Add some kitchen supplies or just let them explore with their hands!

Black bean and rock construction

Construction zone for the win!

I used some super cheap bags of black beans, some black stones from the floral department, filled up the bin and added in some construction toys for my nephews birthday bin (yes I make sensory bins for presents… I’m a recovering teacher).

He loved it.

But like I said you could make the beans any color and use what you have at home to make the bin yours. The black beans and some stones made the perfect construction site but it’s so easy to tailor it to your littles.

Ocean fun

This bin I have done two ways.  Once with water and blue food coloring.  The next time with blue jello.  Both were awesome in their own way.

For the water bin all you need it some plastic sea creatures ( I got some at Target ) and some blue food coloring.

I filled the bin up with water, a few drops of food coloring and added the creatures.  For the bottom of the bin I also added some small shells we had laying around. It looked really neat and was an awesome opportunity to teach the name of some animals as they played.

The jello one was messier but I mean messy and fun go hand in hand.  Simply get blue jello and make it just as you would but in your bin.  While the jello is still liquid add some sea creatures in the jello and then put it in the fridge.  (Make sure your bin fits in your fridge BEFORE trying this).  Once it has settled you can let your little explore the fun texture and bonus it’s taste test friendly.

This is one that you could do with a number of themes. There are so many colors of jello that could open up so many fun themes.

A Baby Pool

Yes, you read that correctly.  Once evening I filled up the baby pool for my toddler and realized I would have to sit and hold my 9 month old so he didn’t fall over. Nah, that doesn’t sound fun for me lol.  So, I took my handy bin filled it up about 2-3 inches and sat my 9 month down in the bin to splash around.

The bin is just deep enough to help them balance while splashing and if they lean forward the walls of the bin help them catch themselves.  It was so nice to let him play in water ‘independently,’ ( with parent supervision obviously..).

Contain the mess

This simple bin can be used for so many sensory bins but I also use my cheap little bin to contain messes.  If you are a mom I know you’re all about small clean up.

Pop any activity down in the bin and keep in contained to this space or somewhat contained.

Want to finger paint but you’re worried about the mess?  Tape some paper to the bottom of the bin, squeeze some pain beside the paper and let your toddler paint.

Playdo…. (insert dread here).

Let them play with the playdo. Contain the crumbs, keep it out of the carpet and no fancy equipment needed.

And storage of course

When you aren’t having fun with a sensory bin, keep all your sensory items in the bin.

When it’s not full of finger paint store toys in it.


As a piss poor minimalist and inspiring “greener” person at heart this bin makes me feel good.  $4 and I can use it everyday, in a million ways, and I’m not creating more waste or spending money. The possibilities are endless.

Do you have a simple item you use everyday in different ways?

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(2) Comments

  1. Amanda says:

    These are such great ideas!!!

    1. lenabiggs says:

      Thank you so much!

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