Emotions Sensory Bins

Sensory bins are fabulous sensory play and they can be great emotional regulation tools!
While they are not really Montessori, I personally think that they area great addition to a Montessori Toddler environment.

Emotions sensory bins for teaching children about emotions and emotional regulation. Learn the names of emotions and associate them with items that arouse those feelings.

My plan for our emotion sensory bins was to prepare the materials for the three emotions that Ella experiences the most (at 2 years old), and have those at the ready for whenever those emotions might come up. I recreated the bins later in the week so as to review and also take pictures  (as I didn’t feel it was respectful to take pictures when my daughter was struggling with sad and mad emotions.)

There was a huge difference in her approach to the materials depending on her mood, and I really think that introducing the bins during both neutral and emotional times is beneficial.

I prepared a “Happy Sensory Bin,” a “Sad Sensory Bin,” and a “Mad Sensory Bin” for Ella, and my concept was to include symbols of those emotions along with helpful things that we can do when we experience those emotions, to reinforce our efforts at emotional regulation.

Some parents might prefer to only do a Happy Sensory Bin and/or Calm Sensory Bin, focusing on objects that inspire and assist with creating those feelings, which could still be effective as long as the parent creates the connection of how these bins can be used when experiencing sad, mad, or confused emotions.

Happy Sensory Bin as part of learning Emotional Regulation through Sensory Play

Happy Sensory Bin

Sensory Bin Base: Pink & Purple Pompoms (“warm fuzzies” in Ella’s favourite colours)

Items included in the Happy Sensory Bin:

  • Scoop
  • Happy Kimochi feeling
  • Pink Tower cubes (which I regret including as it was a misuse of Montessori materials and distracted Ella from the Happy Sensory Bin until it was completed)
  • A collection of Ella’s favourite things:
    • bracelets
    • a ball
    • her yellow submarine from her music corner
    • a percussion egg
    • a moon from a balancing toy


Sad Sensory Bin - teaching emotional regulation through sensory play!

Sad Sensory Bin

Sensory Bin Base: Clear water beads (to represent tears; I would have used blue but my clear ones do not absorb colour well and tend to rub off and stain other items)

Items Included in Sad Sensory Bin:

  • Sad Kimochi feeling
  • Things to do when we’re sad:
    • “Kisses” (red felt lips from our button monkey)
    • cups for tea
    • Madeline book (Ella’s favourite)
    • Blue handbells
    • Bubbles for blowing (representative of the spherical shape of the waterbead “tears” but powerful in that children can “pop” any sad bubbles)
  • Ella also added in her cookie monster!

Some parents may choose to include items that the child associates with sadness, and I think that could be constructive depending on the child. For Ella, I think she would dwell on those “sad” items and I really wanted to focus on using the bin as a learning tool for coping strategies.

Exploring a "Angry" Sensory Bin teaching how to emotionally regulate when angry

Mad Sensory Bin

Sensory Bin Base: Red waterbeads and red pompoms

Included in Mad Sensory Bin:

  • Mad Kimochi Feeling
  • Funnel (representing “funneling angry energy into something constructive”
  • Red cup for tea
  • Red play dough
  • yoga cards
  • a pinwheel (which I discuss here as a great way for teaching deep breathing for emotional regulation)

I also had Ella put on her red rain boots to symbolize going for a walk (and also discussed that option); I had her put them on because I knew if I left them out they would get filled with waterbeads!

Emotions Sensory Bins: Happy Sensory Bin, Sad Sensory Bin, Mad Sensory Bin - Using Sensory Play to Develop Emotional Intelligence

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and any ideas for other emotion sensory bins, or how these could be improved upon!

If you liked this post, please check out my other posts on Emotional Intelligence and Psychology.

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    1. Thanks, V! You definitely don’t need the Kimochi’s to make them a hit, but those little guys have been such an asset to our Peace Corner and with transitions.

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