Sensory play is vital for early childhood development and there are so many easy ways to make it fun and interesting. For example, by theming with dinosaurs! Which toddlers don’t love these prehsitoric creatures?!
These dinosaur sensory activities for toddlers present so many opportunities for learning. They involve science, math, imaginative play concepts, and so much more.
From DIY dinosaur sensory bin ideas to other types of sensory play with a dino-theme perfect for the toddler age, this list will allow you to provide exciting and intentional learning for your child at home.
Use this fun list of dino-themed sensory activities as a guide. If you feel a creative shift or desire to make adjustments, go for it!
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What items go in a sensory bin?
An engaging sensory bin is made up of a few components. Every sensory bin will need a filler. This is the foundation of the bin.
Some examples of sensory bin fillers include sand, uncooked pasta/rice/beans, water beads, ribbon, scraps of paper, water, or anything else you have on hand. You can basically make anything work. Sensory bin fillers need to have an interesting texture and a decent amount of volume for ultimate success.
Next, add any focus materials that work with the theme, in this case dinosaurs. So think dinosaur figurines, volcanoes, pebbles, leaves, trees, and bones.
Finally, although this is optional, add in some tools. Sensory bin tools can be anything that you think will enhance your child’s experience and allow them to explore the materials in the bin better, or simply in a different way.
These could include tweezers, magnifying glasses, scoopers, shovels, ladles, funnels, handheld rakes, and more.
Using these tools will also enhance developing fine motor skills.
Are sensory bins messy?
Sensory activities and bins definitely can be messy, but there’s a lot to be said for embracing a little mess. Children love messy play, and messy play is good for their development. It gives them chance to explore and experiment with different textures and materials.
To minimize the mess lay a tarp down, take them outside, cover up your child, or strip them down to their diaper and bath them after. All these can help your house and/or toddler as clean as possible.
Of course, it’s not always realistic to facilitate messy play due to the circumstances of your day, your living situation or simply your frame of mind! But there are plenty of minimal mess sensory bins and activities to try too. Here are some fun and simple dry messy play ideas to try.
Why do young kids love dinosaurs?
Since dinosaurs no longer roam the earth, they provide a lot of intrigue to young kids, especially toddlers. We aren’t able to go to the zoo or into the wild and just see a dinosaur. The mystery behind them sparks imagination and curiosity in children.
In addition, due to the expansive nature and characteristics of dinosaurs, they present a lot of exciting facts that children can learn and internalize.
Dinosaur themed sensory bin ideas will help cultivate this curiosity.
What are 5 interesting facts about dinosaurs?
There are lots of fun and interesting dino-facts. Here are a few for your toddler which can be interesting to share and talk about while enjoying these fun dinosaur sensory activities and bins.
- The number of extinct dinosaur species is approximately 700.
- It has been estimated that dinosaurs have lived on Earth for about 245 million years.
- All seven continents have evidence of dinosaurs living there.
- Because non-avian dinosaurs shared an ancestor with modern birds, birds are considered dinosaurs.
- Fossils have provided everything we know about dinosaurs.
DIY Dinosaur Sensory Bin Ideas
It probably goes without saying, but worth mentioning anyway: you’ll need a container or bin of some kind to contain the various elements of each dinosaur sensory bin idea.
This doesn’t need to a purpose built “sensory bin” – a metal oven dish is normally my go to.
#1. Brown Sugar Dino Sensory Bin
You could use resin letters, foam letters, plastic letters, letter magnets, or any other alphabet toys you have on hand. You could also add pebbles, faux plants, or anything else you think that’d enhance the experience.
For more details see Littleturkeycrafts on Instagram
#2. Cornflake, Granola, and Blue Spaghetti Bin
This cornflake, granola, and spaghetti sensory bin is a fun taste-safe option for your dino-loving toddler. It offers multiple different textures and colors, enhancing discovery via the five senses.
For this dinosaur sensory bin idea, you will need chocolate granola, cornflakes, crackers plus other interesting edible items plus cooked spaghetti. The bin pictured has spaghetti dyed blue, but you could leave it plain. It’s up to you!
To make this bin extra engaging, you could pair it with a book, such as Dino Days with Triceratops.
For more details see Katz_cornerza on Instagram
#3. Bone Excavation Bin
You will likely need some pretend bones for this dinosaur bone excavation sensory bin for toddlers. You could try this dinosaur bones discovery set, this 4D fossil skeleton figure, or this mini dinosaur bones skull set.
Raffia, uncooked/dry pinto beans, sand, or play dirt would make for exciting additions to this bin.
Hide the bones under the dirt/sand/beans and have your child search for them. Some recommended tools to include are a brush, tweezers, and a hand rake.
For more details see The_baldwin_siblings from Instagram
#4. Dino Rescue Lava Playdough Bin
Save the dinosaurs from getting into the lava with this dinosaur volcano sensory bin idea. You will need red/orange play dough, dinosaur figurines, faux plants/succulents, pebbles. Grab anything else you think would enhance the experience.
Use a large rock or plastic cup to act as the volcano and mold the lava around it.
You could also purchase this Play-Doh slime dino island volcano playset rather than make the play dough if you prefer. This volcano set would be better for younger children. You don’t really need to provide tools for this one since the bin is engaging itself, but you can if you want to.
For more details see Cheeky.chickpeas from Instagram
#5. Dried Pinto Bean Dinosaur Volcano Sensory Bin
This pinto bean dinosaur sensory bin for toddlers uses a no-mess version of a volcano. It consists of dried pinto beans, toy dinosaurs, fake flowers/leaves/plants, rocks/pebbles. You could also other items such as sticks and white plastic eggs.
If you have small enough dinos, put them inside the eggs so your child can pretend to hatch baby dinosaurs.
To make the volcano, you’ll need pipe cleaners, brown cardstock, red tissue paper, and a stapler. Bend the cardstock paper into a cone shape, staple the sides together at the top, and staple pipe cleaners to the top to signify lava pouring out.
Then set it in the bin. On the side of the bin will probably be best so it can prop up on the edge.
A fun and simple dinosaur sensory bin for preschool or at home.
For more details see Simply Full of Delight
#6. Foam Dinosaur Sensory Bin
You’ll need water, bubble bath soap, a hand mixer, and dinosaurs for this foam dinosaur sensory bin idea for toddlers. Fill your bin with some water and bubble bath solution. Use the hand mixer (or a milk frother) to create bubbles, and add dinos to the foam.
You could add food coloring or liquid watercolor to the water if you want to add another visual sensory element. This fun dinosaur sensory activity is easily adaptable and doable for any age and would be great for a little one’s birthday party.. You could do this indoors or outdoors, but I reckon this dinosaur sensory idea would be best at bathtime!
For more details see Lil Tigers
#7. Pumpkin Seeds Dino Sensory Bin
This pumpkin seed dino sensory bin utilizes dry pumpkin seeds, faux plants, dinosaur figurines, and any nature items such as pebbles, sticks, or a log. Bowls, scoops, cups, and a rake would be fun tools to use for this one, as well as a funnel. Your child would enjoy watching the pumpkin seeds travel through the funnel back into the bin.
The pumpkin seeds add a new texture for your child to experience. The smoothness of the seeds is a contrast to the grainy and gritty texture of sand or dirt used in other dinosaur sensory bins.
For more details see Taming Little Monsters
#8. Dinosaur Hunt Sensory Bin
How to Catch a Dinosaur would be a great addition to this dinosaur sensory bin since you’re on the hunt for dinos to catch in this activity! It’s quite a simple bin to set up. All you need are tweezers, sand and dinosaur toys.
The dinosaur cards are a nice addition, but you’re toddler will still have fun without them.
Simply hide the dinos under the sand while your child isn’t looking. Hand them the tweezers and let them go to town searching for all of the dinos. Then match them back to the cards, if you have. A magnifying glass would be a fun addition for your inquisitve toddler.
For more details see Sebbie_the_curioustoddler on Instagram
#9. Dinos in the Snow Sensory Bin
Did dinosaurs roam around in the snow millions of years ago? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, they will get to in this sensory bin! This dinosaur theme sensory bin is a fun way to explore the possibilities of what dinos did during the winter.
Use plastic gems, dinosaur toys, and faux craft snow. It would be fun to pair the Dinos in the Snow! book with this bin.
Take it one step further and freeze your dinos into ice cubes, rescuing them by thawing them in the bin using warm water in an eyedropper tool.
You could also use white scrap paper, baking soda, or baby powder to act as snow. For more wintery sensory play, check out these fake snow sensory bins.
For more details see kindywithridsy from Instagram
Loving these fun dinosaur themed sensory activities? We’ve got plenty more posts dedicated to sensory play:
Dinosaur Dig Sensory Bins
Toddlers love to explore with their hands, so a sensory bin set up as a dinosaur dig will be right up their alley.
#10. Jell-O Dinosaur Dig Sensory Bin
Here’s a particularly delicious Jell-O dinosaur dig sensory bin. Your toddler is sure to love this one – just don’t do it too close to bedtime because there will undoubtedly be a sugar high afterwards!
You’ll need two boxes of Jell-O, chocolate cookies, dinosaur bones and figurines, and whipped cream. Set the first layer of Jell-O as usual. Once it’s fully set, place the dinosaurs on top of that Jell-O layer.
Prepare the second layer of Jell-O and pour it on top of the first layer and dinosaurs. While that is setting in the fridge, smash your chocolate cookies (your child will surely love to help with this.)
Once everything is fully set, spread a layer of whipped cream atop your Jell-O container, finishing with the chocolate cookies. Now, it’s time to dig for dinos!
For more details see Team Catwright
#11. Kinetic Sand Dinosaur Dig Sensory Bin
This dino dig sensory bin uses naturally colored kinetic sand, various tools such as a brush/scoop/shovel/magnifying glass, wooden letters, and dino figurines. Hide the letters throughout the sand for your child to find.
You can spell words or just do random letters. Either way, this fun dinsaur dig sensory bin will strenghthen early literacy skills. Spell their name, or spell simple words about dinosaurs like “dig” and “bone.” Let your child hide some letters for you to find, too!
For more details see Go4th2day from Instagram
#12. Chocolate Oobleck Dinosaur Dig
This one is more fishing for dinosaurs than digging and toddlers are going to love it! You, on the other hand? Only if you’re feeling brave! If you’ve never tried oobleck before, you’re in for a messy surprise. Or not really. From the picture, you can see that this one is sticky and messy.
However, oobleck is surprisingly easier to clean up than you’d think! So if you’re keen to give it a go, I’d highly recommend it.
Oobleck has an interesting almost stretch consistency, due to the main ingredient, cornstarch. It’s so fun for toddlers to play with and will keep them busy for ages. This oobleck dinosaur dig sensory bin also has the addition of cocoa powder to give it the mud color. But you could omit this.
So: mix 2 cups cornstarch with 1⁄2 cup cocoa powder. Then add water until you get the consistency the way you want. (You’ll probably need 1 cup water max.) Finally, add some dinosaur toys.
Add faux plants, rocks, and anything to make the bin more interesting to your child. Then let them get stuck in!
For more details see Mombrite
#13. Dinosaur Fossil Sensory Bin: Go On A Dino Dig!
The final dinosaur dig sensory bin looks the most realistic. I also reckon it’ll keep your little one occupied the longest, since they’re going to have to do some real digging to find their dino friends.
First step is to make the mud, which uses baking soda, cornstarch and water, with coffee granules to darken. (Check the link below for quantities.) Mix up, bury the dinosaurs and then pop into the oven for around an hour, until hard. Once cooled, it’s time to get digging!
Other Dinosaur Sensory Activities for Toddlers
There are plenty of exciting dinosaur themed sensory activities outside of sensory bins. Here are some below, ranging from arts and crafts to scientific experiments, all with a dino-theme.
For yet more activities for dino lovers, including movement games and gross motor activities, themed activity sheets and arts and crafts, check out these dinsoaur crafts and activities for preschoolers.
#14. Playdough Fossils
Playdough is great sensory activity for young childen, enabling them to squeeze and roll and create, which strengthes hands and fingers. It’s quite therapeutic too and great for some quiet time for a busy toddler or two. So why not try these fun playdough fossils.
Mold playdough circles, then press dinosaur toys and/or bones into each circle, creating your own fossil. Be sure to use multiple playdough colors to make it more exciting and provide your toddler with a range of toys to create interesting imprints, aka fossils.
You could also make your own homemade playdough to extend the activity.
For more details see The Soccer Mom Blog
#15. Fizzy Dinosaur Egg Sensory Activity
For this fizzy dinosaur egg activity, you’ll need baking soda, food coloring gel, an eyedropper, water, vinegar and small dinosaur toys. This fun dinosaur egg sensory activity introduces your child to a fun scientific experiment: mixing baking soda and vinegar.
This reaction produces salt, water and carbon dioxide. It’s the carbon dioxide which causes the fizz. This fun dino-themed sensory activity will also help strengthen your kids understanding of cognitive concepts, such as cause-and-effect, and making predictions and observations.
To get started, mix 2 drops of food coloring and 2 tablespoons of water. Put 1⁄2 cup of baking soda into a bowl, and add the colorful water to the baking soda. Mix until it becomes moldable. Repeat for every color. Add more baking soda if the texture is too wet.
Next, put a bit of baking soda mixture in your palm, and place a dinosaur in it. Put more baking soda mixture on top of the dinosaur, and mold it into an egg shape. You can freeze it for 15 minutes if you want it to solidify a little more.
Once the eggs are solid, you can add the vinegar to them and watch the egg fizz, revealing the dinosaur inside. My toddlers loved this one so much, we ended up doing it over and over again for several days!
For more details see the tutorial from The Best Ideas for Kids
#16. Paper Plate Dinosaur Craft
Here’s a fun paper plate dinosaur craft with plenty of sensory action. You’ll need a paper plate, paint, construction paper, and a marker. Cut out ovals, triangles and rectangles from colored construction paper. Cut your paper plate in half, and then it’s time to paint.
If you’re feeling brave and for extra sensory exploration, ditch the paint brushes and let your child finger paint. If you do, be sure to use child-friendly paint. (This washable tempera is our favorite.)
Once the paint dries, glue the triangles (the dinosaur’s spikes) around the edge and back of the dinosaur. Attach a tail to the bottom of the dinosaur, and a neck and head to the front. Add legs on the bottom, and draw a face on the dinosaur’s head.
Once your child is done creating their dinosaur, they’ll love using it in dramatic play scenarios.
For more details see the tutorial from Mama of Minis
For more creative art projects, we’ve got plenty to choose from:
- 50 Easy Transportation Crafts & Activities for Preschoolers
- 35 Best Valentines Handprint Art Ideas For Toddlers
- 31 Cute Cat Crafts for Toddlers
- 41 Easy Father’s Day crafts for toddlers (2 & 3 year olds)
- 75 easy fun Easter crafts and activities for 3 years olds
- 41 Easy Christmas Tree Arts and Crafts for Toddlers
#17. Salt Dough Dinosaur Fossil Sensory Activity
Salt dough has all the sensory benefits of playdough, but instead of finding all those crumbs and dried out creations around the place and then dumping them in the garbage, salt dough crafts are here to stay!
These salt dough dinosary fossils can be played with again and again and will make great keepsakes too. Essentially the concept behind this dinosuar sensory acitivity for toddlers is the same as the one above that uses playdough.
You’ll need dinosaur toys plus the ingredients to make salt dough:
- 1⁄2 cup salt
- 1⁄2 cup warm water
- 1 cup flour
It’d also be helpful to have a rolling pin, mixing bowl, baking sheet, circle cutter and parchment paper.
To make the salt dough, mix the salt and flour first, then add the warm water, mixing until you create a dough-like consistency. Roll the dough to flatten it, cut out circles, and press a dinosaur toy on each circle.
Next, preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Put down a piece of parchment paper onto a baking sheet, and place your fossils on top. Bake for one hour, turning fossils over throughout to speed up the process (this helps dry them out.)
To extend play, you could use them in a dinosaur fossil excavating sensory bin, brushing dirt off of them and engaging in paleontologist dramatic play.
For more details see the post from Taming Little Monsters
#18. Frozen Dinosaur Eggs with Ice Excavation
You’ll need balloons, dinosaur toys and water for this frozen dinosaur egg sensory activity. Simply, insert the dinosaur toy into the balloon and fill the balloon with water. Place in the freezer until frozen solid (overnight is preferred.)
Once the balloon dinosaur eggs are fully frozen, cut the balloon off and voila! You have a frozen dinosaur egg. If you don’t have balloons, you can use bowls or cups, but they won’t have an egg shape like balloons will provide.
You can then turn this into an ice excavation project. Put the frozen eggs into a bowl of warm water and use an eyedropper filled with warm water, use a mallet toy, or any other tool that your toddler can safely use to break apart or thaw the eggs.
Be sure to involve your child in the process of deciding how to excavate the dinosaurs from the eggs. This is such a fun dinosaur sensory activity for toddlers and perfect for the summer months.
For more details see The Best Ideas for Kids
#19. Dinosaur Stomp Painting
You’ll need paper, paint and dinosaur toys for this exciting dinosaur themed sensory activity. Simply dip the dino’s feet in the paint and stomp their feet all over the paper.
Use plastic dinosaurs with feet of different shapes and sizes, and use paint of different colors to create some variety. This activity works on your child’s fine motor skills, as well as their understanding of spatial relationships. But more than that, it’s plain stomping fun!
For more details see Sebbie_the_curioustoddler from Instagram
#20 Homemade Fluffy Slime with Dinosaurs
#21 DIY Dinosaur Bones
Dinosaur sensory toys
Dinosaur toys that highlight sensory play will support your child’s learning process and love for dinosaurs. They’ll also work on their fine motor development and cognitive skills and give you a bit of a break.
(I’m all for facilitating dinosaur sensory activities for toddlers, or those with other themes, but a good toy can fulfill a lot of sensory needs without you having to lift a finger. Sometimes, that’s much needed!)
So here are some engaging dinosaur sensory toys that’ll keep toddlers occupies. They’re pretty adorable too!
#1. Dinosaur Fine Motor Toy
Many pediatric occupational therapists love this dinosaur fine motor toy. It works on so many different skills and abilities at once, such as fine motor development, cognitive skills, and hand-eye coordination.
The dinosaur spikes can be stored inside the dino’s belly which is super convenient for cleanup. The spike holes are numbered which introduces your child to early mathematics concepts, and the bright colors develop your child’s early color recognition ability.
#2. Wooden Dinosaur Stacking Toy
This wooden dinosaur stacking toy can be played as a game with others, or independently. It is a balancing game that deepens your child’s concentration and coordination skills.
This toy will grow with your child over time as they continually discover new ways to play with it, which makes it a great investment!
#3. Dinosaur Busy Board
Take part in some on-the-go learning with this dinosaur busy board. Various textures, snaps, and fasteners help develop your child’s fine motor skills and dexterity.
This fun dinosaur sensory toy works on simple yet vital life skills such as learning to buckle, zip, button, lace, snap, and velcro. The dinosaur shape will be exciting for your child to recognize and learn.
#4. Counting and Sorting Dinosaur Toys
There are so many different ways to play with these counting and sorting dinosaurs. This dinosaur sensory toy is very open-ended, which allows for child-led exploration. It’ll help your child understand color sorting and familiarize your child with different types of dinosaurs.
#5. Sand Dino Egg Set
Each egg in this sand dino egg set has different colored of sand and a toy dinosaur. The sand provides sensory stimulation, and the dino toy will deepen imaginative play.
#6. Alphabet Dinos Bucket
This alphabet dinosaur bucket is filled with dinosaurs of various colors for each letter of the alphabet. They split in half with one side having an uppercase letter and the other side having the corresponding lowercase letter.
These alphabet dinosaurs are a good way to introduce the alphabet and are easy to store and clean up.
#7. Touch and Feel: Dinosaur book
This touch-and-feel book features different exciting textures on every page, providing plenty of tactile learning for your child. This book doesn’t focus solely on touch, but also on sight and sound – dinosaur sounds, of course!
#8. Wooden Dinosaur Train Set with Numbers
This wooden dinosaur train set exposes your toddler to numbers as well as different types of dinosaurs. This toy will work on both fine and gross motor skill development as they attach one train car to another and then move them around the floor, strengthening your toddler’s patience, persistence, and perseverance.
For more toy recommendations, check out these best outdoor toys for 1 year olds and these toddler toys for girls. Or how about making a DIY sensory toy? This fun twist-tops board is great for fine motor practice and easy to make at home.
Whichever dinosaur sensory activity you choose, remember to have fun!
Sensory play itself is so enriching in early childhood, so don’t feel too much pressure to make it perfect. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be impactful. You and your child will have so much fun exploring any of these dinosaur sensory bin ideas. Fun and exploration are key.
So if you have other ideas along the way or think of other interesting materials to use, go ahead. Enjoy the experimental nature of this type of play with your toddler.
I hope you and your little dinosaur lover have a roarsome time!
If you love simple, minimal prep activities, be sure to check out these posts: