Little kids love playing with snow and love, love, love sensory bins. So when winter comes and you just don’t have the time or energy to bundle them up and play with the real white stuff, having some fake snow sensory bins up your sleeve is a must.
Fake snow makes for an ideal filler for a winter or Christmas sensory bin. But it’s easy to make at home and is, err, fake so there’s no need to be limited by the season!
Use these fake snow sensory bins whenever your toddler or preschooler has the need to make a snowman, set up a wintery snow scene, Santas workshop or any of the other 101 dramatic play scenarios your child comes up with. Plenty of these fake snow sensory play ideas will be suitable for babies too.
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When should you start sensory bins & activities?
Sensory play for toddlers and preschoolers is imperative for child development, so the earlier you start sensory activities and bins the better. Infancy is a fine time to begin sensory play; toddlerhood is when you can begin to capitalize on your little ones growing curiosity and capabilities.
Sensory activities work on multiple areas, from fine motor skills, cognitive skills, e.g. problem-solving skills, cause and effect and observation skills. They’re also good for social interaction and relationship building, as young children act out play scenarios or play with little friends.
A sensory play activity can be fancy and detailed, or it can be as simple as providing a soft, baby-safe mirror for them to touch and look at. Providing new and interesting materials, such as fake snow, in a bin for your young child to play with provides another easy sensory activity.
How do you make fake snow for a sensory table or bin?
There are many different recipes for fake snow, and a lot of them use materials you probably already have in your pantry or bathroom cabinet. Baking soda combined with shaving cream or white hair conditioner is a popular 2-ingredient fake snow recipe. However there are plenty of other ways you can make fake snow, using flour, oil, salt, ice, coconut flour, polymer beads to name but a few.
Below you’ll find plenty of fake snow sensory bin ideas complete with the fake snow recipe.
How long does fake snow last?
There are many fake snow recipes that can be played with over and over, and last for several months if stored correctly. Normally that means removing any additions that have been added to the fake snow, such as toy characters and tools, and packing into an airtight container of some sort.
Of course, it will also depend on the ingredients used as well as how (and who!) it was played with. To increase the lifespan of fake snow, ensure little hands are clean before playing with it to avoid contamination.
How do you make fake snow with two ingredients?
Some of the best pretend snow recipes have two ingredients. By best, we’re talking fake snows that are close in texture, sponginess, consistency and moldability to real snow.
Popular 2-ingredient fake snow recipes use cornstarch, baking soda, shaving cream, hair conditioner, flour, oil, for example:
- Cornstarch & shaving cream
- Baking soda & shaving cream
- Conditioner & baking soda
- Conditioner & cornstarch
- Aloe vera gel & baking soda
- Flour & oil
Quantities of each are included in the “2-ingredient fake snow sensory bin ideas” below.
How to make fake snow without baking soda
Baking soda is often used in fake snow recipes but you can make it without as well. A popular 2-ingredient fake snow without baking soda is cornstarch and shaving cream, but you can also make fake snow with salt and water or the polymer beads from a diaper, mixed with water. Details below.
If your fake snow doesn’t need to resemble the real stuff that closely, i.e. it simply needs to be white and a little bit fluffy, try shaving cream, crushed ice, cooked or uncooked rice or even cotton balls. Although not as realistic, in dramatic play, anything goes! Young children have incredible imaginations so will be more than happy to pretend that cotton balls are snow balls.
Below you’ll find plenty of fake snow recipes without baking soda in the sensory play ideas below.
TWO-INGREDIENT fake snow sensory bins
If you want to make some fake snow close to the real thing in terms of sponginess and squishiness, with some ability to mold, two-ingredient fake snow recipes are the ones to try. Here are few different ways you can make snow with just two-ingredients, most of which you’ll likely to have at home already.
1. Cornstarch & shaving cream fake snow sensory bin
Mixed together in equal parts, cornstarch and the foamy pumped shaving cream makes for a cumbly soft fake snow.
Rainy Day Mum adds miniature houses, stickers to act as stamps and a toy character as the postman to the fake snow base to create an adorable jolly postman sensory bin, which pairs with the Jolly Christmas Postman book.
Toddlers and preschoolers alike will enjoy acting out the delivery of cards and holiday mail. My little ones are always fascinated by the postman – obviously at Christmas he, or she, has a very important role to play in ensuring those Christmas letters make it to Santa!
2. Baking soda & shaving cream fake snow sensory bin
For this fake snow sensory bin you need four pounds of baking soda with a half can of shaving cream. Freeze the baking soda for a few hours beforehand or overnight to make fake snow that’s ice-cold, just like the real thing! That’ll also add to the experience of this fake snow sensory bin.
Why not turn this into a literacy activity by adding clear glass pebbles with a letter written on each and creating a “Letters in the snow” sensory bin. Your toddler will enjoy digging around the snow, finding the stones and exploring the different letters. Help them sound out each one out.
Of course, they must just simply want to squish and mold that lovely fake snow!
3. Conditioner & baking soda snow sensory bin
This two-ingredient fake snow sensory bin uses 3 cups of baking soda and 0.5 cups of white conditioner to create a silky-soft snow that’ll smell good too. (Well, it’ll smell as good as your conditioner!)
However, the best part is that it’s ice cold when first made. Mixing the baking soda and conditioner starts an endothermic reaction, cooling it right down.
In addition, this fake snow has a similar sponginess to the real thing. My toddler and preschooler just loved this stuff, from squishing and squashing to squeezing and molding. The scent adds another sensory dimension to this fake snow sensory play.
For a Christmas-themed sensory bin, add Christmas decorations and characters to the fake snow base.
4. Aloe & baking soda fake snow sensory bin
Try making pretend snow with a 1/2 cup of aloe vera gel and 2 1/2 cups of baking soda.
Happy Toddler Playtime used this fake snow recipe to create an arctic sensory bin, complete with ice pool (a blue bowl plastic bowl). To this add arctic animal toys and character, such as TOOB brand animals, polar bear erasers, or arctic animal figurines and packing peanuts as big lumps of ice.
5. Conditioner & cornstarch fake snow sensory bin
Here’s another 2-ingredient fake snow recipe with conditioner, but this time it’s mixed with cornstarch. Combine 2 cups of cornstarch with 0.5 cups of conditioner. Add toys and characters and let your toddlers get stuck in.
6. Flour & oil fake snow
For a simple, taste-safe 2-ingredient fake snow, mix flour and oil in a ratio of 8 to 1. Any oil will do. This mixture is often called moon sand, moon dust or cloud dough – of course, if you’re going to create a Christmas tree sensory bin as above, with it, well then it’s fake snow!
7. Yogurt & flour fake snow sensory play
Yogurt mixed with flour makes for a sticky white fake snow that’s not particularly close to the real stuff at all – it’s pretty wet and goey! It’s certainly not a mess-free option but if you have a baby or toddler who loves messy sensory activities then why not. Just be prepared for a good clean up afterwards, or perhaps stick them straight in the bath.
The big benefit of sensory play with this fake snow is that it’s edible, ideal for babies and other little ones who put everything in their mouth.
8. Glitter & bubble foam fake snow sensory bin
Last but not least on the 2-ingredient fake snow list is this sparkly winter snow ensory bin. So far, this is the least like real snow as it’s watery, rather than spongy. But the sprinkle of glitter does add that bit of shimmer that you get on freshly fallen snow.
For this foamy fake snow sensory play, simply whisk up equal parts water and bubble bath. An electric whisk works best to create a really thick foam and is much quicker too. My older love the prep of this sensory play activity too. Playing with bubble foam is a great activity for preschoolers and toddlers for outdoors or inside and a favorite in our house.
For a winter, snowy sensory bin, add jingle bells and snowflakes, as pictured.
Other easy fake snow sensory play ideas
Here are some more recipes for fake snow sensory bin fillers that use more than 2 ingredients. In addition, there are some alternative ideas for fake snow sensory play.
9. Cornstarch, flour, vegetable oil snow dough sensory bin
Snow dough is fluffy, but also can be molded and shaped when desired, much like the real thing. This snow dough recipe from Wildflower Ramblings is made from 3 cups corn starch, 3 cups flour and 0.5 cups vegetable oil.
Use the snow dough to create the arctic sensory bin pictured. Add polar animals, white/blue gems or sequins and glitter to the fake snow base. Then add in an empty tray to act as an icy cold pool of water or another arctic feature.
Offer your child ice cube trays, in which they can pack the snow dough which will be just sticky enough to hold its shape and resemble ice blocks. A fun and easy fake snow sensory bin that’ll keep your toddler lost in an arctic wonderland for hours!
10. Potato starch, flour and coconut oil snow dough sensory
For an alternative to the above try this snow dough recipe from Steam Powered Family. Simply combine 0.5 cups potato starch and 0.5 cups flour, then add in 2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil for an incredible silky fake snow that’s taste-safe too.
Add in toys, mini Christmas trees, whatever else you desire to this easy fake snow sensory bin.
11. Fake snow sensory play with snowdough
Two Pink Peonies has their own take on snow dough, which is simply white playdough. It’s made from cornstarch and baby oil in a ratio of 3 to 1.
Unlike several play dough recipes, there’s no need to cook this. Simply mix the two together and you have yourself some lovely soft, pliable snow dough, perfect for fake snow sensory play of a different kind.
It has a much firmer consistency than the previous too snow doughs so can easily be molded into larger 3D objects, like the snowman pictured. Just add pipe cleaners and googly eyes. You could also find a strip of fabric to use as a scarf.
12. Fluffy snow slime sensory
This fun fluffy snow slime introduces a different and exciting texture for your child to investigate. To create snow slime, use ½ cup Elmer’s White Glue, 2 cups of shaving cream, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, and a ½ teaspoon of saline solution/contact solution (with boric acid.)
Start by adding the glue to a bowl, and then add in the shaving cream. Then mix in the cornstarch, then finally add the contact solution. The snow slime will feel less sticky the more contact solution that is added.
You can use this snow slime however you wish. Put it in a sensory bin with arctic animals or add it to a reusable plastic bag for a mess-free option.
Easy 1-INGREDIENT fake snow sensory play ideas
Here are some more options for fake snow sensory bins and activities. These are less realistic in texture and consistency but provide an alternative sensory experience that your baby, toddler or preschooler is sure to enjoy.
13. Crushed ice as fake snow
Whizz up ice cubes in the blender into it’s blitzed into ice crystals. It’ll look like a slushy. Then simply tip into a bin for your little one to explore. Add scoops, shovels and how about some mini dump trucks? They’re sure to enjoy shovelling, scooping and transporting the snow around the bin.
14. Baking soda (+ water) fake snow sensory play
The most popular fake snow recipes use baking soda with conditioner or shaving cream. But you can also make a fake snow sensory bin with baking soda alone, simply by adding water.
Start by storing your baking soda in the freezer for several hours. At the same time, put some water in the fridge with ice cubes added, so that’s icey cold. When you’re ready to start, add the ice-cold water to the baking soda, little by little until you have a snowy texture.
You’ll need around 4 tablespoons of water 2 cups of baking soda but it depends on the consistency you want. For a more moldable fake snow, add a little more water. Alternatively, add less water for a lighter, fluffier texture, more like freshly lain powdery snow.
15. Shaving cream sensory play
Shaving cream right out the can makes for a great sensory play whatever the season, so it’s ideal for a fake snow sensory bin. Add in some ice cubes for a contrasting texture and temperature. They’ll cool the shaving cream down and add an extra dimension to the play.
You could also freeze colored water in ice cube trays, (dye the water with water colors or tempera paint). As the colored ice blocks melt, the colors will mix into the shaving cream which toddlers and preschoolers ar sure to enjoy. Check out Learn Play Imagine’s frozen shaving cream sensory play to see how this turned out.
16. Salt (+ water) fake snow sensory bin
To make salt into something that resembles snow, the method is similar to the one above for baking soda. Add ice-cold water slowly and in very tiny quantities. Stir the salt as you add in the water. Use just enough to create a fluffy texture similar to snow. Too much water and the sale will simply dissolve, so go slow and steady.
17. Polymer beads (+ water) fake snow sensory bin
You’re probably wondering, where on earth you’re going to find polymer beads, but if you have a baby or toddler, they’re sure to be close by! Polymer beads expand when wet – they’re responsible for soaking up pee, in diapers.
This would be an interesting one to do with older toddlers and preschoolers who will love watching the beads grow and turn into fluffy white snow as they absorb the water! To remove the beads from the diaper, cut it open, remove the padding and gently and carefully shake the beads out.
This will not create a huge amount of fake snow and is not environmentally friendly by any means, since it wastes a clean diaper, but will be a fun sensory activity and experiment for young kids.
The fake snow can, however, be reused. Simply let the beads dry and shrink, then store them away for another time.
18. Cooked white rice fake snow sensory
This ones needs little explanation, only that stickier risotto type rices and rice that’s overcooked will make a more moldable fake snow.
19. Instant snow (+ water) sensory bin
So far, none of the fake snow sensory bin ideas require purchase of anything specific, until now. Here you need instant snow like this – which does exactly what it says on the tin (or bag) and makes fake snow in an instant, simply with the addition of water. You don’t even need to mix or stir it and you don’t need much to make a lot as it expands to 100x it’s size! So you can make up a huge batch of snow for a sensory bin in no time.
Fun with Mama uses instant snow to create the snow hunt sensory bin pictured. You’ll need arctic animal figurines as well as the free printable arctic animal pictures at the bottom of the tutorial. Place the printable at the bottom of the tray or bin and cover with the fake snow. Then have your child use a paintbrush to wipe the snow away, revealing the picture of each animal. Then, have them match the animal figurine to the picture.
NO-MESS fake snow sensory bin ideas
In these wintery, snowy sensory bins, the fake snow is not meant to replicate the real stuff, it’s simply a white sensory bin filler that can be used for easy winter sensory play.
20. Cotton ball snowy sensory bin
You can’t get much simpler than this fake snow sensory bin. No recipe needed… The fake snow is simply cotton balls. You could pull them apart a bit so they’re not as compact or leave them as is.
Add in some fun snowflake craft shapes and some toddler-friendly tools to create the winter sensory bin pictured. We have this fine motor tool set from Learning Resources set which includes a pipette, scoop, grabber (like the one pictured) and tweezers.
You could also add a cup or bowl into the sensory bin so your child can grab and scoop the cotton balls, sorry snow, with their tools, great for fine motor development.
As they engage with this sensory bin, they can count the snowballs, make miniature snowmen, whatever their heart desires!
21. Pasta-based fake snow sensory bin
Ok there’s not much resemblance to real snow in this winter sensory bin but isn’t it adorable? It’s based on the book, The Mitten by Jan Brett and uses pasta shells died blue as the main filler – aka the fake snow – though of course you could use them undyed, or use uncooked rice instead.
To this, add large pompoms or cotton balls, blue and white gems, foam or sparkly snowflakes, any other blue and white materials you have and, of course, a mitten.
Then, using the link above, print the printable, cut out animals from the story and add them to the bin. Read the book as your child explores. This sensory play activity allows your child to make connections from the story to the characters in the bin.
22. White sand snow sensory bin
Here, white sand is used to represent snow and blue gravel to represent ice. To create the winter wonderland snow sensory bin pictured, add mini trees, plastic trees and tools. You’ll likely find all of the materials at a craft or dollar store.
This fake snow sensory bin filler can be used time and time again. Simply store it away in a sealed container.
23. Snowy winter rice sensory bin
Living Life & Learning has a fun, engaging, and super easy fake snow sensory bin that uses white uncooked rice as the fake snow base. Add snowflake ornaments and cookie cutters, blue and white pom poms, and measuring cups or any other tools you have on hand. But don’t go overboard – less if often more, especially with younger toddlers.
A smaller amount of materials can hold their focus for longer, as children can become easily overwhelmed or overstimulated. This bin is perfect for a simplified approach to a winter sensory bin.
It’ll also be dead easy to prep and pack up afterwards. Keep the rice in a ziplock or other container and whip it out for future fake snow sensory play.
24. Shaving cream fake snow sensory bag
Sensory bags are a no-mess way to explore various materials and engage in sensory play without having an involved clean-up process. They can also be reused multiple times.
To create a fake snow sensory bag, simply fill a ziplock with shaving cream for some fun fake snow sensory play. The bag will create quite a different experience – bonus, your child will not need a wipe-down either!
Add black buttons and an orange felt triangle to create a melted snowman winter sensory bag. Babies and toddlers will enjoy squishing and moving the bag’s contents around in attempting to make the snowman’s face.
Pair it with the sweet classic book, The Snowman, to extend learning and interaction.
25. White shredded paper
Shredded paper can keep babies and young toddlers entertained for hours! You may find it all over the floor but it’s easy to clean up and as long as they’re having fun (and letting me get on with other jobs) I’m all for it. Add toy characters or Christmas tree ornaments to create a festive snowy Winter sensory bin, or leave as it.
FAQS on fake snow sensory play
How to make snow with salt
To make fake snow with salt, add small amounts of cold water to a big bowl of salt. Stir the salt as you add the water, adding it until you get a good snowy texture. Be careful not to add too much water, as the salt will simply dissolve in it.
How to make fake snow with cornstarch
There are two ways to make fake snow with cornstarch. You can mix it with an equal quantity of shaving cream or try it mixed with conditioner. For the latter, use 2 cups cornstarch with 1/4 cup conditioner.
Can you use baby powder to make fake snow?
Baby powder is very fine and can go up in clouds when shaken out of the bottle or if played with vigorously by a toddler! Great fun, but messy to clean up. It may also make your child cough and splutter if they breathe it in, not ideal either.
However, the bigger issue is safety. Baby powders have historically been made from talc, hence the name “talcum powder”. However, talc-based baby powders may contain asbestos, which is carcinogenic.
As long as you use baby powder free from talc, it’s safe to use as fake snow. There are plenty now that are cornstarch-based.
Ready to make up a fake snow sensory bin for your toddler?
Whether you’re trying to match the lovely texture of real snow exactly or not, hopefully you’re now armed with plenty of ideas, methods and recipes for fake snow sensory play. Then you can add toys, gems, sequins, ice cubes to make one of the fun winter sensory bins described.
Let me know which one you try!
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