Musical Sensory Bins

Learning Areas:

  • Music
  • Science


What is this activity?

ECSEL Standards

What skills are being enhanced? What knowledge is gained?


What do you need to prepare for this activity?


Step by step guide

ECSEL Prompts

What questions can you ask to promote ECSEL thinking and discussions?

Extended Learning

How can you extend children’s thinking?


Explore different types of musical instruments and sounds in this musical sensory bin activity.

ECSEL Standards & Learning Goals

What skills are being enhanced & what knowledge is being gained through this activity?

Emotional Identification

Children will begin to recognize and identify the four basic emotions (happy, sad, angry, and scared) related to music and sensory exploration.

Emotional Understanding

Children will begin to understand the differences between the four basic emotions with the modeling and guidance of teachers.

Cause & Effect

Children will learn simple causes for each of the four basic emotions related to music and sensory exploration with teacher guidance.

Empathy & Prosocial Skills

Children will work collaboratively and share materials to explore music using their senses.

Problem Solving

Children will use their problem solving skills to navigate the musical sensory bins and explore the sounds that different materials make.

CASEL Standards

Self-Awareness, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, Responsible Decision-Making


  • Sensory bins or tables (enough to fit small groups of children at each bin/table
  • Different types of shakers
  • Age-appropriate bells (or bags of bells)
  • Other materials that may make sounds (e.g., Ziploc bags of dried beans, rubber bands across a recycled container, etc.)
  • Device for playing music


  1. Prepare for this activity by collecting all necessary materials for the sensory bins. Get creative! There are so many classroom materials that can be experimented with to make sound. Ensure that all materials in the sensory bin are age-appropriate and are not a choking hazard for children.
  2. Set up each sensory bin/table in preparation for the activity by placing a selection of the materials collected inside.
  3. Introduce this activity at circle time by sharing that the class will be exploring different musical sounds.
  4. On your classroom music device, play different types of sounds including shakers, bells, other percussive instruments, and handmade instruments.
  5. Connect each sound to the four basic emotions (e.g., the sound of the bells makes me feel happy).
  6. Next, divide children into small groups and guide them each to a sensory bin/table.
  7. Encourage them to explore the bin/table’s contents.
  8. As children explore, identify any emotions that arise and provide simple examples of causes related to their musical exploration. Praise children’s problem solving skills, sharing, and collaboration as they work.

ECSEL Prompts

ECSEL Prompts are helpful questions & guiding statements you can use to provoke children’s thinking about emotions. These prompts are related to this specific activity.

I see a smile on your face. Are you happy?

I see a few friends want to use the shaker. Can we set a timer or share?

Are you feeling happy because you like the sounds?

How can you make sound with the rubber bands?

I see some children are sad and others are angry. You might be sad because you want to play with an instrument a friend is using. You might be angry because you don’t want to explore music anymore.

Extended Learning

Use these questions & ideas to extend children’s learning!

Extend this activity by meeting back at circle time with one of the sensory bins at the center of the circle. Go through each material inside the bin and connect each sound to our four basic emotions once again. Provide simple causes for each feeling connected to the sounds.

Use the sounds to introduce new feelings such as excitement. Explain this feeling by saying “When I’m feeling really, really happy it’s called feeling excited. When I’m excited I laugh or cheer.” 

Toddler – Musical Sensory Bins


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