Treasure Chest Sensory Bin

Oh Arrrr me hearties! Today we have a fantastically sensory based treasure chest for your little pirates. Using items you have lying around the house, in your dress up boxes or toy cupboards, anything that could be used to fill up your very own personalized chest of loot for your children! Simply gather them together with your water beads and you have yourself an easy sensory activity. We guarantee you won’t be able to stop yourselves from sticking your own arms into the looted treasure chest.

So let’s hop to it!

What you will need:

  • A box / ice chest / large plastic bin
  • Water beads
  • Water
  • Treasure! Such as: play coins, costume jewellery, crowns, gems, telescope, eye patch, hook, bracelets, pirate map, compass
  • Camera and printer (optional!)
  • Pirate dressing up costumes (optional)


  1. The night before you want to do this activity place your water beads in water and allow to expand for 12 hours (overnight). They should double or triple in size depending on which brand and type you buy. Make sure to follow the instructions on your water bead bottle as they may vary. The more space and water you give them the bigger they will grow and the bigger they are the more fun you’ll have playing with them.
  2. Once they are full size transfer them to whatever you are using to represent the treasure box. Try and dry the water beads off as much as you can before putting them in your treasure box. Careful, water beads are very bouncy!
  3. Lay out all your treasure that you have collected to stand for the loot and take a photo. Print it out or just leave it on a screen for your children to see. If you have printed it out, draw tick boxes next to all the items so that they can tick them off as they find them. If you haven’t printed them, write out the items that need to be found with tick boxes so that they can still tick them once found.
  4. Now place all your loot into your treasure chest and mix them all up.
  5. If you have pirate dressing up clothes lay them all out by the treasure chest. If you have printed out all the treasure place it by the chest with a pen. If not then you can show your child the image on your camera, or failing that simply just allow them to explore.

By laying everything out, you are creating an invitation to play. We have created a theme, they are getting into a character and can now create a story of how they found a treasure chest and what they will find inside.

Get your mini pirate to get exploring the treasure!

Never leave your children unattended with water beads. They are a choking hazard and if ingested will expand in their stomachs. If you have pets be mindful they don’t swallow or eat any also.

TIP: Want to add a bit more fun to this sensory bin if you have slightly older children? Why not blind fold them and see if they can guess what they are finding in the treasure chest.

Treasure Chest Sensory Bin

Alternative to water beads

If you don’t have water beads or don’t want your children playing with them why not try using rice instead? Alongside our large Treasure Chest Sensory Bin we created a smaller treasure chest with ‘pearls’ and shells to be fished out. We filled it with coloured rice, varying sizes of white pom poms and little shells. We then put some scoop pinchers to be used to get them out.

A few questions to ask you children during play

What can you see?
How does it feel?
Can you think of some words to describe what you are feeling?

What, Why, How Sensory Play

What is sensory play?
Anything that gets your child to use and stimulate their senses (sight, hearing, small, taste and touch).

Why introduce sensory play to your child?

It is an inexpensive and easy way for your child to develop their sensory needs through imaginations, exploration, creating, developing their language, fine motor skills, social development and much more.

Many will find their very active, never-sit-still child may spend twice as long playing with sensory activities than normal ones. This means it is filling a developmental space that was missing that day. Sensory bottles for example are often referred to as calm down bottles. Being used by children who need the space to readjust and realign their emotions when everything is getting too much. Using glitter in them children will sit entranced watching as it moves. This is similar to how we as adults may feel when we gaze into a fire. That moment of mesmerising stillness, when you are physically still, watching something else that is not. It brings you to the present and quietens the mind.

How do I make a sensory bin?

While sensory bottles encourage visual stillness, sensory bins are made for touching! The sheer variation to them are limitless. As well as touch you can even add smell and taste if you wished too.

The reason these bins have become so popular in recent years is that they are also inexpensive to make. You can use so many different types of items from your kitchen alone – rice, pasta, flour, oats, pulses you name it. Create a theme and then get thinking.

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