Dinosaur Dig Sensory Bin (and Birthday Party Giveaway)

Dinosaur dig sensory bin and birthday party giveaway favor - paleontology excavation - moon sand recipe - dino fossils - real gemstones and seashells - sensory processing disorder - adhd - play - imagination

My son’s birthday party is coming up and the theme he chose is dinosaurs.  In preparation for party game prizes I typically head for coloring books and cheapo novelty toys, but this year’s theme took me in a different direction.  As I was brainstorming activities, I wondered if the kids could “excavate” some cool prizes while unearthing pretend fossils.  After some digging (pardon the pun) I figured the best way to pull this off was to use an item I keep seeing on Pinterest:  sensory bins.

I hadn’t ever seen sensory bins until I started maintaining my own Pinterest blog account.  Once I started following certain groups they were consistently in my feed.

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What are sensory bins?

These are a simple concept – parents fill a bin based on any theme (ex’s: jungle, forest, desert, space, under water…dinosaur…). They use textured objects (rice, beans, sticks, rocks, glitter, leaves, pebbles, sand…moon sand…) and can add small toys to match the theme.  But why?  Suzy Homeschooler does a fantastic job of explaining how sensory bins benefit kids in her article, What is the Point of a Sensory Bin?  In it she explains how self-directed play is essential for learning, yet kids these days have less time to do it.  Not only that, but when they do get a chance to play, a lot of today’s toys TELL them what to do!

Sensory bins are very basic, they don’t tell kids what to do, and they allow kids to use their imagination as God intended :-). What’s more is that these bins can have therapeutic qualities for some children, like those with Sensory Processing Disorder, which is often misdiagnosed as ADHD. No matter what condition your child may or may not have, sensory bins offer much-needed tactile sensation and mess-free self directed play time for kids.

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After researching previous iterations of the sensory bin (you can see a pin trail on my profile), I concocted a bin using:

Once the paleontology activity is over, the kids can use the sensory bins however they want.  The moon sand alone gives them plenty of opportunity for self-directed play. You could certainly use this idea to make just one bin and/or swap out some of the items depending on your personal taste.  Since I’m planning a party, quantities and pricing for 12 are below.  Check out the price tag…


  • Clear inexpensive bins (5.7 liter): ~$1.25 each x 12 = $15 (they don’t have to be air tight because moon sand doesn’t dry out)
  • Sand: $4 for one 14 liter bag (provides 59+ cups)
  • Cornstarch: $1/16 oz (2 cup) box x 12 = $12
  • Ultra fine glitter: $10/108 grams (two 6-packs, or whatever you find!)
  • Dino “fossils”: $11 + shipping for set of 12
  • Seashells: $4/small bag
  • REAL GEMS: $6.50+shipping/50+ carats assortment, quantities vary (I lucked out and received 37 gems, just enough for 3 gems/kid)
  • Small river stones: $3/3lb bag x 3 = $9
  • Plastic spoons: $2.50/24-pack
  • Kids’ pony brushes: $2/12 pack

Total before shipping and tax: $76

Total per kid (before shipping and tax) = $6.34

Not too shabby!  A lot of parents spend that much in kid prizes AND rent a bouncy house, so I’m feeling pretty good about my giveaway/party activity combo :-).  (One of these years I am going to spring for that bouncy house though!!  It can be a cost-effective option, darnit!!)

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  1. Make the moon sand by mixing 4 cups of sand with one 16oz package of cornstarch, 1 cup of water and 1 tube of glitter in each bin
  2. Evenly divide the fossils, seashells and gems, then bury them in the middle of each bin, gently packing the moon sand down to create a smooth, even surface
  3. Divide the river stones and distribute evenly in each bin, sprinkling them on the top of the “dig sites” 🙂
  4. Provide party-goers with plastic spoon shovels and brushes for excavation

Dinosaur dig sensory bin and birthday party giveaway favor supplies and directions - paleontology excavation - moon sand recipe - dino fossils - real gemstones and seashells - sensory processing disorder - adhd - play - imagination

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Tips / ideas / thoughts…

When you use up your glitter tubes, don’t throw them away.  They make good containers for your guests to store and take home their gemstones.

I wish I would have known about the sensory bins and inexpensive real gems when my son turned 6 and had a pirate party.  Imagine finding these in a pirate-themed sensory bin with a big X to mark the spot!  The gems are certainly not the highest quality.  When I look at them I imagine that they are the practice gems that get thrown out in gem-cutting school :-).  But they are pretty awesome for kids.

We had a very nice time crafting the bins together.  It took a couple hours, so I was surprised at how long he was able to stick with it.  Maybe the sensory bin is all it’s cracked up to be!  At one point he even told me he never wanted to stop making them!! 🙂

For information on sensory products and ideas that may benefit your child, visit Ark Therapeutic on their website and/or Pinterest page.

Mold – heads up – test trials show that these bins may mold if they are left closed for a week or so :-|.  If you make these bins ahead of time for a party keep that in mind, and air the bins out every once in a while in the meantime if possible.  Even if the moon sand dries out (it’s not supposed to) the dry sand will still allow for a fun dino dig activity.

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Party results

09-14.2014 – The birthday party has come and gone and the bins were a big hit.  The idea of digging for little treasures really struck a chord with the kiddos and they remained interested in the activity longer than expected – so long that I had to encourage them to move on to the next activity (just to keep the party on schedule).  Once they realized they could take their bins home they were fine with this.  The excavation was executed paleontologist-style under a tent.  To see pictures of the activity and more ideas from the party, click here.

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Follow me on Pinterest!  ADHD Natural Mamma


9 thoughts on “Dinosaur Dig Sensory Bin (and Birthday Party Giveaway)

    1. It is sandbox sand from the local hardware store. If you are looking for sand in the off-season the next best thing is art sand from the craft store (which also comes in fun colors), but that is more expensive and less advantageous for bulk projects. Regular sand might work but I have never tried it, I think it sort of depends on how fine the grain is so the cornstarch can blend into it nicely.

  1. Thank you for a great idea! We tried this for a dinosaur party for 3 to 7-year-olds and it was a huge hit!! Something went awry with my Amazon order for the Dino skeletons you showed 😦 so I had to substitute with a bucket of regular dinosaurs from Walmart but the kids loved it anyway. Moon sand recipe worked great.

  2. I love this idea. I would really like to do these for my sons birthday giveaways. Way better then candy!!! I searched on amazon for the fossils and they have a couple of different sizes. I’m wondering if you would recommend the 4inch or 5-6 inch?

    1. Thanks!! I purchased a 6-7″ version of the fossils because I figured my son would like playing with that size after the party. I think you’d be fine with either size you choose though, because from what I saw, the kids just love the digging part. In a sense smaller might be better because then you can add in all sorts of other treasures to dig up :-).

  3. Love this idea! If I don’t get it done for my son’s birthday this weekend, there’s always my daughter’s mermaids party in a couple months! 🙂

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