Keep kids busy for hours with this simple sensory bin! They will love pouring colored beans through the funnels and watching them come out the tubes below.
If you liked our PVC pipe sand and water table, you might enjoy this simpler option for indoors. We used PVC pipe that we had on hand to build a simple structure that sits inside one of the under-the-bed tubs that we bought for the sand and water table. After playing with the sand and water table all summer, I enjoyed setting up something a little different, and the kids actually enjoyed playing with it on the floor so that they could have a surface on which to put their cups and bowls that they filled with beans. They were pretending it was candy! 🙂
Another option is to just use the sand and water table indoors. It would work great indoors or out! Obviously, you may not want to use sand and water inside… just saying! 🙂 Beans, rice, pasta, dried corn, or small pebbles would be great sensory materials for indoors.
Here is what our PVC structure looks like:
We used 3/4 inch pipe to build this.
I dyed navy beans using Asia’s method over at Fun at Home with Kids. You can see instructions here: How to Dye Beans for Play and Art. It worked really well, and the beans are so pretty!
We did notice that the color rubs off slightly on finger tips after playing with the beans. It’s nothing that a hand washing won’t fix, but I wouldn’t play with these on white carpet. Our grubby IKEA rug was not harmed at all. The color will probably run if the beans get wet, so make sure that kids have dry hands. Still, I think that the fun colors are definitely worth a little bit of mess! The colors contributed quite a bit to the fun of the activity, as you’ll see below.
This tub has been played with for hours by my 7, 4,and 2 year olds. The pouring is very fun and the colorful beans are such a great sensory material! We have always had the policy that if you are just making a mess you are either too young to play or too uncooperative to play and your turn is done. For this, I was fine with beans out of the box as long as they stayed on the rug. The clean up has not been bad! One key thing is that I don’t get it out at times where we don’t have time to deal with picking up the beans.
Adapt the funnels to accommodate beans.
Note that I cut off the ends of the funnels (with a PVC pipe cutter) to allow the beans to fit through easily. Also, the funnels were too wobbly with the ends cut off, so I duct taped them to the PVC pipe which solved that problem nicely. Some of the photos were pre-taping.
Egg Carton Color Sorting
Another big hit was something that I tossed in there on a whim – egg cartons. They have had so much fun with the egg cartons! Jonathan and Owen have spent quite a bit of time on multiple different days sorting out a pile of beans by color using the egg carton sections. They like to pretend that the beans are different flavors of candy.
They consider this to be very important work, and it’s great fine motor practice too!
If you choose not to color the beans, another idea for sorting is to use different types of beans.
Rice is also fun to use with funnels like this! You can see how to color rice here: How to Make Dyed Rice.
More Play Ideas
An empty water bottle is perfect for filling with beans, and it’s also great for fine motor practice.
Janie and our babysitter had fun hiding a little toy penguin the bottle. They put the penguin in first and then filled the bottle with beans. Then it was fun to turn the bottle around and look for the penguin!
We also had fun with spoons, bowls, and little disposable storage cups with lids.
Have fun playing!
Be sure to check out our PVC pipe sand and water table also! I also have a post with fun sand and water table play ideas.
Rose Willard Sep 11, 2016
Hi there! I love this & am going to make this! Would you be able to give me the dimensions for this?
Kala Adams Sep 11, 2016
When I click on the link for making a water and sand table with pVC pipes it takes me to a page on colouring beans.
Sarah Sep 13, 2016
So sorry! I have fixed the link now.
Jane Sep 12, 2016
As a teacher who didn't want to be on the janitor's hit list, I put a plastic table cloth under things like this. Just gather up the corners and pour back into the tub.
Sarah Sep 13, 2016
That's a great idea! LOL about the janitor's hit list. :-) We are just using this in our home, but a plastic table cloth make clean up easier for sure!
Andrea Sep 14, 2016
Oh i went out shopping today, got everything to built the pipes EXCEPT those 'cross tee' parts 2x that is impossible to find in the UK (the four way bits that attaches to the funnels).
We checked in plumbing shops, Ebay, Amazon, tool shops, nowhere to be seen!
Where on Eart did you get yours?!? We need 21.5mm ones for our pipes...
Jaime Sep 20, 2016
Hi this looks so cool and my son would love is there any way you could give me either the size of the bin or demensions of the pvc pipe or both. Thanks so much!!!
Sylvia Makar Sep 28, 2016
Would you be able to give me the dimension, please. Thanks!
Sylvia Fisher Jan 6, 2017
Please send dimension for this. Would love to make this for our special needs class.
Didiana Jan 16, 2017
This idea is so cool! Would u be abl to sent me your dimension on the pipes?
Pat Hathaway Oct 2, 2018
Where do I get directions to make pipes?Thanks for sharing.
lee hyun ran Feb 23, 2017
Really great idea !!!
I wonder if the size of the transparent plastic basket
I wonder where I bought it.
Have a good time!!!!
Kelly Mar 14, 2017
Are the pieces that hold the funnels a 5-way connector?
Theresa Collier May 16, 2017
hi, I need the dimensions for this please!!! Thank you!!
Diane Oct 1, 2017
I love this. Do you have some dimensions you could send me.
Jackie Jan 28, 2018
Thank you for the funnel inspiration. My husband and I made one for our 29 month old grandson. He loves pouring and sorting all kinds of things. Holding a funnel for him was not working out at all. This is going to be great for him and me.
I can't wait for him to see it tomorrow. Thank you for sharing.
Susan May 21, 2018
Could you please send me a list of parts required, lengths of 3/4" pvc pipe that you used for your simplified indoor version? That would be SO helpful! thanks,
Rhonda Aug 18, 2018
Would love the dimensions for this please.
Tanya Parry Jun 25, 2020
what kind of beans did you use?
I colored rice yesterday and shane loved it.
Jessica Toney Mar 30, 2022
Can you update with a parts list for this? Would love to make it. Thank you
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