Transportation Sorting Sensory Bins for Fun Imaginative Play

Want to get those little hand muscles working? Get your kids to sort things! Sorting is a great fine motor practice to get them ready for writing. It is also one of the essential math concepts that helps kids with brain development.

Textures make this a sensory experience perfect for young kids. This Transportation Sorting Sensory Bins activity does just that, and it’s a great activity to add excitement to your kindergarten classrooms! Plus, it’s a great way to engage curious toddlers and keep them occupied.

A collage of the transportations sensory bins in action.

We developed the Transportation Sorting Sensory Bins activity for classroom teachers to help kids with their fine motor skills, learn about different modes of transportation and have fun with different textures. 

This transportation-themed sensory bin is perfect for pretend play. It’s an open-ended activity that offers a lot of fun because you can do so many things with this one sensory bin.

Aside from sorting and textures, a fun way to play is to let the kids push the vehicles into the different materials and see how far they can go. It’s best for older kids, especially those crazy about racing and other transportation activities.

Check out our Transportation Sorting Sensory Bins below!

Transportation Sorting Sensory Bins for Fun Imaginative Play

The benefits of sensory bins are plenty. Using them is multi-sensory play that helps kids do the following: 

  • identify bright colors
  • develops early math skills,
  • determine the feel of different objects, 
  • allow them to compare sizes, 
  • encourage hand-eye coordination, 
  • boosts critical thinking
  • encourage socialization
  • allows them to learn transportation vocabulary words,
  • help them express their thoughts about different vehicles,
  • and, of course, add much fun to playtime!
A circular bin with three smaller, wedge shaped bins filled with  sand, cotton and water. The rest of the large bin is filled with transportation vehicles.

Small objects are perfect fine motor tools to get those little hands gripping! For this transportation sensory bin, you can have different versions of games that you can tweak to suit different ages. 

A special educator will find this activity perfect for introducing textures. They can tell about the vehicles’ color names, explore the feel of water, sand and cotton balls, and familiarize themselves with other kids.

Child playing with an airplane in the sensory bin

Transportation Sorting Sensory Bins Setup

Setting up this sensory bin activity is as easy as 1, 2, 3! You’ll only need a few household items as well as toy vehicles. The best part? Hours and hours of endless fun at low to no additional cost!


You will need:

  • Three bins (any size will do, but a larger container will be better). Here we used a big round bin and three pie-sections that fit inside the bin.
  • sand (for the “land” section
  • cotton balls (for the “sky” section)
  • water (for the “water” section)
  • blue food coloring (optional)
  • Toy vehicles represent land, water, and sky transportation (toy cars, trucks, boats, ships, airplanes, helicopters, etc.)


1. Get bins that can fit the toy vehicles well. 

2. Add a layer of sand to the first bin to represent the “Land” environment.

Filling the wedge-shaped compartment with sand.

3. On the next bin, add cotton balls for the “Sky”.

Wedge containers filled with sand and cotton balls, inside a shallow circular bin.

4. Add some water to the third bin for the “Water” environment. You may add a drop or two of blue food coloring to the water.

5. Gather the toy vehicles. Explain to the kids that some vehicles go on land, some are for water transportation, and some are for sky transportation. 

A circular bin with three wedge-shaped containers filled with sand, cotton and water, and assorted transportation vehicles.

6. Let the learners explore and sort the vehicles according to the environments. Encourage them to make the vehicles “run” (e.g., put the boat in the water and the plane in the clouds).

7. You can also discuss the functions of these vehicles. For example, what do airplanes do in the sky?

A kid  playing with the transportation sensory bins.

Recommended Activities for the Transportation Sorting Sensory Bins

We’ve mentioned earlier that this Transportation Sorting Sensory Bins activity is an open-ended sensory play that you can modify to fit your learners’ needs. We suggest the following simple, fun activities.

transportation sensory bin with all the vehicles
  1. Vehicle racing relay
  • Prepare three rectangular bins for each group of learners (one for land, one for water, and one for sky)
  • Fill one bin with sand, another with water, and the third with cotton balls. Ensure that each container has enough material to accommodate the toy vehicles.
  • Gather the toys and place them at the starting point of each environment.
  • Divide the participants into two teams. Assign each team member to a specific bin (land, water and sky).
  • Explain that the goal is to race the toy vehicles through the sensory bins as quickly as possible.
  • Once the signal is given, “Land” players will push the land vehicles towards the finish line. Then, they will tap the “Water” player.
  • The “Water” player will float their boats/ships in the starting line and blow on their vehicles. Then, they will tap the “Sky” players once they reach the other side of the bin.
  • The “Sky” player will run their vehicle through the cotton balls or pom poms.
  • The first group to finish will win!
child hands playing with vehicles in the sensory bin

2. Car Wash Sensory Bin

  • First, dip all the vehicles in the water.
  • Next, toss them into the plastic bin with sand.
  • Use pipe cleaners to brush off the remaining sand on the vehicles.
  • Lastly, dry the vehicles on the plastic bin with cotton balls.
  • This sensory activity is perfect for younger children and may be done as a group activity.
child playing with a boat in a transportation sensory bin

3. Beach/River Sensory Bin

  • You will need a more significant bin for this activity. 
  • Fill the bin with the water.
  • Next, add sand.
  • The, encourage the kids to make a sand bar by scooping some sand to one side of the bin.
  • Park the sky and land vehicles in the sand bar, and let the water vehicles float on the water.
  • Provide craft sticks/popsicle sticks and other sensory bin fillers (such as dry black beans or yellow straws) for lots of fun.
  • Encourage the learners to talk about their creations.

Check out this Ocean Sensory Bin here!

4. Storytelling Activity

One of the sensory play ideas we recommend for young children is a storytelling activity! It’s a great idea to jumpstart kid’s creativity. They’ll have a great time telling stories about travel and adventure as they let each vehicle pass through the land, water and air sensory material. This improves kids’ social skills, too!

vehicle themed sensory bin

5. Construction Activity

This works best if you have construction vehicles among the transportation toys. Let the kids play with the water, sand and cotton balls to create their construction site. You get bonus points if you have a dump truck that empties like the real one. It’s going to be messy but fun.

6. Sink or Float

A toy boat floating in the water sensory bin.

Let the kids test the vehicles’ buoyancy by letting them float in the water and adding sand or wet cotton balls to see how long they can float with the additional load.

These sensory activities allow for fun, imaginative play that will keep your kids occupied! It’s also easy to tweak and become season-themed activities by adding other fillers like fake snow for a winter activity, bubbles for summer, and or toy leaves, flowers, and acorns for spring/autumn.

FAQs About the Vehicle Sorting Sensory Bins for Fun Imaginative Play

Q: Why is sorting essential for children’s development?

A: Sorting introduces foundational math concepts. It prepares kids for future learning while engaging them in a fun, hands-on experience.

Q: How does learning about textures help my child?

A: Letting kids explore different textures enhances their tactile sensitivity and tolerance. This way, they’ll know how to react to new things. 

child playing and exploring the vehicle sensory bin

Q: Can I customize the sensory tub with different materials?

A: Absolutely! Tailor the bins with alternatives like pasta or foam shapes to suit your child’s preferences. Keep it low-prep and fun by adding other easy-to-find items like shaving cream and other small toys. Also, you can use different fun colors for the water, clouds, and colored sand to make it more interesting. 

Q: Are these activities suitable for early childhood/young toddlers?

A: It works with younger and older kids! Start with simple exploration for toddlers and preschoolers. Older ones can delve into complex storytelling and sorting adventures.

Q: How can I make the activity more educational?

A: Incorporate learning concepts like counting, basic math, and literacy. For example, add sand in different colors or throw in letter beads for letter recognition. 

Q: How can I encourage more creativity during sensory play?

A: Foster creativity by letting kids explore freely. Ask open-ended questions, encourage imaginative storytelling, and suggest alternative ways to use the materials. This turns the activity into a dynamic, creative play session.

child playing with water vehicles in the transportation sensory bin play

The Transportation Sorting Sensory Bins for Fun Imaginative Play is an excellent resource for teachers and preschool families. It’s great for tactile and cognitive development, entertains kids for a long time, and works with various lesson plan sets. 

It’s easy to customize and turn into themed activities. Once, we did a Christmas sensory bin using more or less the same materials, with the addition of fake snow! We also upgraded our setup to a sensory table using a big rectangular bin.

We recommend adult supervision with sensory bins like this one, especially with younger kids. Small toys can be enticing to put in the mouth, and the water can make things extra slippery. 

Again, this transportation-themed sorting activity is an easy way to introduce learning opportunities. Even kids from different age groups get engaged with this sensory play activity.

Have fun with this Transportation Sorting Sensory Bin!

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