How to Make a Fun Busy Boats Sensory Bin with Water Beads

Do your kids love boats and water play?

Are you looking for a cute boat sensory bin idea for the summer?

This perfectly fun boat sensory bin based on the book Busy Boats will entertain your ocean loving kiddo for hours!

If you have a little one who loves boats, this is the perfect activity to do at home or in a preschool setting.

Combining one of our favourite books about boats with a fun water bead filled activity bin EQUALS hours of fun sensory play!

Read on to find out how to put it together.

All About Busy Boats

Busy Boats is such a fun book for kids!

Part of the Amazing Machines series, Busy Boats is all about different types of boat: sail boats, row boats, ferry boats, speedboats.

The perfect book for any boat loving kid!

Kids age 2+ will love to find them all and discover how the types of boat work and what they do in this fun-filled picture book.

Take a cruise on an ocean liner, crewed adorable animal characters, in a jolly rhyming journey.

Then make a sensory bin filled with fun boats for your little one to play with.

What Is a Sensory Bin?

Sensory bins are a great way to engage children in hands-on play.

And there are so many different ways you can fill them and make them unique.

Water themed bins are especially fun because they're perfect for imaginary play, either with boats or other ocean-themed toys.

Boat Sensory Bin Fillers

There are lots of things you can use to fill your ocean or boat themed sensory bin if you don't like to use water beads.

Some other great fillers for a water themed bin are:
  • Blue rice
  • Ocean animal toys
  • Shells
  • Small boats
  • Fish nets
  • Plastic fish

To start, you'll need a large storage bin or container for your sensory bin filler, boats and other supplies.

We used a clear plastic bin so that our little one could see all of the different elements inside.

Next, it's time to start adding in the components for your sensory bin.

How to Make a Sensory Bin

Putting together a sensory bin is easy.

Simply fill the bottom of your bin with your filler, then add in any additional decorations and play pieces.

If you're using water beads, be sure to hydrate them before adding your other materials.

You can see full details on this below.

Water beads are made from polymers, not plastic, so they can be used in your plant pots after use or disposed of in your trash where they will biodegrade.

You could add some water to your sensory bin too, although we didn't since we were playing indoors. 

But you could always move the bin to the porch, patio or garden if your child likes water play.

When the bin is ready for play, hand over the bin and let your child explore it on their own.

This lets them set their own pace with the sensory experience and really engage all of their senses in a way that is fun for them.

And if they ever get tired of the boat sensory bin, simply set the boats aside and mix it up with a different filler.

E.g. the next theme that goes with your child's studies or favourite type of animal etc.

How to Make a Busy Boats Sensory Bin


You will need:


1. Follow the directions on the package to prepare your water beads.

Depending on what type of beads you have, they can take up to 24 hourds to reach their full size.

For our beads listed above, we added 1 tbsp to ½ gallon of water and waited 8 hours before use.

(Yields 8 cups once fully grown.) 

2. When the water beads are fully grown, add them to a sensory bin or large deep tray. 

3. Place the toy boats inside the sensory tray.

The sensory bin is ready for play time!

Sensory Bin Play Ideas

If you want to extend this activity, the ideas are endless.

We try to include a sensory play activity in each of our homeschool themes.

This watery sensory bin would be ideal for a boats theme, transportation topic or ocean theme.

A few of our favourite things to do around when we plan to use the boat sensory bin are:

1. Read the book Busy Boats

You can see it in this YouTube video.

As I said above, we love this book so much!

It's great for young learners to talk about what boats are, how they move, and to learn about different types of boats and more.

2. Tell boat stories

A fun story telling activity starts with the sentence, “Once upon a time there was a boat…” 

Then each player adds in some new details about the boat, its shape, purpose or crew.

3. Learn a new song about boats

You probably know Row, Row, Row Your Boat already, but do you know all the different verses and versions, plus the actions that go with them?

Little ones love this song, especially when it involves lions roraing and pirates raahr-ing!

4. Learn about different boats

Print out some pictures of different boats from around the world.

Do you knwo your dhow from your coracle?

Talk about the different designs of boat you see and what different types of boats are used for around the world.

5. Make some boats

Make your own boat crafts or make boats from aluminium foil and float them on a nearby stream or pond, or even in your paddling pool in the garden.

We have a fun curated collection of different boat crafts for kids too!

This Busy Boats sensory play bin is a great way to engage your child in hands-on, imaginative play. 

And it's also a perfect activity for summertime!

More sensory bin ideas:

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