Valentine sensory tub

Here’s how to make a Valentine sensory tub, using things you have around the house, in four simple steps :: giving lots of opportunity for sensory play, maths and imaginary play.

Valentine sensory tub for babies and toddlers, in four easy steps, using things you already have. Fun, simple play. | NurtureStore

 How to make a Valentine sensory tub

A sensory tub offers children a invitation to dig in and explore colours, textures, smells and sound. They can be a spark to start imaginary play, to use lots of language, and to have fun with maths.

For our Valentine-themed sensory tub, I started out filling a container with some rice. We often use this plastic under-the-bed storage box for our sensory play, as it’s good size to hold a variety of materials, and shallow enough so the children can reach right in and explore.

The filling is uncooked rice, dyed red and pink. {Go here to see how to dye rice – it’s very easy!} When we’ve finished playing, I store the rice away in a tub with a tight lid, and it lasts for months, if not years, for lots more play.

dyed rice red pink sensory playThen I started to add some interesting extras. These heart are just pieces of card, decorated with different patterns, textured paper and glitter glue. I added some shiny gift-wrap bows too. Fun treasure to hunt for!

texture hearts sensory tub ingredients

We can easily introduce some maths by including items that are different shapes and sizes. These heart cookie cutters are perfect. You don’t need to ‘teach’ the shape, colour, size, volume, area, pattern concepts here – just let your children play, and they will discover things for themselves.

heart cookies cutters

And then I popped in some things from the kitchen: bowls, pots and spoons. This offers opportunities for scooping, filling and pouring, which are great for hand-eye co-ordination. And they’re a little invitation into some imaginary play.

sensory tub ingredients

Then it’s over to the children. There’s no right or wrong way to play with a sensory tub really, it’s all about exploring.

What about throwing?

I often get asked about what to do when children start to throw the contents of the tub all over the floor. What do you do if this happens?

With lots of interesting things to try out in a tub like this, I find children engage quickly with the materials, and aren’t focused on throwing the contents. But if they do, you might try modelling a better way to play, sitting along side and serving up a rice cake! You might put the tub away for a while if your child really isn’t interested – it will keep for a later play time – and go off and find an alternative where they can do some throwing – like making balls out of bundled-up socks and trying some target practice against a wall. Quite possibly the throwing has nothing to do with boredom or ‘naughtiness’, just a genuine interest with the movement, feel and fun of throwing. So, follow your child’s lead and help them find a good way to explore it.

what to put in a sensory tub

More Valentine recipes and activities

Click through to see our complete resource for all things Valentine: art, craft, math and literacy activities, sensory and imaginary play – and download our free, colourful printable of alphabet hearts.

A complete resource of Valentine crafts and activities :: math, science, language, art, craft, play, sensory, recipes


  1. Donna Depner says

    Looking forward to trying this. I always enjoy helping little ones explore and learn new things! Thanks for great idea.

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