A Simple Cranberry and Orange Sensory Bin for Winter Themed Play

Winter is almost here, which means it’s time to embrace the season! Why not try some themed play with this simple cranberry and orange  sensory bin?

This activity is ideal for preschoolers as part of a dramatic play activity. It’s a fun way to practise speech and language, hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

Play is also a fantastic way for young children to make sense of the seasons. They can role play typical seasonal activities – such as making this cranberry and orange sensory bin.

a clear bowl filled with cranberry and orange sensory mix is held up to the camera

How to Make a Cranberry and Orange Sensory Bin

This cranberry and orange sensory bin is so easy to set up. I recommend that you use materials that you already have at home rather than go out and buy new items especially for play. This sensory bin was made using the leftover cranberries from our homemade cranberry sauce. After reading this post, you may wish to check out our other cranberry inspired play activity about naturally dyed cranberry playdough. 


  • Flisat table / plastic container
  • messy mat to catch spills – ours is from a company called ‘Tots Ahoy’ (via Amazon)
  • cloths/ towels
  • small bowls / containers
  • cranberries*
  • slice oranges**
  • water
  • orange food dye – optional
  • tongs
  • scoops
  • kitchen utensils

* Use cranberries under supervision as they can pose a choking hazard – you may wish to cut them in half as you would a grape. I wouldn’t recommend this activity for children who still mouth everything.

** The food we use in play tends to be the items that have gone over.

If you are uncomfortable using food for play, try red pompoms, orange food pouch lids or play food instead. Just be mindful of any choking hazards!


This cranberry and orange sensory bin really couldn’t be simpler to make – the key is in the presentation!

If you have a Flisat table, separate out the cranberry and orange sensory mix,  cups and tongs into separate trofast containers so that your child can see what is on offer.

Encourage them to use the tongs to scoop up the cranberries and orange – this is great for fine motor skills!

a blonde boy scoops cranberries and water into a small plastic container


To make this cranberry and orange sensory bin appealing to older children, add a mini chalkboard and chalk (or other writing materials). Invite them to take orders soup or juice orders from customers. Don’t worry about the writing being perfect – or even legible – what matters is the intention behind the mark making.

a 5 year old girl holds up a bowl of cranberry and orange soup

Age Recommendations

Due to the small items used in this cranberry and orange sensory bin, I recommend it for children aged 4 and above.

Always keep your child under close supervision when doing play activities and use your best judgement on what materials to use.

Educational Benefits

Here are some of the reasons why you should make this cranberry and orange sensory bin with your preschoolers.

Fine motor skills – using spoons, scoops and tongs

Making connections to the world – re-enacting familiar winter traditions

Crossing the midline – where the dominant hand crosses to the other side of the body

Speech and language – taking orders, role playing the waiter / customer

Pre-writing – writing down orders

an overhead view of the cranberry and orange sensory bin with a young child's hands reaching for the cranberries

Dealing with mess

Yes, this cranberry and orange sensory play can get messy but the more you expose your child to these activities, the easier it will become over time. I’ve been doing these activities with my children every week since they were tiny. I can now keep a sensory activity out all day (or even all week) and not have to worry about the play space descending into chaos – yes, really!

When you are first getting started with sensory play, it’s about practice. Sit with your child and model how to play and how to tidy up afterwards.

When it comes to mess during play, use your best judgement. There’s a difference between sensory resources getting on the carpet because of developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination and flinging it through the air or at a sibling!

On occasions, your child will try to test the boundaries around the amount of mess they can make during sensory play – this is entirely normal. Here are some example phrases to try when that does happen:

First remind your child of the boundaries: Remember we talked about keeping the water in the tray? You forgot whilst you were having fun – that’s okay as you are still learning but now I’m reminding you.

If your child still continues to make a mess: It looks like you are having a hard time keeping the water in the tray, let’s put away the tray and we can try again tomorrow – and yes, do follow through with this!

Remember, these phrases are for when your child is making a purposeful mess rather than making a mess due to those developing motor skills. However in both instances, the more exposure they have to sensory play the less messy they will become. This is always worth keeping in mind!

a blonde boy uses a toy saucepan to pour more water into the cranberry and orange sensory bin

More Sensory Play Activities

If you enjoyed this blog post on how to create a cranberry and orange sensory bin, you might also enjoy some of our other sensory play ideas too:

20 Simple Toddler Play Ideas for the IKEA Flisat Table 

5 Benefits of Sensory Play + How to Get Started 

10 sensory play ideas for Autumn 

Sunflower Sensory Play

How to make Lavender sensory rice 

How to make apple playdough + 15 ideas to try 

How to make cranberry and orange playdough

Simple Hot Chocolate Sensory Bin 

Do you need more help with sensory play?

Sensory play is more than just the activity itself. If you are worried about starting sensory play (or you hate it), I have just the course for you!

Head on over to my membership, ‘How I drink my Coffee Hot’, to access the mini course ‘Starting Sensory Play’.

Topics covered include:

  • The importance of Sensory Play
  • How to plan and prepare for sensory play
  • Do you need to use food in sensory play?
  • Essential sensory play resources
  • Simple Sensory play activities + 80 page guide



Sian Thomas
an image of This Playful Home founder, Sian Thomas. The photo includes a photo of her daughter when she was around 18 months old

I’m Siân (rhymes with yarn), a play advocate, proud parent to three, and former teacher. My mission is to infuse more joy and less overwhelm into the lives of parents. Discover play-based activities with me that not only make learning FUN but also forge deep connections with your young learners, creating memories to cherish forever.