Sensory bins are quite possibly the perfect activity for toddlers and preschoolers! You can cram soooooo much learning into one little (or big) sensory box. It helps to have a wealth of different ideas in your back pocket so you can keep learning interesting and varied for preschoolers. Add these dyed seashells to a beach sensory bin for summer and let the learning continue!

DIY Dyed Seashells

Summer Sensory Bin Ideas for Preschoolers Using Dyed Seashells is a craft project that transforms into sensory learning when placed into a bin with sand and other “beachy” items. If you’ve never dyed seashells before, think Easter eggs minus the eggs! All you need is some food coloring and vinegar to create a rainbow of appealing seashells.

Benefits of Sensory Bins

Sensory bin activities for preschoolers are a must-have component in every preschool lesson plan. It is a natural way to allow young kids to explore and learn about the world around them by manipulating objects.

Summer sensory bin activities are especially exciting because you can even take the learning outside!

child's hand holding a green dyed seashell over a small sandbox

Here are some other benefits of fall, winter, spring and summer sensory play:

  • Fine motor skills develop and improve as kids grasp, pinch, grab, slide, push, hide, and MORE with their little hands and fingers.
  • Language skills develop and improve as they are introduced to new theme-related vocabulary.
  • Sensory experiences allow kids to explore cause and effect.
  • Problem solving and scientific thinking skills improve.
  • Children learn to work together, share, and cooperate.

Other great sensory bin fillers include rice, rocks, cotton balls, pasta (cooked and uncooked), water, bubbles, snow, ice, sticks, grass, leaves, or shredded paper. There really is no limit to what materials kids can explore.

Adult supervision required, of course, especially for toddlers who primarily explore with their mouths!

rainbow dyed seashells in sand

How to Make Dyed Seashells


  • White seashells
  • Several containers for soaking the shells (1 for each color you plan to use) Mason jars, glass tumblers, or plastic containers work well.
  • Food coloring
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Spoons
  • Paper plates
  • Paper towel
Ingredients needed for making your own dyed shells.

Ingredients (for EACH color):

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2-3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 20-25 drops food coloring
Cups of dye behind a white paper plate with white seashells on it.

How To:

  1. Mix vinegar, water, and food coloring for each color desired.
  2. Place seashells into colored containers. Make sure they are fully submerged into the mixture.
  3. Allow the shells to sit for 5 minutes.
  4. Carefully lift the shells out to check for color saturation. For darker colors, add more food coloring and vinegar as necessary. For lighter colors, use less food coloring and vinegar.
  5. When the desired color is reached, use the spoon to place the shells on a paper towel lined paper plate to fully dry.
dyed seashells drying on a paper towel

Keep Learning With Our Summer Preschool Lesson Plans

Summer Sensory Activities for Preschoolers

It’s possible summer is the BEST time for sensory exploration because you can let nature do all the prep work! Take advantage of sensory opportunities in the grass, sandbox, leaves and trees, puddles, wind and whatever else you come across in your outdoor adventures.

When you can’t get outside, pull out the sensory bin to keep young ones engaged in exciting activities for kids.

Dying the seashells is an opportunity for preschoolers to learn colors, color mixing, color matching, and any other fun color activities you can think of. Young kids will delight in burying and finding colored seashells in the sand.

You can also include other items that fit into a beach/ocean sensory theme like sea life and plants, water, rocks/or coral.

If you’re lucky enough to live near a beach, head out with those colored shells to explore in an endless sand bin.

More from our Shop

Find even more engaging activities in the Life Over C’s shop!

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