Baking Sensory Tub and Imaginative Play

We put together a fun sensory tub filled with real baking materials for some imaginative play and learning!
Sensory materials in the tub:
red lentils
butter beans
pearl barley
cous cous
Cooking materials added for play:
weighing scales
wooden spoons
small mixing bowl
small colander
silicone cupcake cases
paper cupcake cases
real candles and toy candles
real sprinkles jar
empty flour packet
egg carton and wooden eggs
a cupcake recipe book
The girls and I do a lot of baking together, usually little cakes, biscuits and brownies as these are the most popular with all of us! Real baking is the best way to teach about cooking, food, changes in material as the mixture heats and a whole host of other essential life and learning skills! But we can’t always be cooking so we put together this quick and easy sensory tub for all-day baking play!
Pop got stuck straight in, mixing up the lovely natural sensory materials with her hands and a spoon. She quickly filled and emptied containers, poured in and out of bowls and mixed vigorously!

 She then filled up the silicone cake cases carefully, using a spoon to transfer the materials to each one from the tub. She stuck in some real candles and sang me “appy urfday oo yooo!”and indicated that I should blow them out by puffing over them. Adorable!

We needed to move the play to the floor so that she could get to the box more easily, and then the play became more established, lasting all day (and beyond!) 

 It was lovely to see Cakie’s reaction to the exact same box when she came into the room as she interacted with the materials at a different level. She immediately wanted to role-play cooking and baking cupcakes and looked at all of the things she would need, planning the stages carefully.

First she picked up the cupcake recipe book and spent some time looking through it, until she found a delicious looking cake with fruit on the top. She declared that was the one she was going to make, then did role-play reading, by pointing at the words with her fingers, calling out:

“it says that I need 4 eggs and some butter and some sugar and some flour and lots and lots and lots of sprinkles!”  
(I’m not at all surprised about the lots of sprinkles!)

 She set to work in systematic fashion, firstly filling up the empty flour box, then pouring it into the weighing scales.

“This says 1” (pointing to 1lb reading on the scale) “That’s how many I need” (looking back at the book.)
Then she tipped her mix into a bowl, whisked it up and cracked wooden eggs 4 times over the sides, just like she has done with me in real cooking experiences. It was lovely to watch how much she remembered and how many ingredients she could recall. Next the cakes were baked in the oven and sprinkled generously with sprinkles, before we ate them all up in a pretend-play birthday tea! Yum.
I have stored everything that will fit back inside the box with the lid on, ready to bring out whenever they want to play with it. We now have the cloud dough beach scene and this baking sensory tub at hand for playing with at any given moment, which is a great back-up for the 4-6 pm moany hours!

Learning links:
sensory: explore the world around them using all senses, describe how things feel and smell
creativity: use imagination to create and re-enact scenarios from real life, use one object to represent another during imaginative play
knowledge and understanding of the world: understand what cooking equipment is used for and experiment with it, learn about recipes
motor skills: strengthen fine motor muscles and gross motor coordination skills through pouring, scooping and transferring tiny objects
literacy: role-play reading by pretending to read using real books, be introduced to a range of types of print e.g. lists/recipes/instructions/signs etc, understand about non-fiction texts, use new vocabulary during imaginative and role-play, take on a character and remain in role, tell stories during play
maths: play with weighing scales and explore measurements/weights/numerals, compare quantities, fill and empty containers of various sizes, talk bout more/less/heavier/lighter/bigger/smaller

Cakie: 3 years 4 months
Pop: 22 months

See our other sensory tubs by clicking this image!


  1. says

    I LOVE all your sensory tub ideas! this one is especially darling, my kids would love it. Thank you SO much for sharing your wonderful ideas with us!!

  2. says

    I love this! I’ve been rolling a few ideas around for a ‘baking’ theme for my kids, but I hadn’t thought of the scale. Great ideas!

  3. says

    Oh how cute. She made a cup cake with a candle. Your cooking sensory bin is brilliant. We play with sensory bins and with cooking tools but have never thought to put them together. Very fun.


  4. says

    Isn’t it amazing how much they can recall from every day life? It always impresses me what R can remember about certain things. They really are paying attention! Great activity and great post :)

  5. says

    What a fab baking tub! We have one in our kitchen too & it’s played with nearly every day! Minnie loves ‘cooking’ alongside me, & her fave items to explore are a selection of funnels & the whisk. So much open-ended play – wonderful to observe too.

  6. says

    I love that Cakie was actually following the recipe! Out of all the sensory bins I’ve seen this one is on the list of favorites!

  7. says

    Your blog is awesome, i love the way you explain the whole process (and give the “recipes”)… Can’t wait to try it with my sons !

  8. says

    I love the sensory tub ideas, my daughters would love them! But my youngest, 10months, would try to eat everything hehe! xx