Sensory Bin Fun!

By Alexa Demyan,

Sensory bins are a favorite tool of speech therapists, teachers and parents alike! They provide an immersive, hands-on opportunity for children to practice their speech and language skills. Here’s what you need to know to integrate this easy tool into your life.

What is a sensory bin?

Tub or container filled with materials carefully selected to stimulate senses.


Why use sensory bins?

Because they are FUN and ENGAGING for all. And you can target…

Expressive/Receptive Language:

  • Expand vocabulary (nouns, verbs, adjectives)
  • Find objects (e.g. “Where is the __?”)
  • Following directions (e.g. “Put beans in the bowl and dump it out”)

Social/Play Skills:

  • Take turns and share objects
  • Asking for objects
  • Commenting on what each person is doing
  • Pretend play
  • Conversation (e.g. “I like the _. What do you like?”)

Articulation:

  • Find objects/materials with the targeted sound (e.g. “sand” for /s/, “cars” for /k/)

How can I make one?

Buy a small or large tub (usually $2-10) and fill it with different materials and textures:

  • Soft: cotton balls, kinetic sand, feathers, marshmallows, pompoms
  • Squishy: packing peanuts, cooked pasta, squishy toys, sponges
  • Hard: beans, corn, rice, pasta, aquarium rocks, buttons, shells, beads, wood, Legos, chickpeas
  • Wet: ice cubes, water, jelly beads, shaving cream, gelatin
  • Objects: puzzle pieces, cars, balls, animal figures, shovels, scoopers, tongs, blocks, magnets, bowls


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Sensory Bin Inspiration!

Here are some of our favorite sensory bins we’ve created.

Winter Sensory Bin

When winter-themed decorations go on clearance at the craft stores, our therapists stock up! Here are ways you can use winter-themed items to target speech and language skills

  • Prepositions and following directions
  • Categories
  • Adjectives and describing
  • Answering questions
  • Story creation/narration
  • Vocabulary

Fall Sensory Bin

This fall-themed sensory bin is perfect, especially if you love pumpkins!

  • Basic Concepts: Describe the size, texture and color of the fall items like pumpkins, apples and leaves. Sort by similar features to practice “same” and “different”.
  • Pretend play: Gather pumpkins and apples from you sensory bin for a fall harvest! Help your child think of the ingredients needed to make fruit pies for your feast.
  • Articulation: Hide small fall-themed objects or pictures under the black bean dirt. Practice speech sounds as your child discovers hidden items and then make sentences with those words. This is also a great way to target seasonal vocabulary!

Farm & Vegetable Sensory Bin

We used this sensory bin in group therapy and our students had a blast. You can use this as a group of friends or family.

  • Speech: animal sounds are an excellent way to get our little ones exploring early consonant-vowel combinations ( like “moo, oink, baa, neigh”) and Old MacDonald provides a perfect opportunity to practice vowels when singing “e-i-e-i-o”.
  • Social Language: we made a “garden salad” for our animals to enjoy. Students labeled vegetables they found hiding in the corn and told the group which were their favorites. Everyone took turns asking follow-up questions to find out how peers liked to cook their vegetables and which of their favorite meals have vegetables. We learned our students love salad!

Summer Sensory Bin

We created two sensory bins we could pair with some favorite summer-themed books to practice

  • Articulation: Hide items that contain your child’s speech sounds in the rice or kinetic sand
  • Vocabulary: Describe the size, shape, color and other attributes of the objects found
  • Imaginative Play: Create an ocean-themed birthday party using kinetic sand and shells to make a birthday cake, decorations and presents

Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin

This bin was inspired by The Autism Helper. It uses dessert matching and rainbow rice to help students practice

  • Following multiple step directions
  • Self-advocacy (i.e. asking for help)
  • Picture description
For templates visit The Autism Helper

Check out our Pinterest page and Instagram page for more sensory bin inspiration and fun activities to target speech therapy goals in the home.

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This post written for you by Sarah Denman, M.A. CCC-SLP and the Speech Department team of Columbus Speech & Hearing Center

Targeting Language Skills on a Nature Scavenger Hunt!

By Alexa Demyan,

By: Janel Niekamp, M.S., CCC-SLP

Spring has given way to summer and with the weather warming up, now is the perfect time to go on a nature scavenger hunt. Regardless of the season or the weather, heading outside is always a great speech-language activity! There is never any shortage of great things to talk about and look for, all while incorporating a variety of language skills. Whether you’re strolling around your neighborhood or out enjoying a nearby metro parks you can get your little one actively engaged while exploring the great outdoors. Here are just a few of the many language skills you can target while on a scavenger hunt:

Describing: Describe an object by stating its category, size, shape, and color. You can also try comparing and contrasting two objects to work on stating similarities and differences.

  • A bee is a type of (insert category)
  • A flower is a type of (insert category)
  • Can you name two more types of insects? Plants? Trees? Flowers?

Following Directions: Try incorporating basic 1- and 2-step commands with embedded concepts (spatial concepts: between, under, next to) and (sequential concepts: first/then/last) to target their receptive language skills.

  • Run to the small tree.
  •  Go to the tree and look under the rock.
  • First find a flower, then a feather
  • Put the leaf between the flowers

Object Function: Talk about how we use objects or what we do with it.

  • Show me the object that (insert function).
  • What does (insert object) do?
  • What do you do with (insert object)?

Prepositions: Practice using and understanding spatial concepts (in, on, out of, off) and prepositions (in, on, under).

  • Where is the leaf? (in the dirt, on the sidewalk, etc.)
  • Put the flower under the tree.

Vocabulary: Your child’s vocabulary is continuously growing. Label different objects and use a variety of adjectives to describe them: fast, shiny, loud, heavy, bumpy, etc. By introducing more objects and descriptive terms each week, your child’s receptive and expressive vocabulary skills will continue to grow.