Do you use sensory bins as part of your speech therapy sessions? After seeing so many benefits from using speech therapy sensory bins, I have a newfound love for using them with nearly every one of my younger students.
If you’re not familiar with them, they are basically containers filled with multi-sensory items that center around one specific theme. They have some type of filler as the base (i.e. rice, beans, sand) and a variety of objects in and around the filler. Sensory bins allow children to explore objects and a variety of textures using several or all of their 5 senses to do so.
Here are a few benefits to using sensory bins:
- Children with sensory processing deficits often have difficulty with communication because communication involves a variety of senses and subtle cues.
- Providing more stimulation to different senses activates those areas of the brain and central nervous system.
- Your senses also activate your memory allowing for more opportunities to recall while learning.
- Sensory bins encourage joint attention and social interaction.
- Research shows that sensory play builds connections in the brain’s pathways, which lead to the ability to complete complex learning tasks.
- Sensory bins provide many opportunities to increase descriptive vocabulary.
To get the most out of your sensory bins, you want to make sure that you can use them in many sessions to target several different goals. Here are a few ways I use sensory bins to target common speech and language goals.
Sensory bins are a perfect opportunity to increase joint attention because they are often new and highly engaging to the student.
TIPS for using that bin to your advantage:
- Hide objects (preferably ones that the student prefers) inside the fillers and model finding them.
- Show the student a picture of the object you are looking for and have him/her find and match it.
- Model different actions and encourage the student to imitate them. (i.e. scoop, pour, grab, touch)
- If the student is preoccupied with objects or pictures inside the bin, pull the bin out of reach until he/she attends to the item you are presenting OR just follow their lead and engage that way.
Expanding Utterance Length
Multi-sensory play is known for increasing communication opportunities, and it lends itself wonderfully to MLU expansion.
TIPS for using sensory bins to increase MLU:
- Let the child lead and explore on their own when you first present the bin. Wait for them to comment and build from there.
- If the child labels add describing words: how it feels, looks, sounds, smells. (i.e student: “rock”, clinician: “a smooth rock”)
- Use visuals or sentence strips as a supplement to the bin. I include sentence strips in all of my sensory bin products. Aaand I absolutely love these visuals from Abby and use them all the time.
Because sensory bins are typically centered around a specific theme or idea, they are a great way to build vocabulary around that theme.
TIPS for using sensory bins to build vocabulary:
- Provide lots of opportunities to use the new vocabulary over and over while playing in the sensory bin. (i.e. If it’s a “winter” bin, you might target the word snow. You might say, “Snow is white, snow is cold, play in the snow, shovel the snow, make a ball with snow, etc.”)
- Use the multi-sensory activity to build descriptive words. Build words around the 5 senses:
- Tactile: cold, squishy, slimy, bumpy, smooth, rocky, soft, rough, yucky, sticky
- Auditory: loud, quiet, whisper, crinkly, scratchy, boom
- Visual: bright, shiny, big, dull, beautiful, dark, clear, tall, short
- Smell: sweet, stinky, smelly, fragrant, pleasant, spicy, flowery
- Taste: salty, sour, sweet, bitter, spicy, yummy, tasty
- Use the objects in the bin to complete vocabulary tasks like compare/contrast, describing, synonyms/antonyms.
- As a scaffold, keep a dry erase board next to the bin and write down several words for a “word bank.” Have students circle the words that relate to the object being discussed.
- Use graphic organizers with the bin to help students who need more structure and support in organizing their thoughts and ideas.
When kids are engaged and motivated, I love taking advantage of that time to work on requesting.
TIPS for using sensory bins to target requesting:
- Make sure you place items that are reinforcing to the student inside the bin. I like putting them inside little boxes or containers. That way they have to request for the box and request to open it.
- Withhold the bin and have the student ask to play with it. Withhold objects to be placed into the bin and have student request each object and place it in the bin.
- Use pictures or sentence strips to help with forming requests.
- Ideas for making requests: specific items, more, open, help, my turn
Sensory bins are the perfect opportunity to practice following single or multi-step directions with your students.
TIPS for working on following directions:
- Have students complete directions by manipulating the objects in the bin.
- You can target several types of directional concepts with different modifiers:
- Sequential- “Pinch the sand and then give it to me.”
- Temporal- “Grab the ball before you grab the spoon.”
- Conditional- “If I touch the box, you touch the car.”
- Quantitative- “Pick up all of the cards.”
- Spatial- “Find the toy that is between the horse and the cow.”
- Use this opportunity to complete directions related to a variety of language concepts such as:
- Action words- “Scoop the rice.”
- Prepositions- “Put the spoon under the cup.”
- Plurals- “Give me the boxes.”
- Adjectives- “Pinch the red tweezers.”
In addition to targeting these common goals, I love creating sensory bins that center around core word vocabulary! It allows for SO many opportunities to practice their word of the week in a fun and engaging way for the student.
If you need some easy ideas on getting your speech therapy sensory bins going, you can check out the bins in my store.