How to Make Sensory Bins for Speech Language Therapy

It's funny how much an SLP's caseload can change from one year to the next - even within the same district, or even the same building!  One of the challenges I have this year is that I have more younger students on my caseload than I have had in a long time.  My traditional therapy approach - sitting at the table and working on one or two activities for 20-30 minutes just isn't very motivating for these students, so I knew I had to start changing things up in therapy!

After doing some research, I decided to try making a few sensory bins in different themes to help target a variety of goals.  These have been a huge hit with my students, so today, I want to share with you how to make some of your own!

  • First, choose a theme.  (Tip: think about what therapy materials you already have.  Do you have several picture books about the jungle or winter?)  Here are some examples:
    • Seasons (winter, spring, summer, fall)
    • Holidays (Valentine's day, Thanksgiving, etc.)
    • General themes (farm, jungle, pets, ocean, zoo, garden, outer space, etc.)
  • Then, you need to start with a container.  I found clear shoeboxes from the Container Store that have worked well for me, but you could use any type of container.  If you plan on storing it between sessions, I highly recommend using a container with a lid that fits well.  If you don't need to store it, then you could use any sort of tray or box.  

  • Next, you need a base for your container.  Depending on your theme, you might choose different materials - for example, for a winter themed bin, you probably want to choose something that is white to resemble snow.  (Also, consider the needs of your students here - do you have any students that might try to eat the items?  Do you have any students that may struggle with a heavier weight of container?)  There are a lot of different materials to consider, including:
    • cotton balls
    • pom pom balls
    • beans
    • rice 
    • shredded paper 
    • Easter grass
    • plastic rocks or "crystals"
    • small rocks

  • Then, add items that match your theme.  For example:
    • plastic animal figurines
    • action figures (make sure to have both male and female if you would like to target pronouns)
    • small stuffed animals
    • party decorations (such sparkly snowflakes, googly eyes, or hearts)
    • small erasers
  • You can also add "tools" like a small scoop or shovel to add to the fun!
Once your bin is complete, you can choose to add stimulus cards (such as articulation or language cards) if you would like.  The bins themselves are great opportunities for spontaneous language samples, as well as guided language play.  Some of the goals you can target include:
  • Vocabulary
  • Pronouns  (ex: talk about what the different figures are doing)
  • Following directions  (ex: "Show me the lion, then show me the zebra.")
  • Basic concepts (ex: "Find the biggest snowflake!")
  • Prepositions (ex: "Put the dolphin next to the shell.")
  • Expanding utterances
  • Verb tenses - present, past, and future

TIP:  I like to keep a post it note in the lid of my sensory bins to remind me of which bin is which, as well as what related books or materials I have to use on the topic.

The Dabbling Speechie has some great posts on her blog about sensory bins, too, so make sure to check them out here!

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