March 24, 2017

Sensory Bins: Adding the Unexpected


Sensory bins are all the rage with speech-language pathologists on social media, and I have enthusiastically jumped on the bandwagon. I've used them sporadically throughout my career, both in Early Intervention and with my private practice caseload with fantastic results, but after seeing so many amazing sensory bin creations on Instagram by my fellow SLPs, my interest in using sensory bins on a regular basis has soared to new heights!

My latest sensory bin creation is zoo themed, and didn't really require much creativity at all. Here's what I did:

1. I put pinto beans in a tub.
2. I added animals and props from various zoo toy sets.

That's it. Done.

Zoo in a whole new way!

But here's where it gets good: I added some things that are very unexpected, things that you wouldn't necessarily find in a zoo play set.



I added mini erasers of all different sorts! There are donuts, french fries, trucks, apples, pencils and more!

Why? Because it blasted language learning opportunities through the roof!

Children are naturally drawn to nonsensical things, like feeding donuts to elephants instead of hay, and giving a giraffe a pencil to use. They think it's hilarious! And it gives me the opportunity to target a wider variety of goals:


  • Negation: elephants don't eat donuts, a robot is not a zoo animal, a giraffe can't hold a pencil
  • Categories: this depends on the types of objects you use
  • Silly Sentence Construction: The elephant ate the truck. The lion stomped on the donut.
  • Absurdities: Do pencils swim? Do tigers play with rubber ducks?
  • Sentence formulation: I like to choose an animal and an eraser and say, "Make up a sentence about a lion and a truck." This one is SO GOOD for my little friends who are so concrete and struggle to imagine silly scenarios. 
  • Answering "why" questions: Why don't zookeepers take care of robots?
  • Prediction: The zookeeper gave the elephant an ice cream cone. What do you think will happen next?
  • Imagination!
Felice over at The Dabbling Speechie has wonderful ideas for creating and using sensory bins in treatment. She even has a tab on her homepage dedicated to sensory bins that lists her posts and offers materials to help you get started. Her printable list of categories from her "I Spy" sensory bin inspired me to make my own picture lists to accompany my zoo sensory bin.



These little lists have been so useful! So far, I've used them to target plurals, matching, final /s/ and /z/, copula verbs, vocabulary, and the pronoun "I".

They have also been helpful in helping direct the play of little ones who typically tend to only like to sift the beans through their hands, or scoop and pour. The mini erasers grab their attention, and they like to match them to the pictures.



Of course, you must used caution when adding any small object to a sensory bin. Especially if you have little ones who like to put things in their mouths as they could become a choking hazard. Be extra diligent!

So, how about you? Do you currently have a sensory bin that you're using? Try adding something that's a little unexpected. I think you'll love the results!




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