What’s in my office? November Sensory Bin

Sensory Bin

Happy November everybody! This edition of What’s in My Office?! is dedicated to my sensory bin.

Of course this is not always the case, but quite often, play in the sensory bin is the first thing kids go to (and adults too!). I can’t tell you how many times I have heard adults say “Oo this is fun to play with” or “I really like this too”. Personally, I love a sensory bin and always seem to find myself subconsciously digging my hands in to the bin while I’m having a conversation with someone in my office. I have a Fall/giving thanks theme going on in the speech room this month and to go with the theme, here is what I currently have in my sensory bin:

  • a base of popcorn kernels from Costco (one of my fave places)
  • a variety of fall themed items including: acorns, maple leaves, pine cones, and small play pumpkins and gourds
  • two “scoopers” (measuring cups)
  • large bucket or other container to dump the stuff from the bin into

I think a sensory bin is a great example of the philosophy that fostering speech and language development is not about the toy but all about the interaction and how you play with the toy. Here are a couple ways I have targeted speech and language goals using the sensory bin this month:

For foundational language goals (skills you need before you are able to learn words and use words): IMITATION OF ACTIONS AND SOUNDS by making an acorn jump in to the corn with a ‘weee’, or putting a pine cone on my head and pretend sneezing it off then waiting for the child to try. INCREASING JOINT ATTENTION and SOCIAL REFERENCING by sitting face to face with a child and imitating what he or she is doing. If the child is scooping, I scoop (why I always try to have two of whatever toy I’m playing with), or I offer my scooper as a place to pour. If the child is hiding his hands in the corn, I hide my hands in the corn, etc.

For receptive language goals: learning fall VOCABULARY by hiding and searching for different items to scoop up. TWO STEP DIRECTIONS by asking the child to search for two items at a time. Understanding of DESCRIPTOR WORDS and SPATIAL CONCEPTS by looking for round items, bumpy items, or spiky items, and talking about putting things in and out of the bin.

For expressive language goals: INCREASING UTTERANCE LENGTH by expanding on the child’s language (e.g., the child says “leaf!” you say: “yellow leaf!” or “look leaf!”), USING DESCRIPTOR WORDS by playing “I spy” and having the child describe the thing that he or she is thinking of. Using ACTION WORDS by having the items do silly things (jump, spin, dance) or talk about what you are doing in the bin (scooping, digging, hiding), USING EARLY WH- QUESTIONS by playfully calling out to the items once you have hidden them (e.g., WHERE are you leaf?!).

I hope this helps give some ideas for ways you can use a sensory bin at home!