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Sensory Bin 101: The In’s and Out’s of a Very Important Learning Tool

A sensory bin is a container filled with items that provide the user with sensory input. Dependent upon the items, also known as fillers, a sensory bin may provide the user with tactile, auditory, visual, and olfactory sensory experiences.  Sensory bins provide the user with the opportunity to play, while exploring various textures and utensils/tools.

Who uses a sensory bin?

Children of all ages can use a sensory bin! Children with sensory deficits may benefit. For example, an individual with hypersensitivity to water may begin playing with a sensory bin full of water. At first, the child may use tools (i.e. ladle) to manipulate the items in the bin. As the child progresses, he/she may begin to poke their finger in the water to play. Children with upper extremity range of motion deficits may benefit from utilizing a sensory bin as well. Playing with spatulas and spoons provide the opportunity for forearm and wrist range of motion, which are both necessary to develop fine motor skills.

Where can I use a sensory bin?

You can use a sensory bin inside or outside. If you have a bin full of water, you might want to go outside or use a sink or bathtub filled with some water. You can use them on a table or a floor. Before you allow a child to play with the bin, make sure to go over some rules to avoid messes. It can be as easy as, “All items and toys must stay in the bin.”

Why make a sensory bin?

Sensory bins assist with the following skill areas:

Develop Life Skills:

Children learn how to utilize household tools, such as spoons, forks, ladles, rakes, shovels, spatulas, etc. When using these items, children learn to scoop, pour, fill, stabilize and orient items appropriately.

Develop Fine Motor Skills:

Children use their arms and hands to manipulate items like jumbo tweezers, rocks, coins, utensils, blocks, etc. Playing with these items help strengthen musculature in the hands and arms that are necessary to carryout tasks, such as cutting, writing, and self-care skills.

Develop Play Skills:

Sensory bins can assist children to develop play skills. While engaged in parallel and/or cooperative play, children can use their imagination and participate in pretend play. All areas of play are important to develop communication skills.

Develop Language Skills:

Sensory bins can assist with language skills by identifying, comparing, and contrasting objects. When the child picks up an item, the parent can say, “Look at the bell”. This labels the object and may assist with language development.

How do I make a sensory bin?

First you need to choose a theme and how many children will be playing in the bin. This will determine the type of bin you may need (i.e. cardboard vs. plastic, deep vs. shallow). Below are some examples:

Filler- Dry Base
Filler-items cont.
Foil Pan
Cake Pan
Plastic Shoe Box
Cardboard Box
Unused Litter Box
Storage Container
Corn Kernels
Coffee Grounds
Shaving Cream
Water Beads
Cotton Balls
Gem Stones
Foam Letters
Rubber Ducks
Tiny Action Figures
Light-up items
Small Cups/Bowls
Jumbo Tweezers
Measuring Cups/Spoons
Toy Shovels/Rakes
Eye Droppers
Squirt Bottles
Ice Cube Trays
Cookie Cutters

* Add an olfactory sense by adding Vanilla, lavender, peppermint, cinnamon, etc. to the dry base!

Sample sensory Bins:

Bin: Cardboard Box
Base: Corn Kernels
Items: Tractor, trailer, cows, pigs, barn, horses, farmer
Tools: shovel/rake, measuring spoons/cups
Bin: Plastic Shoe Box
Base: Water
Filler items: small gems/stones, water beads, sea shells, sea life figures
Tools: ladles, squirt bottles, eye droppers
Bin: Cake Pan
Base: Fruit Loops
Items: small bowls/cups to sort colors
Tools: Jumbo tweezers, spoons
Task: Use the tools to sort the colored cereal

Here are some examples of sensory bins that we have at our Fairlawn and Medina clinics:

Water bead sensory bin with spoons, cups, and play ice cream cones
Rice sensory bin with tiny toys
Rice and beans sensory bin
Fall themed sensory bin with play leaves
Blue sand sensory bin with sand-box toys


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Crystal Scheibe

Great place, glad we found them. Been going to Medina over 2 months now and he loves Lauryn and Kyler. Wish they had more ABA therapy places available... live in Wooster and long drive everyday.

Karrie Swan LaRock

My 11 year old son has dyslexia and has made noticeable gains in working At LLA THERAPY. Katie is strong in her approach toward him and also keeps him comfortable enough to perform well. We will continue visiting both the Fairlawn and Hudson offices and recommend them highly.

Ron Monroe

My 9 year old just completed about 9 months of weekly speech sessions (due to his stuttering) with Matt Hagge at LLA and we are thrilled with the experience and results. What I thought might be a negative (what kid really wants to go to speech class?) was made very positive by Matt, and my son never hesitated or complained when we talked about class. He really enjoyed it and really took what Matt taught him to heart. His speech has been greatly improved and we definitely recommend LLA. Thank you so much!

Heather Dougherty-Pantoja

My son’s Occupational Therapist, Jess, is an amazing OT! She gives practical tips on working with my son at home and school!

Terri Apgar

I cannot say enough good things about LLA Therapy. My daughter was a client of Teal Simmons’ for approximately 2 years and was just released from speech therapy! She was diagnosed with Apraxia in 2015 and worked with Teal twice a week. Through Teal’s application of PROMPT therapy, my daughter had age-appropriate speech after one year. All of the staff we interacted with at LLA were absolutely wonderful. They really care about what they do and making sure your child achieves their goals.

Kelli Geisler Davisson

LLA Therapy has been an excellent experience for my son as well as my family! My son always asks, "When can I go see Ms. Jeannine again, is it Monday??" He has also made huge gains in only 5 months! I would highly recommend LLA and have already shared my experience with friends looking for services!

Victoria Hansford-Price

We are so grateful for our Speech Therapist Ms.Teal. We have seen a great improvement with our sons confidence and communication abilities since we have started "Prompt" therapy. What we love the most about LLA and Ms. Teal is that Kohl feels comfortable and relaxed which has played a critical role in his progress. Thank you Ms. Teal for all you have done.

Laura Lee Hogsett

They have helped in numerous ways. Speech, OT and behavioral. I've had numerous compliments on my son's progress thanks in very large part to LLA. I would recommend LLA before I recommend our local children's hospitals, though they are good, they don't have the staff that LLA does.

Amy Furukawa

We had a great experience with Matt Hagge at LLA! Our Middle School age son was becoming very conscious of his voice, which is nasal due to a cleft palate. Matt helped him to better form his sounds and project his voice in a way that makes the unavoidable nasality less noticeable.Our son is more confident and outgoing & even took on a speaking role in the church play. Matt has the perfect personality to relate with our son, and we would recommend him to anyone needing speech therapy services!

Jessica Havalotti

LLA Therapy has been an excellent experience for our daughter. I would highly recommend LLA. Miss Grace was so amazing and I can't believe how quickly our daughter showed improvement. Thank you!
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