7 Fall-Inspired Sensory Bins

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Let the cool crisp air, orange and brown color palette and fast-approaching holiday season inspire you to create some new sensory bins for your special education classroom or center for speech-language pathology or occupational therapy.  We know you advocate the use of sensory bins – as we do – because they promote practical life skills, encourage language development, train the senses, foster social play, and much more!  Therapeutic sensory play can help calm, focus and engage children— important benefits in most settings.

If you’re in a speech therapy job, occupational therapy job or special education teacher job – and are new to sensory bin play – rest assured that sensory bins for therapy are easy to make and fun to use for children, teachers and parents alike. Start with a clear storage container (we like the l25-quart size with measurements of 24” long by 15” wide and 6” deep).  Then, decide how to fill them (more on that below).  Add a scoop, shovel or small container.  Dollar Stores are a great source for small cups and funnels.  Add small items that fit with your sensory bin theme. And don’t forget to change up your bins now and then to keep things interesting.

Here are some of our favorite Fall-inspired bin ideas.

 

  1. Apple Cinnamon Sensory Bin
apple-cinnamon-sensory-bin

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Oats
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Miniature Apples (check the Walmart craft section)
  • Red glass gems (check craft stores)
  • Small wooden buckets (check craft stores)

Children in speech therapy or occupational therapy will love the smell and texture of this bin.  The apples and gems feel good to touch, while the oatmeal is great for scooping with cupped hands or small wooden buckets. Hide and seek the glass gem treasures within the oats.  Use the Cinnamon sticks to move the items around the bin or to simulate utensils for “cooking” and “serving” oatmeal or apple pie.  Or, use them to drum music!  Talk about the different colors apples can be, as well as other treats commonly enjoyed during the season.

 

  1. Harvest Bin
pumpkin-harvest-sensory-bin-with-people-and-vehicles

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Rice, un-popped popcorn kernels or dried corn
  • Small farm trucks and trackers
  • Plastic pumpkins, corn cobs and apples
  • Small figures (Little People® or Playmobil®)
  • Containers, small baskets or funnels

Fall is harvest time, so why not create a tiny farm inside of a sensory bin?  Children will enjoy moving newly harvested vegetables or fruit from the field by truck or hand.  Scoop corn or rice between fingers and put it into a container silo.  Talk about farm jobs and where we get out food.  Model-play a farm stand with little people figures.

 

  1. Fall Colors Galore
colors-of-fall-sensory-bin-full-view

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Colored pasta
  • Artificial leaves in orange, red and brown
  • Acorns
  • Scoops or cups

There are many variations on this sensory bin theme, so be creative!  Just think fall colors and include items of all different sizes and textures so that children have the opportunity to really dig in and explore. Allow free play or encourage children to close their eyes and feel their way around and guess at what they’re holding.  Some children may be able to categorize by color or item type for more advanced skill sharpening.

 

  1. Monster Sensory Bin
monster-sensory-tub-500x333

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Colored water beads (available on Amazon and in craft stores)
  • Googly eyes in all different sizes (check craft stores)
  • Water

What can we say except: this one is a hit!  It’s unique and inviting (not scary) while keeping with a fun Halloween theme. The water-retaining polymers in the beads allow them to keeps their shape while remaining slippery to the touch.  They are usually non-toxic, but require supervision with younger children or those who tend to put things in their mouths.

 

  1. Busy Little Squirrel
busy-little-squirrel

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Bird seed
  • Peanuts
  • Acorns
  • Small sticks or “branches”
  • Miniature animals (squirrels, birds, cats, mice, etc.)
  • Nancy Tafuri’s book, The Busy Little Squirrel (optional)

When appropriate during pediatric speech therapy or pediatric occupational therapy, you may want to introduce this eye-catching bin through the book, The Busy Little Squirrel, but that’s optional.  The base of this bin is the squirrel’s food, so we like unshelled peanuts and seeds of all sizes to offer a variety of textures.  Pretend that little animals are looking for food to eat and store before winter.  Talk about how animals act in the fall and what they like to eat.

 

  1. Black Bats
blackbatsensorybin3

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • White rice
  • Bowtie noodles
  • Freezer bags (for dying the pasta and rice)
  • Food coloring or liquid water colors
  • Rubbing alcohol or white vinegar
  • Kid-friendly tweezers and scoopers
  • Small plastic bowls

Black “bats” stand out against bright orange rice in a way that is so inviting for little hands!  To color the rice and bowtie pasta, place each in its own gallon zip freezer bag.  Add the color to each bag along with a few drops of rubbing alcohol or vinegar. Make sure the bags are sealed and move the rice/pasta around until it’s completely colored. Add more dye until you’re happy with the look. Dump the contents into a tray to dry.  Combine your ingredients and invite children to scoop the contents into the bowls.  Pediatric occupational therapists can encourage fine motor skills by having children pick out the bats with their fingers or with tweezers. Count bats or have kids serve up bat soup.

 

  1. Autumn Leaves
fall-leaf-bin-pin

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Brightly colored artificial leaves
  • Dry beans (we used black, but red or any other color works)
  • Glass beads (check your local craft store)
  • Spoons, cups or other scooping tools

This bin couldn’t be easier to make and it’s great for open play and learning.  Leaves can be counted and sorted.  Children may enjoy searching for hidden gems (glass beads) amongst the beans, and so much more.  The textures are pleasing to the touch. There is also plenty to discuss, including taking turns “cooking” and “serving” with the beans, and the many colors and sights of Fall.

 

Sensory bins provide an outlet for children of many abilities to enjoy new sensations, interact with others and learn basic skills.  For those in speech therapy jobs, occupational therapy jobs and special education teacher jobs, sensory bins are fun, innovative and easy to create.  Remember, you can customize and substitute items to suit the needs of the students on your caseload.

 

Whether you’re a special education teacher, occupational therapist, or speech-language pathologist, we hope you enjoy the above Fall sensory bin ideas!  Please tell us what you think and share, in the comments below, what has worked out well in your special education classroom or therapy center!

 

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