Mini Sensory Bins

When I have visitors or observers in my room I sometimes get asked where my sensory area is. I don’t have a specific sensory area on purpose and for several reasons. One – I don’t really have enough room. My classroom is not massive and every inch is utilized. Two – I think sensory breaks should be embedded throughout the day as needed. Sensory stimulation shouldn’t be only used in this one specific center or area. Three – for our students, sensory time is break time. So our break area incorporates sensory play.

When you think about sensory breaks – basically our students are engaging in activities that for some reason (due to their heightened or weakened senses) feels internally good. This activity is automatically reinforcing. No other person needs to be a part of it and there is no social aspect. When our students are playing with squishy balls, slinkies, or play dough – that is sensory play and that is also a break. We take sensory breaks too. While typing, I stop to crack my knuckles or take a quick pace around the room while talking on the phone. So my break area is my sensory area. We store our sensory toys there – therapy balls, movement toys, etc.

autism helper - break

There are a few exceptions to this theory – the messy stuff. You think I would let moon sand be out and open at all times? Yea right. That stuff is craaaaazy messy! Moon sand is available at all times – but in a more controlled way. I have mini sensory bins that I keep in our closet. These bins are used as reinforcers – we have a picture of them on choice boards – and for break time – there are also pictures in PECS books. This has worked super well to still allow my students a range of sensory experiences without having my custodians sweeping rice kernels each night.

the autism helper - sensory bins

 

I store the manipulatives they play with right in the bin! Everything in one nice and tidy place! 🙂

the autism helper - sensory bins    the autism helper - sensory bins

the autism helper - sensory bins

 

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17 Comments

  1. This is such a great idea!! I am going to try this for my 5 year old!

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  2. I love this. I’m making a running list of some classroom ideas/set up/strategies I want to put in place for next year. I’ve got one year of working with students with autism under my belt, and I have had a lot to learn from! I love your ideas! 🙂

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  3. I use sensory bins in my contained elementary class for students with Autism. They love it. They first work then play with sensory bins. I have a shelf full. We have several literacy, math bins with a variety of items. I also make monthly sensory bins that tie in with a holiday or theme. I have “I spy” sensory bins and more. I love them and my kiddos love them.

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  4. I think sensory is an important behavior management tool for students with Autism. I think using sensory in a break area or as a reward/motivator is a great idea. I also use sensory strategies before difficult activities as an organizer (examples – deep pressure or proprioceptive activities) and also as a tool to keep the student engaged and attentive during certain activities that may be stressful for them (ex: wiggle seat or wedge, velcro under desk top, etc). One of my passions is finding economical solutions for sensory materials. Check out my pinterest board on this subject if you are interested! https://pinterest.com/laurabdowdy/sensory-sensational/

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  5. I am sure they will love it 🙂

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  6. Thanks so much Erin! 🙂

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  7. I love the seasonal idea! So much fun!!! I am sure your students love it!

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  8. Thanks for the comments Laura! 🙂

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  9. Do you have any of these labels on your download section? I like these ideas for sensory activities too.

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  10. No – but once my work computer gets fixed (hopefully soon! ugh…) I will email you a copy!

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  11. My question is, when and for how long do you offer ‘breaks’. I have not yet figured out how to do this successfully. Thanks!

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  12. I also use toys scented with Essential oil like Eucalyptus , Orange, Lemon, Lavender and so on. It calms them down when they become very excited and hyper. Sharp smells seem to do the work.

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  13. Depends on the student – for sensory breaks like this between 3-10 minutes. You can make breaks more frequent for students who struggling with staying on task.

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  14. I would like to know more about your bins ,could you tell more about what they contain. Thanks

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  15. Moon sand, rice, beans, feathers – but you can do anything! If you search sensory bins on pinterest – there are LOADS of great seasonal ideas too!

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  16. I love essential oils! Be careful with the lavender, though. Although it is calming, there have been some small studies that show that it is related to breast development in pre-pubescent boys. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/ is a good resource for researching essential oils. 🙂

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  17. Thanks for sharing!

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