Touch and Explore Sensory Bin - A Sample Play Routine from My Toddler Talks

Sensory Bin Fun

Sensory Bin Fun

My Toddler Talks has 25 fun play routines designed to improve your child's speech and language skills. Many of the play routines involve popular and favorite toys and objects found in most households. This is a benefit for busy parents who can't or don't want to run out and purchase more toys as well as for early intervention therapists who are encouraged to use what is already in the child's environment.

Below is an example of one play routine included in My Toddler Talks: Strategies and Activities to Promote Your Child's Language:



An empty shoebox or any type of square container

Several bags of dried beans or dried pasta (such as shells, farfalle, and bowtie pasta)

Warning: Do not use beans or dried pasta if your child is still mouthing objects as this may be a choking risk!

Spoons, cups, whisks, and other kitchen utensils with no sharp edges

Small figurines or puzzle pieces (anything that can be hidden under the beans)

Play Routine:


Present the bin filled with the beans and pasta to the toddler. Touch the beans and encourage him to do the same. Watch and see what he does. Many toddlers enjoy touching, digging, and putting their hands under the beans. Allow your toddler time to feel this new texture and experience the sensation. Follow the toddler’s lead and do the same thing that he is doing.


Take one of the utensils and use it to move the beans and noodles. Use a spoon to pick up and then dump some beans, and while doing so, talk about what you are doing. Next, give the spoon to the toddler. Watch what he does with it. Take turns using the spoon. Teach turn taking by saying, “It’s my turn…. Now it’s your turn,” or “Now it’s Jack’s turn.” Then, introduce another utensil. Most toddlers find this activity very fun and stimulating. Once all the utensils have been used, hide puzzle pieces or other small toy objects under the beans and pasta, such as shapes from shape sorters or figurines.


End the routine once all the utensils have been used and/or once the toddler has found all the objects. Sing a clean-up song and move on to a different activity.

Language Techniques:

Self-talk and parallel talk: Periodically, narrate your actions and the toddler’s actions: “I’m mixing the beans,” or “You’re touching the beans.” Improvise the type and the length of the utterance based on the toddler’s current language skills.

Pause in anticipation: Pause three to five seconds after making a comment. Give the toddler some time to process the comment and respond. For example, you can say, “I can’t find the ________ (name of hidden object),” or “I don’t see the __________ (name of hidden object).” Then count to five and wait expectantly for the toddler to say something. Most will try locating the hidden object. Accept any response. If there is no response, just keep playing.

Choices: You can ask the toddler what utensil he would like to use for this activity. Take out two items. “Do you want the spoon or the cup?” Say this while displaying the two items.

Other Ideas or Variations:

Use COLD beans! I discovered this neat sensory trick accidentally on a winter’s morning when I left my box of beans in the car overnight – makes for an extra cool sensory experience.

Accept that your toddler may want to stand or sit in the bin. As you can see, this is something I allow! This is a fantastic opportunity to target the early developing preposition in.

Sensory Bin Fun My Toddler Talks

Sensory Bin Fun My Toddler Talks

Have a preschooler? May want to see my latest post on Scanlon Speech Therapy:

In the Arctic: Language Development Fun

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