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Thursday 3 March 2016

5 Ways to Incorporate Sensory Play into Teaching

Let's face it, life is messy!  At some point, and in my case, many times throughout the day our hands get dirty.  Whether this is from painting, gluing, writing, or cooking our hands will come into contact with some material that gives us sensory input.  Some love this feeling, while others loathe it.  Personally, I love the feeling of kneading bread dough.  Something about it relaxes me and gives me pleasure.  But, I hate it when I get glue on my hands!  This is the same for students with Autism, but because of the way their brains process different sensory input, this can either cause them extreme pleasure, or extreme pain.  When I get glue on my hands, I can tolerate it, but for some of our students this can send them into panic mode if they are not able to clean them right away.  On the flip side, some students get such pleasure from certain sensory input that they fixate on it and constantly seek it out throughout the day.  These sensory issues can be disruptive to teaching, so that's why I like to address these issues by incorporating sensory play into teaching activities.  

Sensory Bins

Sensory bins are inexpensive and easy to make and provide a lot of sensory input for students.  You can use a variety of edible and non-edible items in them and use them for a variety of math, literacy and communication skills.   This is an example of one our sensory bins, with a St. Patrick's Day theme.  The teaching activity for this one is sorting by colour, and matching/identifying letters.  It could also be used to count the coins and then graph how many of each colour.

Salt Trays

Salt trays are another inexpensive and easy way to incorporate sensory play into learning.  We use salt trays with the students to practice their printing skills.  I use pie plates for the trays (3 for $1 at the dollar store) and dye the salt to make it more fun!  


My students love playing with playdoh lately!  So, I incorporated this interest into our math and literacy lessons.  I was lucky enough to find letter and number cookie cutters at a thrift store a couple of years ago and they are perfect for making letters out of playdoh.  We use them for letter and number identification, sequencing letters and numbers, spelling and counting.  Last week, we were working on counting to 20, identifying numbers to 20 and sequencing numbers to 20.

Shaving Cream

Saving cream is a messy one, but my students love it!  I don't do this activity often as I hate the smell of the cheap shaving and the nicer smelling ones are more expensive.  Since you can't reuse it over and over, I reserve this activity for special days.  Like the salt trays, we use shaving cream to work on printing skills.  The students form letters, numbers and words in the shaving cream and then we let them have some free play time with it.  We also hide small objects in it and the students work on communication skills by telling us what they found in the shaving cream.

Gel Bags

Gel bags are perfect for the tactile defensive kids in your classroom.  The mess is contained in a bag, but they still get some sensory input from using them.  We use them to work on forming letters, numbers and words, as well as communication skills.  We put small items in the bag with the gel and the students tell us what they see.  For those who are at the tracing level, we put letter and number playdoh mats under the gel bags.

Do you use sensory play in your teaching activities?  I'd love to hear your ideas!  Comment below and let me know!  Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time,

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