Saturday, February 1, 2014

Introducing the First Installment of: A Peek Through the Keyhole! Valentine Edition

Welcome to the first installment of:  A Peek Through the Keyhole, where I will feature an activity from my private therapy practice! Each month, I will post a seasonal activity straight from a preschool, elementary, or middle school speech and language session at Naperville Therapediatrics.  This post highlights a new edition to my therapy space: my sensory table, that now contains all sorts of fun for Valentine's Day.

Working collaboratively with occupational therapists throughout my career, I have seen firsthand the benefits of incorporating sensory activities into speech and language therapy sessions.  We learn through our sensory exploration of dry/ wet and heavy/ light as we touch these items through play.   Some of these textures in particular can be quite calming, which you may have observed yourself while holding onto smooth, warm stones during manicures or digging through the sand to build a castle at the beach.  When we add language to these sensory experiences, the play becomes much more meaningful and we are more likely to retain what we learned from such a rich opportunity.

For some time, I have been using sensory buckets in my speech practice.  Back when I spent my days on the road in early intervention, I filled shoe boxes with rice, pasta, and beans and used them to hide puzzle pieces or Mr. Potato Head parts.  Now that I have my own practice, I have been using larger buckets filled with seasonal things like stands of bright blue beads with water animals or brown party bag shreds with plastic bugs.  Then, I thought I needed to go even BIGGER with the container, so I dragged in my son's former sand and water table from One Step Ahead and presto: instant happiness among many!!  Here's how I am using it for Valentine's Day themed activities.

First and most important, I buy the majority of my sensory box supplies from the Dollar Tree.  I recently found three hundred rose petals for a dollar: score!  I decided to fill half my table with a couple bags of petals and hide various animals in the collection.

Then, I bought a couple bags of kidney beans at the grocery store and dumped those in the other end of the table.  This side is so much fun because we can fill tin containers and use them as shakers, dump and pour beans, and pretend to feed the animals hidden in the petals.

I picked up a heart shape tin and mini mailbox from the Target Dollar spot and added an empty Hershey's chocolate candy tin that my husband recently brought back from a trip to China, which is everyone's favorite!  I had at least ten, mini, foam hearts from previous Valentine Days that I'm hiding under beans to dig out and count as we "deliver" them in the mailbox.

How do I use this table to meet speech and language goals you ask?  First, I hold at least three animals up and ask the client to "Get" a target animal to feed some beans for a receptive/ comprehension drill.  I'm also trying to incorporate using a client's new voice output device to name animals for an expressive vocabulary task.    We are using the shakers while singing favorite songs as I pause to see if clients can either fill in sounds, words, or gestures.  Finally, we count the hearts while filling the mailbox.  "Working" in the sensory table allows me to model actions paired with words like: pour, eat, dig, hide, and mix.

I love starting my sessions at this table because it's fun, functional, and calming!!  I think the kids are enjoying it too!


  1. I love the "Peek through the Keyhole" concept!! This Valentine's themed sensory activity looks like so much fun--and the Hershey tin from China is awesome!! I am looking forward to your next installment in March. Great post!

    1. Thank you for the cheers, Rose Ann!! I'm excited to share more about my private speech and language services!!