How to Use Sensory Toys in Speech Therapy

How to Use Sensory Toys for Speech Therapy FUN!

Let’s face it, unless our senses are integrated, we can’t focus. We can’t learn. We can’t communicate! When our senses are regulated, we can concentrate, we are calm, we are ready to learn, and we an often access our language to communicate what we want and need.

*While we don’t have a large quantity of research specifically targeting sensory integration in speech therapy, we have a lot of anecdotal information, opinion pieces from trained SLPs, and collaborative research from our Occupational Therapy friends to support sensory strategies in speech therapy.

Ideal World vs Reality

In an ideal world, I’d like do speech therapy on the playground, running around, upside down…with sensory equipment and safe ways to play with BIG gross motor games. In reality…I’m usually in an itty bitty room. I have to wipe everything down. We have to be safe and careful. So….what are some ways to bring sensory fun into speech therapy sessions in real spaces?

  1. Get Moving! Use sensory breaks with music. Watch what the child is seeking naturally with their body, and try to replicate it safely (example: if they are rocking, use a peanut ball and pair it with “Row Row Row Your Boat”).
  2. Bring in large and small sensory toys.
  3. Practice whole body movements while learning core language words (Up! Down! Stop! Go! etc)

Favorite Sensory Toys

I have a couple of different posts that share information about sensory toys and activities. This post shares my favorite sensory toys for home. This post shares a recipe and instructions for creating sensory calming bottles.

Smaller sensory toys that are portable and wipeable:

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Peanut Ball: a great option for bouncing (with help and support from an adult). Pair this with Row Row Row Your Boat while moving front to back or side to side. Make up your own special song and introduce “Stop” and “Go”….pausing to see if the child fills in, once familiar.
Pop Tubes: a fun way to make noise, shapes, name colors, practice cause and effect, etc. See more below!
Tunnel: fun way to learn IN, OUT, THROUGH, Peekaboo!, a safe place to “hide”, and a great way to get sensory input on the hands. This toy does have fabric and won’t last forever, but we’ve had ours at home for 4 years with a LOT of active use.
Balance Stones: These are a little pricier, but they last for years and years. They are very durable, wipeable, and a great way to create a little obstacle course on the go!

I recently collaborated with Anna Dee, SLP on her Five Ways Instragram series. We shared Five Goals to Target Using Pop Tubes in Speech Therapy.

Other Ways to Get Calm and Stay Calm

  1. Yoga
  2. Make Sensory Bottles
  3. Calming Visuals

*ASHA provides some research based information on Sensory Integration here.


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My name is Elizabeth Hepler and I’ve been a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist since 2005.  I am the mother of four great kids. Our household is neurodiverse: ADHD, Autism, Gifted, and more!

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