Sensory Storytime!

Today I teamed up with a co-worker to do a sensory storytime for children with special needs.
Sensory play and activities have been growing in popularity over the recent months / years and can range from simple activities that parents and kids do at home to much more elaborate events held at libraries, daycare centers, schools, or other learning institutions. There is a plethora of material out there and many libraries or library bloggers have already written great stuff about it, but now it’s my turn.

My co worker and I planned our event for a group of up to 15 kids; the aim for these is generally to keep the groups smaller to allow for those who don’t do well in the often 40+ groups of kids coming to typical storytimes. Unfortunately, literally every road surrounding our library is currently under construction and it’s been having an impact on library attendance, including program attendance. 😦 We required registration and while we had 4 families registered, we only had one mother and her son that showed up.

While I wish we had more, my co-worker and I thoroughly enjoyed our time with this family and we got excellent feedback from his mother. The young boy stayed in the storytime room for more than 30 minutes even though the scheduled time was only 30 minutes long, we were in the “go with the flow” mode and just let him play until he was bored.

what we had planned to do was read a couple books, maybe read them more than once, as well as do some singing, moving, and free play time.

Many write-ups I found strongly suggested that we have an outline and a visual representation of it posted so that the parents and children attending could follow along.

Here are the images I used, all credits to the owners.

hello read sing dance play goodbye


we printed these out and posted them on our flannel board, we also printed them on sheets of paper to hand out to those attending.

The first book we planned to read was Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy by Sandra Boynton

This is a great touchy feely book, but we were running into trouble with how to share that, until, another co-worker came up with the genius idea of buying fabric to match the touchy bits in the book and did an AMAZING job matching them. Once we had the fabric we cut it up into small pieces and compiled them into packets for each child. I had wanted to attach them together on a key ring or something like a sample swatch packet but we didn’t get around to doing so so we just put them into a zippy bag. While one staff member was reading the book, the other staff member would be up front showing the fabric so the kids could follow along.

We also had the book Feely Bugs by David A. Carter, but this was a last minute addition and we did not have any support materials to pass out. Turns out that we didn’t need it though since we just had the one boy so he had the privilege of simply reading the book along with us and touching all the pages.  🙂

Aside from reading the books, the rest of the schedule went pretty much out the window and we just followed along with what our attended wanted to do.

I had also set up some sensory bins and some fidget toys in the back of the room for free play time and that’s where we headed next.

As many children’s libraries do, we have a variety of colored scarves, ribbons, and so on, we also have a small collection of fidget toys that we purchased after I experimented with passing out some of our quiet toys during storytime so that kids had something to play with and help focus their attention without being loud or distracting to others. These fidget toys include nubby balls and rings in different colors and resistance levels. I’d like to expand the collection in the future.



some of our quiet fidget toys. not shown are our tactile nubby rings.



here are some websites that I browsed when deciding what to purchase. Obviously not all the toys listed are suitable for quiet play, but many are and are also excellent for helping to develop many skills from problem solving, to fine or gross motor skills, and strength.


I also put out bins with dry pasta shapes, colored rice, beans, sponges or various sizes, and play dough.











The play was unscripted and undirected and we followed what he wanted to do.  This was my favorite part because he really opened up and we were able to see just what an incredibly intelligent and fun kid he was. He built a volcano from the dough and told us about how lava dries and turns black and that when it touches water it steams because it is hot and the water is cold. At one point he was playing with the rice and letting it fall slowly from his hands and it sounded and looked like rain. During that point I asked if he wanted to make a rainstorm with us. We did the “human rain storm” where you use your hands to simulate the sound of a storm.


Our version was obviously not quite as epic or impressive as the video, but it was still fun and with help from our thunder maker, we had a great time. 🙂


We also asked him a few random problem solving questions as he played and he continued to show off just how clever he was. His mother told us that he had never handled a sponge before, but when I asked him to take the water from one bin and move it to the other, he took only seconds to grab a sponge and squeeze it over the empty container until the sponge was dry and he had to re-wet it.


All in all, I think it was and can be an invaluable experience for kids, parents, and libraries involved. It gives the kids a chance to participate in library activities that they may otherwise avoid due to their individual needs, it gives the parents a chance to network and connect, and it gives the staff at the library a chance to better understand how to meet the needs of their patrons and better serve their community as a whole.


For more information on autism and other special needs, check out the sites below.