As a music therapist, it is important to constantly have tools and tricks in your arsenal to pull out for sessions. One of my favorite props to use as a “quick pull” is the textured bean bag set from Bear Paw Creek. The reason I love this particular set is two-fold.
One, they are durable. This is perfect for those clients and small groups that tend to be a little more aggressive with my instruments and such. Two, they provide individualized tactile stimulation. Because the bean bags have various textures, each client can choose the type of tactile sensation they want to receive. There are rough ones, smooth ones, furry ones, soft ones, bumpy ones.
In fact, I am feeling a song coming on…
“What’s in the Bag?”
This song was written to use when a client is becoming dysregulated and needs some sensory input to keep their body safe and calm. However, it quickly turned into a game similar to Touchy Feely where they had to identify what they were feeling in the bag. There are two ways you can play the game with the song. You can have the client identify what they are feeling in the bag, or you can give them a specific texture to find and they have to feel around for it in the bag.
Some benefits of this song/game are tactile stimulation, sensory regulation, following one-step directions, and turn-taking skills. A fantastic side-effect of the game is that you can begin to identify what type of sensory items your client most wants or needs. Once you pull the bean bag out, you can have the client rub it in their hands, on their arms, and see what textures they like most.
Strong Sensory Input Helps Body Communicate With Brain Effectively
Once you know what type of tactile stimulation you like most, you can use that specific bean bag for other sensory regulation strategies. A strategy I use often with my clients is deep pressure. I find that many of my clients need that strong sensory input so their body can communicate with their brain more effectively. Because not all of us are equipped with a squeeze machine, I created an activity where my clients could provide the pressure to themselves using their preferred textured bean bag.
“Squish the Bean Bag”
I like to think of this song as a deep pressure/ progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) hybrid because the clients are squishing the bean bag on a specific body part, for a given amount of time, then releasing. This provides temporary deep pressure in tandem with a contract and release strategy of PMR. I use this song at the end of most of my sessions and find that it helps ground and regulate my clients so they can leave the session calmly.
These bean bags come in handy when I need a sensory intervention or an interactive social skills game. My clients respond incredibly well to the versatility of these props and it always brings a smile to their face when they see the big bag o’ bean bags come out of the cabinet. I am constantly trying to come up with new sensory regulation strategies for my clients and I hope you are able to use some of my tricks and tips!