Using Break Bins in Your Special Education Classroom

Teaching in a pandemic has been full of challenges. Teachers have had to get extra creative to navigate the protocols and guidelines that Covid has thrown at us. There's not a lot of changes that I made during Covid that I was thrilled about, but if I had to pick one thing to continue, it would be break bins!

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Why Use Break Bins?

The school day is long and students need breaks. In my classroom, I could easily build in leisure time at the end of each class period. Every student was given the last ten minutes of class as leisure time. This provided a sensory break for those that needed it, time for movement and walks, and time to socialize with peers. It also gave me a few minutes to gather materials for my next group, my paras time to take a restroom or snack break, and time for students to use the restroom or get a drink if needed.


Students have a variety of classroom activities and reinforcers that they can access during leisure or free time. I created a class menu for students to choose from.


During Covid, I needed a way to provide access to these fun reinforcers without having to clean items between each student. So I created break bins. Break bins are a great way to decrease transitions and the sharing of classroom materials, while also providing individualized and motivating reinforcers for my students. 

Setting Up Break Bins

At the beginning of the year, I purchased one plastic shoe bin for each student, labeled it, filled it with fun toys, and left it on each student's desk.


Students were able to use their break bin during leisure time, or during class, if they requested a break. Class breaks are much shorter than our 10 minute leisure time.

What to Put In Break Bins

I started with these items:

  • slime
  • kinesthetic sand
  • mini koosh ball
  • fidget tools (spinners, stretchy bands, poppers, spiky balls, etc.)
  • slinky
  • sensory bottle
  • bubbles



As I got to know students better and completed preference assessments, I was able to individualize the bins to be reinforcing for each student.

Here are some other ideas:


  • legos or blocks
  • toy cars
  • small action figures
  • toy animal figures
  • musical instruments
  • small whiteboard and marker
  • boogie board or LCD writing tablet
  • markers, crayons or colored pencils and a notepad
  • light up toys


If you want to get started with break bins, here are a few of my favorite items. My other favorite place to shop for break bin items is the dollar store! If you can take your students on field trips, it would be so fun to go to the dollar store and let them choose items for their bins!


Have fun building your break bins!



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