Stories in Sensory brings beloved books to life

Former educator Taylor Coggins creates sensory play boxes based on books for kids

Photo courtesy of Taylor Coggins

Like many parents during the pandemic, Taylor Coggins found herself with two youngsters, ages 1 and 3, to entertain while stuck at home 24/7. But this Newbury Park resident not only survived quarantine with toddlers, her relationship with her family thrived— thanks in part to sensory play bins she created based on some of the family’s favorite children’s books.

With degrees in early childhood and elementary education as well as a master’s in reading and a preliminary administrative credential, it was a natural fit for the former educator to start a business aimed at helping children learn.

The 33-year-old stay-at-home mom says her friends and her husband, John, encouraged her to sell the sensory play book boxes so others could enjoy them, too.

Stories in Sensory officially launched last year.

As it evolves—and continues to grow—Taylor’s entire family has become involved in making the business a success. John designs and builds the wooden play trays, and their daughters, who will be 3 and 5 next month, test out new boxes.

“It truly is a family-run business,” Taylor says.

Beyond spoke with Taylor to learn more about her passion and excitement for Stories in Sensory and its progression from the ground up.

With a background in early childhood education, Newbury Park mom Taylor Coggins creates sensory play boxes based on beloved children’s books.

With a background in early childhood education, Newbury Park mom Taylor Coggins creates sensory play boxes based on beloved children’s books. Photo courtesy of Taylor Coggins

Beyond: Please explain the concept of your sensory play boxes and how they work.

Taylor: We create a sensory play book box filled with various items that encourage tactile, hands-on play. Each of our book boxes is centered around a beloved children’s book. The box is created to be an invitation to open-ended play for children to return to over and over again. With my education background, I spend a lot of time creating lessons so children can dive deeper into more intentional learning around each book theme. They are created for multiple age levels and subject areas. I encourage families to choose a book or theme that interests your child and get to “reading with all your senses.”


Photo courtesy of Taylor Coggins

Beyond: What are some of the books that have inspired your sensory boxes?

Taylor: One of the original books that inspired me to create this business was “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” I used different pasta noodles to represent the different stages of a caterpillar’s lifestyle: white beans for the egg, rotini for the caterpillar, shell for the chrysalis and bow tie for the butterfly. This box also includes red, green and yellow all-natural play dough, mini food erasers and leaf cookie cutters. I wanted to include not only fine-motor-skill work within the lessons, but also foundational math, reading and science skills. So children can sort the noodles based on attributes, count them on a number mat and push noodles into play dough to build their hand muscles.

Beyond: What ages can benefit most from your sensory play boxes?

Taylor: Although I have created some boxes specifically with the under-3 crowd in mind, most of my boxes are geared toward ages 3 to 7 as there are small pieces that can be considered choking hazards. I also don’t love putting an age limit on these. I have had multiple families tell me they purchased a box for their younger child but found the older siblings liked it, too, and they were able to enjoy it together.

Taylor's Stories in Sensory boxes are filled with items related to beloved children's books that encourage tactile, hands-on play.

Taylor’s Stories in Sensory boxes are filled with items related to beloved children’s books that encourage tactile, hands-on play. Photo courtesy of Taylor Coggins

Beyond: Does each box come with instructions?

Taylor: I spend a lot of time curating the perfect items to help children learn alongside the selected book and create detailed learning guides that can be accessed on my website. Each lesson has ideas for multiple ages and skill levels. Plus, the beautiful thing about our sensory play boxes is they can simply be opened up and played with independently and creatively.

Beyond: How do you get your ideas and how do you decide what books to focus on?

Taylor: I draw on my past teaching experience and choose books my girls have loved in our own home. If we have a special book we love or a holiday coming up, I love to create simple lessons to help the book come alive for my kids, and that often gets made into a sensory box.

Beyond: Do you ever make boxes for those of us who are kids at heart?

Taylor: Sensory play doesn’t have an age limit. Sitting down with my girls with a jar of play dough is such a great way to calm down after a long day and spend precious moments bonding together. I also have a custom-order request form that anyone can submit on my website, so no matter what age or interests, I can create a fun sensory experience for anybody.

Beyond: Are you thinking of expanding your product line sometime down the road?

Taylor: I have already expanded to include Busy Jars, which are basically mini sensory kits in a 10-ounce jar. I have many themes to choose from, like unicorn, outer space, construction or firefighters, which are perfect for on-the-go or as party favors, too. I also am working on creating a line of Bible boxes that can be used in churches’ early childhood programs. I would love to eventually create a curriculum that could be used in preschool classrooms as well. My passion is making reading come to life through play, so the sky really is the limit.

Beyond: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Taylor: I am offering a brand-new subscription option: By joining our subscription service, people will get access to exclusive sensory boxes that include not only our typical Stories in Sensory magic, but also the book and printed and laminated learning guides. These boxes will ship the first week of every other month. Perfect ready-to-go activity delivered to your door.

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