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Saturday, 16 June 2012

Home-Made Sensory Rooms

Browsing Facebook...yes I know, busted...I came across a post from a lady seeking support in developing..well actually expanding...her current sensory room for her son, on the Autism spectrum. It occurred to me that making a home-sensory space is probably something many parents seek to do; it is certainly something I recommend to many of my clients managing sensory integration issues at home. In order to put all my knowledge in one place, so that others may call upon it, here are some of my tips and tricks, acquired from consulting with professionals from OTs to naturopaths, to SLPs to psycho educational consultants and disability specialists. So here goes:




    Granted it does not usually look this oily;  pic was taken after a kiddo working for chips. The beauty is, the crash pad is fully washable.

  • Make a crash pad: If you have ever been to MM you know what a crash pad it. If not... what is Crash Pad...exactly what it sounds like. A giant pillow large enough to crash onto and into. In ours, we put small sensory objects of various textures; the kids loves to feel all of the soft items inside. All you need is a giant duvet cover; twin or larger, and some foam pillows (pretty cheap to buy, but you need a lot) which you cut up into squares. Insert the foam squares, along with any other soft plush items, and VOILA! Zip it up, and remove items for easy washing!
  • Make a ball pit; the sensory experience is unparalleled by any other. You do not need a lot of balls, just a space that is just big enough for your child to fit in. You do not have to spend 100s of dollars; use an old tent, a large plastic Tupperware box (no lid of course), or an old sandbox or kiddy pool. For a long time we used our Thomas Tent as our ball pit, our kids loved the lack of other sensory stimuli; entering the tent was like a private world only for the child (we made a rule: tent door stays open, so we can ensure no funny business lol). The only stimuli was colourful balls. Let the calm begin....
  • When it comes to visual stimuli, less is more...but that does not mean bare white walls, especially not in a sensory room. In our classes, we tend to pick 1 or 2 focus walls which have visuals. The others stay pretty much a blank canvas. As long as visuals are controlled, they will serve their purpose. Purchase a cork board, or use some old wallpaper (just sticky tac it up) to section off an area where visuals will go; even a Bristol board will create some structure and order. This will help create a sense of order not chaos. (Pictures to come!) We used old wall paper donated from a nursery, with lions, elephants and kangaroos!

  • Sensory Buckets: a bin or bucket, an assortment of sensory textures made from mostly edible products: pasta, lentils, beans, and some shiny colourful beads. We have several other sensory bins as well, including multi-coloured rice bins with buried treasure, and corn flour and kidney bean (yes, ALL gluten free).
  • IKEA inflatable bugs. BEST purchase of the entire room; kids love to lounge on the textured IKEA carpet (we have two red and green); they relax on their tummies on top of the giant IKEA bugs that are filled with what seems to be a mini yoga ball for the kids to roll around on. A bit pricey overall, close to 70 I think for the whole thing which comes separately (the bug pillow case and the inflatable middle). The good news is, ours has lasted pretty well...and we love it so much we got another one. 
  • Smell station: Cotton balls are your best friend. Use familiar flavours like cinnamon, banana, nuts (if there are no allergies), vanilla, lavender and other soothing smells. Fill a plastic bottle with the cotton balls which are all dabbed with the smell; place the lid on the bottle and poke some hole around the top. VOILA. Smell bottles.
  • Glitter jars: Very simple, be sure to use plastic containers...we once used glass and learned very quickly that was a disaster. Use water, oil, food colouring and sparkles to create a homemade glitter jar. Shine a light into the bottle in a dark room, and watch the magic!
  • Tray Play: This is something that developed because kids are the masters of losing small pieces, or getting stuff everywhere. We use trays to keep small pieces, like of lego, fine motor games like jawbones, kinects and others; the tray prevents roll away pieces while the child focuses on create play. We also use the trays for shaving cream play, and other messy stuff like goop, glorb or play doh.
  • Black lights make any room seem magical and there is tons of stuff to do with glow-in-dark fun! Make glowing glorb, play doh or stars to stick onto the ceiling; make them in white and you will only see them when the black light is on.... 
  • Art Table with all the fixings
  • Water: we have a water table, but a bucket or bin like one used for the sensory bins would be just as effective. If you have two, fill one with warm water and one with cool water for a nice contrast. Add food colouring for a magical feeling.
  • An Ikea crawling tube transforms into a sensory crawling tube by adding sensory items for your kids to crawl over and around. The kids love rolling around with the sensory balls, and especially love pushing senso-dot balls as they crawl from one side to the other.
  • TO BE CONTINUED....
  • If you use any of these ideas I would love to hear about it! Send pics too!

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