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Building an Effective Sensory Room 
With options for every budget.
By Nicole Bovell Posted in Autism 0 Comments 7 min read
Life Skills for Adults with Developmental Disabilities  Previous Managing Challenging Behaviors Next

Have you ever thought about building your own sensory room? Many parents have. Sensory rooms can be very beneficial to children with sensory processing disorders, children on the spectrum and/or children with anxiety and attention/hyperactivity issues. When deciding on a space for your sensory room, keep an open mind. You can utilize whatever space you have in your home such as a closet, an empty room, a basement or that awkward space that’s under the stairs (if you have one).

After you decide on the space, think about the needs of the child that you are building the room for.

For example,

What in particular do they need help with?

Do they need a space to calm them down?

Do they just need a safe space to play?

After you decided on the purpose of your sensory room, next, think about what objects you would like to fill the space with. There are a variety of sensory toys that make noises, light up and vibrate, but these may be too stimulating for some children. There are also soft mats and soft play equipment for children who need to be more active while ensuring their safety. 

To give you more ideas, the following are some ideas to add to your sensory room:

  1. bean bags and soft mats
  2. visually stimulated toys (i.e., toys that light up and make sounds)
  3. tactile toys (i.e., toys with different textures)
  4. soft and squishy toys
  5. UV lighting
  6. aromatherapy or essential oils
  7. LED bubble tubes
  8. mirrors and mirror balls
  9. projectors to cast images and colors
  10. swings
  11. beads
  12. music
  13. massage chairs
  14. compression materials

Now the BUDGET!

Keep in mind that sensory rooms can cost up to thousands of dollars depending on what you want in the space that you provide. If you are creating a sensory room on a budget, stick to the basics such as mats, bean bags and toys. Also, find a reputable company who backs their products, taking comfort in knowing that all of your objects are safe and reliable.

Here are a few ideas for the MINIMUM budget, the I CAN AFFORD SOME ITEMS budget, and the PRICE IS NOT AN OPTION budget.

Note: I selected items that were under $50 for a minimum budget, $51 – $100 for a medium budget, and items $101 and above for a higher budget. Prices change over time, so some items may be in a different budget category at your time of purchase.

I’m working with a minimum budget.

As I stated before, if you are working within a budget, stick with the basics.

Hopper Balls promote coordination, balance, and exercise.

Calming music to set the mood. Some children may have a preference, such as animal sounds or rain.

Swings can be on the pricier side, but are great for providing relaxation for a child. I included two options.

Some parents may use essential oils to help with behavioral or social systems. If you are new to aromatherapy, you will need a diffuser.

Folding mats can be great for crashing and laying down comfortably. Some children may even need padding on the walls to prevent injury during meltdowns.

The right lighting can have a positive impact on your child’s mood, perceptions, health, and attitude.

Peanut balls are used for sensory children looking for vestibular input. Fidgety children and teens may prefer using the peanut ball as a saddle seat rather than a traditional chair.

Ear muffs are used for children who are hypersensitive to sound.

Sensory toys provide the sensory input that many children with autism want.

The sensory sox helps with self-calming, improves balance, increases body and spatial awareness, and heightens movement creativity.

I can afford some items.

If you are able to put some money towards your sensory room, you first want to think about what your child exactly needs. Once you figure that out, this is where you want to put your money to make sure you child is getting the most out of their sensory room.

Trampolines provide endless amount of fun for those struggling with vestibular input.

Bean bags can provide deep pressure compression for children with sensory issues. You can have your child lay down and place this on top of them for added pressure.

Another deep pressure option for your child’s downtime.

A swing specifically made for children with special needs that strengthens the vestibular and proprioceptive systems by teaching your child’s brain and body to work together.

Some children may need a compression vest to provide pressure and weight.

The right lighting can have a positive impact on your child’s mood, perceptions, health, and attitude.

Price is not an option for my child’s sensory room.

If you are able to spend more money on your child’s sensory room, then you can get a lot of really cool things. However, you want to make sure you have the space for these items because the pricier items typically need more room.

Crash pad for jumping, sitting, relaxing on.

Alternating colors and the soft “buzz” of the machine provides the perfect stimulation for individuals with special needs, autism, ADHD.

Trampolines provide endless amount of fun for those struggling with vestibular input.

This swing is easy to install and handles a large amount of weight.

Colored liquid moves with every step, jump, or hop that your child makes on the tile.

This is not an exhaustive list! Do not forgot the countless fidget toys that may be perfect for your child. Since every child has different sensory needs, always tailor your room to your child to help them thrive in the best therapeutic environment.

View the shop to get more ideas for your sensory room.

What if I’m just looking for ideas for a sensory box?

While using a sensory box with children with special needs seems to be new and revolutionary, including sensory items in daily activities for children with special needs has been best practice for quite some time now. As a result of the increase awareness, education and research for children with special needs (especially children with autism), you can find a variety of sensory toys and items to include in your sensory boxes. If your child responds to traditional sensory toys (i.e., sensory balls), then there are some great toys that will help with sensory stimulation and sensory breaks. However, I have had several students in the past that preferred common objects that you may find around the house instead of sensory toys. As every child is different, find out what works for your child and what they respond best to. Depending on the situation and child, sensory boxes should be therapeutic, help manage anxiety, and/or stimulate the senses. Keep in mind some children with special needs have been known to respond to items that you would find surprising.

Here are some ideas to use in your sensory boxes:

  • packaging peanuts
  • bubble wrap
  • silly putty
  • rice, oats, flour
  • flexible straws
  • flashlights
  • foil
  • cotton balls
  • whistles
  • zippers
  • fabric or ribbons
  • tennis balls
  • sand
  • magnets
  • shaving cream

***Always use caution when giving these items to your child if your child still has an oral fixation.***

If your child prefers more traditional sensory toys over household items, many children respond well to

  • fidget toys
  • tactile sensory balls
  • items that light up, spin around or vibrate
  • chew toys
  • bean bags
  • sound blocks

The important thing is to find items that your child likes and produces the desired effect that you are looking for. For more ideas, visit the The Shop.

Take away: Every sensory room or box is unique. Only you know what your child needs. Find out what works best for them.

Beyond Special Education Store
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Beyond Special Education

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