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Ilana Danneman
BY Ilana Danneman

Three Tips for Creating a Budget Friendly Sensory Corner

My first time in a sensory room was quite impressive. I was oversees in a hospital for children with special needs. Beit Issie Shapiro in Israel is a pioneer facility and trail blazer in the use of sensory rooms. During my visit, it was explained to me that only one child and one facilitator was allowed into the room at a time.

I was allowed in as a visitor. I had to take my shoes off and was then allowed into the darkened room (lit up with a bubble tube, sensory tunnel and fiber optics). I stepped across white floor mats and sat down to watch the interaction between the child and the environment.

The child in the room was non-verbal and allowed to choose where he went in the room and which pieces of equipment he wanted to use. Goal setting was not a part of this experience. The child completely self-directed his time in the room. I have to say that the results were quite outstanding. While in this special space and time, this non-verbal child engaged with his surroundings and began to communicate. In a world where he was totally out of control, this sensory environment suddenly put him in control.

The New Sensory Room

Sensory rooms have come a long way. Some may even be of the opinion that what we see today are not even really sensory environments, but more play environments. The up side is that you can determine what you’d like to do with your space and personalize it to fit your own child, classroom or clinic. It does not need to be an all or none experience.

A Sensory Room for Every Budget and Need

Maybe you’re thinking of creating a sensory room, but don’t have the budget? Well, you don’t have to lose hope. They are easy to make, can even be portable and affordable. You just need a small closet or corner of a room and you can transform your space into something very useful and functional for children of all abilities, particularly those with sensory needs or neurological challenges.

Before you start, decide what the overall purpose is for your room. Set up some guidelines for the use of the room and be ready to change the room around from time to time.

What Kind of Sensory Room Do You Want?

Here are three ideas to get you started:

1. Reading or Study CornerReading

Find a corner or closet and you can transform it into a reading haven. If you have a bookcase, that is great, but if not a bucket of books will do the trick. Toss in a beanbag chair, some earmuffs to keep the noise out, and a lamp or book light. You may even want to hang a sheet up to act as a curtain for your space. If you have the room, add a fish tank (it can be fake) or bubble tube. Keep shuffling those books around to keep your reader eager to come back!

Chill Out Area

Tough day? Need a place to chill. You can create a great place to calm down.  Begin by choosing a designated corner, and lining it with pillows and blankets or a crash mat. Provide a body sock or Lycra suit that will surround the child with a calming deep pressure and insure limited visual input. Then, just let the unwinding begin. Kids can run, jump, crash, tumble, or simply lounge around.

Campout Indoors

Standard children’s tents or fun frames provide the perfect framework for a sensory nest. Throw a blanket over the frames to keep things nice and dark, and place a lava lamp, weighted blanket, and soft pillow inside. Create a playlist and pipe in some soothing music, and a bit of aromatherapy– presto, all set for a recharge. The best part about such a corner is the portability; like a good neighbor, your sensory haven will be there.

DYI Tips and Tricks

To spruce up these areas with some DIY tips and tricks, check out this ‘Building a Sensory Haven’ Pinterest page.  Think DIY back light sticky tables, glow in the dark rice, mushy squishy sensory bags…you won’t be disappointed!

Last, if you’d like a more permanent sensory room, try visiting one at a facility. Sensory rooms and gyms have been springing up all over the country, and perhaps your school or community might like to consider the benefits of having a public sensory room?

Happy Playing!

Ilana Danneman

Written on December 18, 2013 by:

Ilana Danneman is a pediatric physical therapist with over 25 years experience in the special needs field developing 100's of products, blogging, providing customer education, and catalog direction. She has worked for both School Specialty and Fun and Function and currently is a contract blogger and product developer as well as home health pediatric and geriatric physical therapist. She is currently the owner of the idea therapist and can be reached at [email protected]
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