Sensory Rooms are made to provide an enjoyable or calming, multi-sensory experience for children. They are often used for children who are autistic or who have sensory processing disorders, but sensory rooms can be beneficial for every child! If you are in the process of building or kitting out a sensory room, what things should you be including?
Why Have a Sensory Room?
Sensory rooms are becoming more and more popular, with them popping up in schools, hospitals, and even airports and there's a good reason. There are countless therapeutic benefits for children who spend time in sensory rooms, including;
gives space for them to be active and explore sensations
offers a safe space for children to explore gross and fine motor skills
reduces challenging behaviour caused by sensory seeking
calms and relaxes the body, helping with emotional regulation
supports brain development and builds neural pathways
If you don't have an actual spare room for a sensory room, you can always transform a corner of your classroom or even a medium sized storage area, if you have one free!
How to Build a Sensory Room
Before you go on a shopping spree and buy all the amazing additions for your sensory room, it is best to sit down and really think about every aspect of the room.
Flooring needs to be soft, so that if a child falls or throws themselves on the ground, they won't hurt themselves. Hard flooring is not recommended. Sensory rooms are often used as calm-down rooms so it must be safe for a child who is potentially in meltdown.
high-quality foam tiles. Do not cheap out on this one. Get the ones that interlock and that are going to provide good padding. You can get a variety of colours and even some with themes.
ortho floor maths. These textured floor mats provide foot massages as you walk over them, and can be themed as well. Foot massages can improve blood flow, increase energy levels and reduce anxiety.
bean bags. Provide some extra padding in 'danger' areas, i.e. where children can either fall or jump off.
Gel floor mats. Not only do these feel lovely, but they also provide visual input with the colour liquids inside.
Lighting is key and plays an important role in the overall sensory experience in your sensory room. In my previous school, we had both a 'light room' and a 'dark room', which allowed children to still experience a sensory room, even if they were sensitive to light.
The right level, and colour, of light can provide a calming environment that is almost hypnotic and can help prevent a meltdown. Bright, florescent lights are often very stimulating and should be avoided.
Galaxy projectors - projects LED lights on the ceiling that creates a soothing galaxy affect. This is great for helping with relaxation
Fairy lights - these can create a sense of peace and calm, and using a warm white is less overstimulating.
Bubble Tubes - these are everywhere and autistic children seem to love them! They are so calming, can be filled with little toys and the lights can also change colour.
Fibre Optic Light Curtain - these can be hung up but I've seen them used like light blankets, where children can drape the lights over themselves.
Disco Light Balls - similar to galaxy projectors, but can be a little cheaper and have more bright colours.
Equipment & Furniture
What equipment and furniture you put in your sensory room depends on its goal. Is it designed to be calming? Active? Stimulating?
Doorway gym - this particular doorway gym can include gymnastic rings, swing and rope ladder so is great for children to burn off a bit of energy and can also be used for physical therapy.
Sensory swings - A sensory swing is a great addition to any sensory room, whether the goal is to be calming or alerting. There are so many benefits to swinging when it comes to sensory integration
Wobble Boards - These simple yet extremely versatile boards stimulate the vestibular system and are a great addition to any sensory room. They work great as seating, for balancing on, sliding on, climbing over, etc.
Gym Balls - again, a great piece of equipment for balancing, rolling and climbing on and can also support with physical therapy.
Ball Pits - super fun for both kids and adults!
Tents - just a simple pop up tent works well and you can then decorate the inside with additional lights and fill it with books or sensory toys.
Now that you have all the furniture and equipment for the sensory room of your dreams, you now just need the finishing touches to the room. If you have a lot of children who are sensitive to sensory input, don't overdo it with colours or patterns on the walls.
Use a dark paint on the walls (black, dark grey, navy) to help accentuate the lights.
Self-adhesive mirror tiles - don't worry, they're not made of glass!