What’s inside this article: A variety of sensory room ideas for schools, clinics, and homes that help create an enjoyable multisensory experience for children
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Sensory rooms are rooms specifically designed to provide an enjoyable or calming multisensory experience for children.
They’re often used for children with autism or sensory processing disorder but they are beneficial to all children.
Sensory rooms are becoming more common in clinics, schools, and even popping up elsewhere – like airports and malls. Having a sensory room in your home will support your child’s sensory needs on a daily basis.
What are the benefits of a sensory room?
There are many therapeutic benefits to sensory rooms for children.
- It provides a fun environment for kids to be active – exercise helps children focus and learn.
- Offers a safe space for children to practice gross motor skills and build confidence in those skills
- Reduces disruptive behaviors caused by sensory seeking or sensory overload
- It’s a safe space for kids to explore which is helpful for those with anxiety
- Calms and relaxes, helping improve emotional regulation
- Enhances learning – multisensory environments activate different areas of the brain simultaneously which helps enhance learning by building neural pathways more quickly.
Don’t have a room for your sensory room?
I know many people don’t have a spare room in their home to convert to a sensory room and if that’s the case it’s okay. You just need to get creative.
A sensory room doesn’t need to actually be a room – it can be a corner in your living room or bedroom, or even a medium to large-sized closet space.
Consider using a room-divider blackout curtain to section off a part of another room to build your sensory space. This will help dim the lighting as well which is helpful for children who are sensitive in some visual input.
If you’re using a closet or small storage space without a door, and you’d like to create some privacy but you’re worried about curtains being pulled down and damaging the walls, I recommend hanging them with magnetic tape instead. They are easily hung up again if they come down.
What to Consider When Creating a Sensory Room
Keep a list of all your sensory room ideas to help you plan out what the room will look like.
You need to consider a few different things for the room (especially if this room is for a school or clinic):
- Sensory Equipment
Sensory Room Ideas
Flooring needs to be soft enough that if your child falls or crashes into it, they won’t be injured. Hard flooring is not recommended.
Also, if your room is located somewhere with a concrete floor (such as your basement), you should also have extra padding in place.
It doesn’t take much to cause an injury with insufficient flooring. My son went down a slide face first, laying on his belly and his shoulder was the first thing to hit the floor, and he fractured his clavicle (collar bone.)
He only fell about an inch from the slide and there was foam on the floor, but it was covering concrete.
- Use quality foam tiles that interlock, as opposed to the thinner flimsy ones available at dollar stores in areas where your child may jump or fall while playing.
- Place additional padding in higher risk areas, for example underneath any climbing equipment in the room.
- Gel floor tiles in safe areas allow even the floor of your sensory room to be part of the overall experience. Invite kids to sit, jump or step on the tiles and watch the colors ooze.
The lighting in your room is an important part of the overall sensory experience. The right lighting creates a calming environment that is almost mesmerizing and is helping for preventing meltdowns.
Bright fluorescent lights that are common in classrooms is overstimulating and should be avoided, or dimmed.
The lighting you chose needs to support the type of atmosphere you are creating.
Lighting Ideas for Sensory Rooms:
- If the room has large fluorescent lights, they should be dimmed. A lot of people are sensitive to fluorescent lights, and they can actually contribute to overstimulation. You can purchase covers that dim them.
- Galaxy Light Projector — Projects LED lights on the ceiling that creates a soothing galaxy affect. This is great for helping with relaxation, and it’s equipped with Google Home and Amazon Alexa, so it’s voice activated and can play music.
- Bubble tube — I’m starting to see these more frequently in waiting areas for children and the kids always enjoy watching them. They’re a great tool for helping kids stay calm.
- Fiber optic light cascade — These lights basically make a color-changing curtain of flexible lighting. My son actually likes to lay on the floor underneath them and look up at them, or put them over his face close to his eyes.
- Tap Tap LED Lights — These make a great addition as lighting and as a sensory tool, they turn on and off individually with touch, but interlock together. Kids can use these for both visual and tactile sensory input.
Sensory Room Equipment & Furniture
Any sensory equipment or furniture is the heart of the room. You want to choose equipment that is durable and supports your child’s unique sensory needs.
What’s the goal of your sensory room? Calming? Active? Both?
Furniture and Equipment Ideas
- Indoor Play Gym — This climbing equipment is great because when you aren’t using it, it folds up almost flat. This makes it workable in smaller spaces or if you just want it out of your way to have some extra playroom sometimes.
Once unfolded this wooden indoor play gym gives kids a place to climb, swing, and slide.
- Swing — 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.
- Rocking Seating — Rocking is a calming source of vestibular input that can help seekers who are constantly moving. If you have enough space for it, this concentration rocker is durable, comfy, and easy to clean.
- Wobble Board — 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.
- Bean bag chair —Choose a bean bag chair that is big and durable enough that your child can safely jump into it and climb around, rather than having it strictly as a seat.
- Ball pit — Ball pits are a great source of proprioceptive input because the balls provide extra pressure all over the body. A quality ball pit will have sturdy sides that won’t collapse if your child leans over them. Also, shop for “crush-resistant” balls, or else you will be frequently replacing them.
- Exercise Ball — Exercise balls are a great seating and play option for a sensory room, they help with balance and stability. However, a word of caution — If there are lights on the ceiling, you may not want an exercise ball in this space because I know from experience they will be thrown up to bounce off the ceiling.
- Sensory Tent — A lot of children like to hide when they’re overstimulated — this is a normal stress response — so providing a safe hiding spot, that provides lots of privacy and calming sensory input, can significantly reduce dysregulation. You could even create a mini sensory room inside the tent if space is limited.
Sensory Toys and Fidgets
Keep several age-appropriate sensory toys and/or fidgets in the room for your child to use and play with.
There are many possibilities depending on what your child likes. I wouldn’t keep anything in the room that could get messy like slimes or putties, however here are some toy ideas for your sensory room.
- Pop Its
- Textured sensory balls
- ABC Look-and-feel bag
- Weighted items, for example, these weighted animals with reversible sequins for fidgeting, or weighted lap pads, blankets, etc.
- Touch and feel books
- Mental Blox, or for younger kids, Mental Blox Jr.
- Scented squishy toys, or plushies
- Hopper ball
- Interactive wall panels
You can even purchase bundles of sensory toys and fidgets on Amazon, and easily have a bin ready to go for breaks and sensory exploration.
With flooring, lighting, equipment, and toys ready for your sensory room, all that’s left is decor ideas to bring it together and add the finishing touches.
If your child gets overwhelmed by too much visual sensory input, don’t overdo it with colors and patterns.
Sensory Room Decor Ideas:
- Paint the walls a dark color like navy blue or burgundy to accentuate the effects of the fiber optic lighting.
- Add glow in the dark wall decals
- These floor and wall decals designed for kids who need to “Get the wiggles out”
- Self-adhesive mirror tiles; they aren’t made of glass so they can’t break
- Set up an area of the room as a calming corner with self-regulation posters – see how to build a calming corner here.
Professional Sensory Room Design
Are you a school or clinic looking for a professionally designed sensory room?
Fun and Function offers professional sensory room design worldwide. They create sensory rooms for schools, universities, airports, stadiums, hotels, workplaces and homes, based on your budget and goals.