Our sensory room started making SUCH a difference in my boys that I decided to make two more! Maybe our entire house will be one big sensory room one day, lol…but then again, maybe I’m going a little overboard with that! Hey, whatever calms the storm, right?! Since we have soooo many sensory items between the three rooms, I figured it was time to share some awesome sensory room ideas with the rest of you!
Why do autistic kids need a sensory room?
A sensory room can be a life saver during meltdowns, times of hyperactivity, and as part of your child’s daily routine. The sensory input is calming, and helps regulate emotions. It can also be just what your sensory seeker needs in order to calm down.
Basic sensory room ideas
There are a few basic items that every sensory room should have. Reduced lighting, a crash pad or bean bag, and a calm down bin are essential. You can easily turn a closet into a sensory room. If you don’t have an entire room to dedicate, you can set up a tent or large cardboard box in a corner, and add some small sensory items to it. The main idea is to give your child a secluded area to meet their sensory needs.
1) Lighting for your sensory room
There are several kinds of lighting that we love in our sensory rooms. LED light strips make a super ceiling border, and can be used both for calming and for shaking the sillies out. We keep them dim and solid blue at night. When the boys are wound up, I switch them to “dance party” mode where they flash and change colors quickly. Meanwhile the boys will jump and dance, and flop onto their Yogibo Max.
It’s also nice to have a light that your child can operate on their own. My older son adores this penguin light projector. They both have these Playbrites animal lights that were in the As Seen On TV section in Walmart for quite some time. They can pop off the dome part and easily press the base to change the projection color and make it shine exactly where they want it. Feeling a bit in control definitely helps our kids on the spectrum to calm down!
Our essential oil diffuser also has a smooth color changing option, or you set it to a solid color. We use this on a daily basis too.
Of course there’s always the overhead lighting to consider in your sensory room. We use a remote controlled color changing LED bulb, and it has so many different options, so you can find the perfect setting for your kiddos. Walmart carries one in the toys section, by headphones, and it works like a dream. I also saw this color changing LED speaker bulb just recently, but haven’t had a chance to try it out yet. It is bluetooth compatible, so you can play music from your smartphone through it! Who thinks of these things?! It’s on my wish list!
2) Seating for your sensory room
You want to have a comfortable place for your child to recline or lay down in their sensory room. A crash pad is the best way to go, because it is multipurpose. Your child can use it for deep pressure input, anger management, and seating. We prefer Yogibo products, because of their comfort and durability. The Yogibo Max is big enough for adults to comfortably recline or sit on, so it’s the best deal for the money. If you don’t plan on using it for yourself too, the smaller Yogibo Mini is great just for kids.
If the Yogibo isn’t in your budget, you can use a bean bag chair from Walmart. A memory foam dog bed is a comfortable and affordable option as well. You can snag one for as little as $20. Check the clearance section of T.J. Maxx for great deals on these too! As a last resort, you can always just throw a pile of pillows and comforters in there…kids know what to do with that!
3) Sounds for your sensory room
Sounds really add to the relaxation factor of a sensory room. You can play instrumental pieces, nature sounds, or gentle lullabies to help calm your child. The Hacth baby sound machine is amazing, and totally programmable. A more affordable option is the Homedics MyBaby Soundspa, which has soothing lullabies and white noise. We use a portable Homedics sound machine in our smallest sensory room, and in the tent. I love the timer option, so it doesn’t get left on the entire day and drain the battery.
Find out what works best for your child. Another great option is ASMR sounds without talking. My boys listen to soap carving, crunching sounds, nature sounds, and slime play. Also, keep a pair of noise-cancelling headphones handy if your child prefers silence in order to calm down.
4) Calm down bin for your sensory room
A calm down bin can contain a variety of therapy tools, many of which you can find for just a few bucks. In fact, I’ve found nearly 200 sensory items at the Dollar Tree alone! Here are some of our favorites.
- weighted lap pad (Or weighted pet, like my son’s adorable owl)
- Smooshy Mushy pets (they are scented, so we’ve got that sense covered too!)
- chewable jewelry
- Zuru Hamsters (they are soft and vibrate – my boys hold them in their hands to calm down)
- glow sticks
- monkey noodles (super stretchy!)
- marble fidgets
- noise-cancelling headphones (sometimes they need total quiet)
- doh balls
- Globbles (sticky, but won’t stick to you – totally mess free!)
- pinwheels (great for blowing – forces deep breathing)
- calming strategies printable (great reminder!)
- Koosh balls
- push lights
- Brain Putti (you can get it for $4 from Five Below!)
- water timer
- handheld fan (sometimes they literally just need to cool off!)
You can also get this super sensory pack with 24 pieces for only $25!
Ready to set up an epic sensory room?
You’ve got all the basics laid out here, and now you just need to hop on Amazon or head to Walmart and get started! Remember you can find lots of cheap sensory items at the Dollar Tree and Five Below as well! I would love to see your sensory rooms, big and small! Let me know if you have one in the comments, and feel free to post a picture on my FaceBook page!
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