How to Create a Simple Sensory Room on a Budget
This is a question I get constantly! One of the best things we can do to help our kiddos on the spectrum is to meet their sensory needs on a daily basis. But most of us don’t have tons of money left over after all the therapy and other expenses. So many moms want to know how to create a sensory room on a budget, and just don’t know where to start. Believe it or not, you can do it for less than $100!
Benefits of a sensory room
What is so great about a sensory room? Won’t having some sensory toys be enough? Well, not usually. Having sensory items available definitely helps with many issues associated with autism. But having a sensory room is completely different. It gives your child a safe place to escape from all the sensory overload and general overwhelm of their daily environment. It’s a place they can go and know exactly what to expect.
In general, sensory rooms are separate from the rest of the house, and provide all kinds of calming sensory input. It’s a relaxing space for your child to feel completely comfortable and secure. Daily use of a sensory room greatly reduces anxiety, harmful behaviors, and sensory overload. No matter how big or small it is, it can make a world of difference for your autistic child.
How to design a sensory room
You can use some household items to help save money when designing your sensory room. You don’t have to drop tons of money on certain things when you can put them together at home. There are a few essentials for any sensory room, and tons of fun optional items you can include once the basics are in place.
There are plenty of cheap lighting options for your sensory room. As a general rule, you want the room/closet/area to be fairly dark. It’s not a must, but it obviously helps to be able to block out unwanted bright lights and use a small diffused light that can be controlled.
We use several different lights in our sensory rooms on a regular basis. My boys love these Playbrite animal lights because they can hold them and easily operate them just by pressing down on the center of the light. We tend to use our rotating star projector light at night, and it has multiple settings to play around with. To avoid purchasing a separate sound machine, you can get this wave projector light with built-in music.
Another option is lighting from the Dollar Tree! They always have some sort of cool lights! We have found tiny lamps with diffused light, push lights, decorative solar lights, night lights, and string lights. I actually made this pretty hanging sensory light (below) by using a few strands of string lights from the Dollar Tree and covering them with a scarf! Isn’t it cute?!
When your child goes into their sensory room, they will likely sit or lay down most of the time. You can toss some pillows in the floor for them to lay on, invest in a beanbag chair (a more costly option), try an inflatable chair (cheaper than a beanbag chair), use a mattress topper, or make your own no-sew crash pad.
One of our sensory rooms has a mattress topper in the floor, covered with a fitted sheet. Another has some memory foam dog beds (hey, don’t judge! They were on clearance, so I figured “Why not?!”) covered with an old comforter. We do also use a Yogibo (not budget friendly!) and a homemade beanbag chair in one of our sensory rooms.
Another option is just hanging a hammock or swing for your child to relax on in their sensory room. Even though our basement sensory room has a super soft seating area in the floor, my boys rarely use it – they just hang out in the hammock swing. I found an amazing deal and snagged these $5 hammocks from Five Below, but you can still find decent priced ones on Amazon like this one. Sometimes Ollie’s and other closeout stores have great finds, so keep an eye out for hammocks, swings, and inflatable lounger sofas.
Cheap sound (or silence)
Your sensory room should have some type of auditory input, or the option to avoid it altogether. If your child prefers silence as an escape, hang a pair of noise-cancelling headphones on a wall hook, or put them in a calm down bin in your sensory room. Otherwise, offer some relaxing nature sounds or gentle melodies…or both.
This wave projector light has relaxing tunes, and would save you from buying a separate light. Another great option is the Homedics Soundspa, which also includes light projections. We love our on-the-go Soundspa as well, and it can go in the calm down bin as well, which is great for small spaces.
Calm down bin
Every sensory room needs a calm down bin – a small basket of sensory items to help soothe your child. You can get everything you need at the Dollar Tree! In fact, I’ve written another post about over 175 different sensory items at Dollar Tree! Insane, but true! You can put together an amazing sensory bin (basket and all!) for $10-$15.
Some ideas for your calm down kit:
- noise canceling headphones
- reversible sequin items
- handheld light
- sensory balls
- soft spike toys
- slow-rise smooshies
- springs (like Slinky)
- fluffy pens/keychains
- stretch toys
- spill-proof bubbles (Fubbles – cheapest at Walmart!)
- Soft fabrics/scarves
- stress balls
Sensory room on a budget
As you can see, it is pretty easy to set up a basic sensory room on a tight budget! With the options I’ve shown you, you can easily design a sensory room with all the essentials for $50-$100, depending on which options you choose. And of course you can always add new sensory room items over time!
This getaway space will help your child in so many ways – you certainly won’t regret it! My boys use their sensory rooms on a daily basis, and it has made worlds of difference for us! How much did you end up spending on your sensory room? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to subscribe and snag my free calming strategies printable to give your kiddo 50 ways to douse a meltdown!