What is a Sensory Room?
A sensory room, also known as a multisensory environment or multisensory room, is a pleasant, sensory space specially designed for people with additional needs.
It is set up to provide individuals with sensory processing difficulties, such as those on the
Sensory rooms are designed by looking at the five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. The goal is to create an environment that is both calming and stimulating, depending on the needs of the child.
This can be done through a variety of means, such as:
- Visual – by using colors, patterns, and lights that are pleasing to look at
- Auditory – by playing calming or energizing music
- Olfactory – by using essential oils or other pleasant scents
- Tactile – by providing different textures to touch and explore
- Gustatory- by offering snacks or drinks with different flavors
The idea behind a sensory space is to provide a space where individuals can go to regulate their senses. This can be helpful for those who become sensory-loaded or overstimulated, especially in their day-to-day environments. It can also be a place for people to wind down after a long day or an intense experience.
This sensory space does not need to be elaborate. It can be simply a quiet room with some sensory items for children who experience sensory overload. Giving them some time to self-regulate in this quiet environment can help them feel calm and then return to their classroom or home environment with improved focus and regulated emotions.
Things to think about before creating a sensory room
Creating and designing sensory rooms can involve as little or as much personalization as you like. However, there are a few aspects of your sensory room that you must consider before you work on the final output.
Think about who the sensory space is for?
When you think about creating a sensory room, the first thing to consider is who are you building it for. Is it to meet the needs of one child, or many children with different needs?
If you are creating a room for one child, you will be able to tailor the space specifically to their needs. If you are creating a room for multiple children, you will need to consider a variety of needs and how to best meet them all in one space.
This is particularly important for those who require different sensory needs. For example, if one student needs additional sensory input, whereas the other child might be very sensitive clothing or to other sensory information.
What do these children need and like
The next thing to consider is the needs and likes of these children. What type of sensory input do they need? What type of activities or play do they enjoy?
Once you know what these children like and need, you can start to design the space around that. Children are more likely to use spaces that they relate to or have their favorite characters and toys.
You might want to add their favorite stuffed animals or a beanbag chair made with materials with their favorite TV show characters.
What is your budget?
The last thing you need to think about before starting to design your sensory room is your budget. How much money are you willing to spend on this project? How much space do you have?
You don’t need a lot of money to create a great sensory room. You can find many affordable items and ideas to help you get started. If you have a large budget and plenty of space, you could create an entirely separate room just for different sensory activities.
This would give you complete control over the environment and allow you to create a truly customized space.
If you have a smaller budget or less space, you might want to consider using a corner of another room or even using a tent so it can be set up in different locations.
Where should you place the sensory room?
While choosing where to set up your sensory room, several factors need to be taken into consideration.
Ensure that the chosen place is quiet, as the noise might distract one from the overall effectiveness and feel.
It must be easily accessible. This is vital in the case of some users who have limited mobility.
Consider lighting, especially if there is a room with big windows in it. Some children who are sensitive to bright lights may not like this room. You might want to add a tinted window or blackout curtains to control the amount of light that comes into the room.
How to create the perfect sensory room?
List out the child’s sensory needs
The first step in creating the perfect room is to list out the child’s sensory needs. This will help you understand what type of sensory input they need and the activities or play they enjoy.
Some children might need a lot of visual stimulation, while others might need more auditory or tactile stimulation. Knowing what the child needs will help you design the space around that.
List of calming tools that have worked in the past
The next step is to create a list of calming tools that have worked in the past. These can be anything from soft lighting to soothing music.
Try and use a variety of textures, smells, and sounds to create a calm and relaxing environment. You could also use different colors to create a visually calming effect.
Take a note of some therapy items, toys, and sensory activities that might have worked for your child in the past. You might find that your child responds to certain types of sensory items more than others.
Little side note, many kids actually find a weighted blanket perfect for sensory needs.
Identify if there are any other senses that have not been considered
The third step is to identify if there are any other senses that have not been considered. For example, some children might need vestibular input or proprioceptive input.
If you are unsure of what type of sensory input the child needs, you can always consult with an occupational therapist. They will be able to help you understand the child’s needs and how to best meet them.
Put the calming tools or sensory input in place
The fourth step is to put the calming tools in place. This can be done by using different colors, textures, smells, and sounds. You can also use lighting and music to create a calm environment.
If the child enjoys activities such as swinging or jumping, you could include those in the space as well. Be sure to have a variety of activities available to meet the needs of all children who will be using the room.
Monitor the child’s response
The fifth and final step is to monitor the child’s response. This will help you understand if the space is meeting their needs. It will also help you identify any changes that need to be made to the space.
If the child is not responding well to the environment or sensory stimulation, you might need to make some adjustments by taking away or putting some more sensory items. You could also consult with an occupational therapist to get more ideas on how to make the space more effective.
Items to put into a sensory room
Here are some examples of what you can put in a sensory room, depending on your child’s needs.
Sensory lights are at the heart of every sensory room. Apart from providing stunning effects, they create a stimulating environment for all your child’s needs. You can add in a few varieties like fiber optic, lava lamps, and illuminated panels. These are known to be great for children with
If your child is sensitive to sound, then you might want to consider adding noise-canceling headphones to a perfect sensory room. This will help to reduce any outside noise that might be disturbing them.
Adding some calming music like nature sounds or white noise can also be helpful as sensory inputs.
Textures are a great way to provide tactile input. You can add in items like a furry rug, a soft blanket, or a bean bag chair. These will help to soothe and calm the child.
A tactile wall of squares can also be a great way to add some texture and block out the additional echo in the room. Tactile walls can hold attention and imagination, offering your child some priceless hours of tactile exploration.
Smelling different scents can be very calming for children. You can add in a diffuser with some lavender oil or chamomile oil. These scents have been known to be very calming and relaxing.
It is important to note that some children are sensitive to smell and do not like additional smells. Therefore, if you are creating a sensory room for lots of children, then this is something to consider.
Some children with
For children who need proprioceptive input, you can add in some heavy work items. These could be things like weighted blankets, crash pads, ball pits, and weighted stuffed animals. These will help to provide the child with the deep pressure that they need to meet their sensory needs
The next, but probably the most vital thing that you can add to a sensory room are calming tools. These can be things like a fidget spinner, stress balls, or a spinning chair. These will help to calm and focus the child. Bubbles and fidgets have also been known to be very calming for children on the
When creating a sensory room for a child with
Always consult with an occupational therapist before starting to create your own sensory room. They will be able to help you understand the child’s needs and how to best meet them.
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Hinklin-Lauderdale, J. (2021). How to create a sensory room on a budget – eSpecial Needs Blog. Retrieved 14 March 2022, from https://www.especialneeds.com/blog/budget-sensory-room-building/
The right calming sensory lights for your sensory room. Experia USA. (2021, January 6). Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://www.experia-usa.com/blog/calming-sensory-lights-for-your-sensory-room/
What is a Sensory Room? – The Multisensory Blog. (2019). Retrieved 14 March 2022, from https://themultisensoryblog.com/what-is-a-sensory-room/
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