Must-Haves for Your Home Sensory Playroom
Meeting your child's sensory needs can be an overwhelming and daunting job, to say the least. It's hard enough juggling all the regular parenting balls - sleep, food, school, homework, playdates, activities, check-ups, keeping them alive - having another layer of needs to meet is enough to cause all of those balls to come crashing down. I've been there.
I spent the first few years of my son's development desperately trying to figure out what sensory processing was all about. In my quest to do whatever I could to help improve his sensory processing, I went a little overboard.
And by "a little overboard," I mean I bought Every. Single.Toy. that was used during his weekly therapy. Each week during physical and occupational therapy, the second the therapist brought out a sensory toy, I whipped out my phone, cued up Amazon, and purchased it. If there was even a slight chance it would help my son, I was buying it. Period. End of discussion.
Our house came to resemble a cross between a jungle gym and a Toys R Us, much to my husband's dismay. My son is eight and a half now and, needless to say, at this point, we've tried out our fair share of sensory toys.
Though I definitely overdid it, I will say that having a sensory playroom has been a godsend and has gone a long way towards meeting my son's needs. We turned our garage into our sensory playroom by putting foam flooring down.
I can't tell you how nice it is to have a separate room with all their sensory toys! My boys basically live in there. Whenever they get a little squirrelly, which is often, all we have to say is "guys, go play in the sensory room." They're old enough now that they know exactly what to do when they're overstimulated and need some calming input and on the flip side, they know what to do when they're craving more input.
Turning your playroom into a sensory play room does not have to cost you an arm and leg nor does it have to involve sampling every sensory toy like I did! To save you (and your bank account) from the trouble, here are 10 Sensory Must-Haves for your Home Sensory Playroom:
1. Yoga Ball $14
There are a million ways to use a yoga ball for sensory play. Ok, that's an exaggeration, but here are a few to get you started.
2. Sensory Swing. $80
Of all the sensory toys we've had, this one by far has given us the biggest bang for our buck! My boys are obsessed with it and literally use it multiple times a day. They have found some very "creative" (read: hair-raising) ways to use it and also love to relax by crawling inside and swinging rhythmically back and forth.
3. Mini Trampoline $60
We've had a mini trampoline since my older son was a toddler. He's eight and a half now and he still uses it every day. It's your perfect one stop shop for providing proprioceptive and vestibular input. I love the handle on this one which gives extra proprioceptive input through the arms.
4. Crash Pad $127
If you have a sensory kid, you will definitely want a crash pad in your playroom! It's a godsend. My boys use ours on a daily basis. It's especially fun for landing on after jumping off the mini trampoline. You can also use it underneath the rock wall (#10) and the sensory swing for exta padding.
We made a DIY crash pad by buying bags of extra foam from a discount upholstery store. If you're in the San Diego area, call UFO Fabrics and ask if they'll save you 5 bags of extra foam. They sell them for $7 a bag. Get a queen size duvet cover and stuff it with the foam and voila! you have yourself a sensory-friendly crash pad.
5. Sensory Tent $22
This is the spot in the playroom where your child can go to unwind and get some calming input. Make it cozy by adding blankets, pillows and cushions. Other calming items you may include are: a weighted blanket, chewy toys, favorite books, calming music, a sound machine, stuffed animals, noise-cancelling headphones and thera putty.
6.Pogo Stick $13
A pogo stick is a fun, easy and safe way for your child to get proprioceptive and vestibular input. My boys have graduated to the big-kid version which is for kids 5 and up.
7. Balance Board $30
Great for core strength, vestibular and proprioceptive input. We use ours a lot when we do obstacle courses (my boys' favorite!). I make it more challenging by tossing a bean bag back and forth while my boys are balancing.
8. Stepping Stones $70
Another sensory toy with a multitude of uses! You can make a path and have your child simply walk across. He can take off his shoes for more tactile input, practice balancing on each step with one foot, jump from one to another, bend down and pick objects of the floor each time he moves to a new step... you can get creative with these bad boys.
9. Sensory Table $90
If you are handy or have a handy partner, you can make a DIY sensory table with a concrete mixing tub and PVP pipe. Click here for instructions.
Sensory tables are the perfect way to give your child different types of tactile input. Click here for a list of 55 things you can put in your sensory table.
10. Rock Climbing Wall $40
This is a must for sensory-seekers! Climbing helps with motor planning, gives proprioceptive input and is a great way to keep your sensory kid occupied when he's getting a little squirrely!
The grand total for all the items is $540. If your budget doesn't allow you to buy everything in one fell swoop (ours didn't), try breaking it up into smaller chunks, two or three items at a time.
If your child is receiving occupational therapy, you'll get more bang for your buck if you continue the sensory activities at home. You can ask your OT to help you come up with a home "sensory diet" to help meet your child's specific sensory needs. Having a home sensory play room ensures that your child will get the sensory input he needs on a daily basis.
As your child gets older, he'll know what kind of input he needs. For example, when my older son is feeling dysregulated, he goes into our playroom, hops in the cocoon swing and uses it to calm himself. Similarly, when my little sensory-seeker has energy to spare, he goes right to the trampoline, does daring tricks on the swing or sets up an obstacle course.
Here are some bonus items that you might want to include as well:
If you have a sensory room at home, I'd love to hear about your child's go-to sensory toys. Leave your comments and questions below.
Here are some additional articles you may want to check out:
What is OT-SI and Will it Help My Child?
How to Make a Portable Sensory Bin
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