Our kiddos need occupational therapy and sensory input daily! Why do our kiddos need sensory activities at home, isn’t the time at school good enough? The answer is no. Your kiddo will benefit from the ONGOING CALMING EFFECT they receive from these areas. Sensory spaces are a way for us parents to help our kiddos maximize the day by giving them what they need to be able to think about other things instead of only being able to focus on their sensory needs. In addition, their bodies and mind will be ready to take on the day once their bodies are happy.

Our kids needs sensory input for a number of reasons. Not only can they improve their fine and gross motor skills but they can also learn while they play. They can learn colors, shapes, names of objects etc. You can use this playtime as a way to expand their language skills and create a time for interacting with your kiddo. This area can also be used as a reward. Another reason to implement one of these in your home is to mitigate the risk for sensory overload. The benefits of any sensory area implemented at home is a great idea because your child craves sensory input and you’d be able to give them sensory time ALL the time!

The carry over from school to home

The maintenance of skills is vital for your kiddo. A lot of practice is done at school to develop fine motor and gross motor skills. To ensure your child does not lose the skills or regress in what they have learned, it is a good idea to implement these practices into your home. By practicing these techniques more than just a handful of times a week, your child can practice all they want at home! From small spaces to large spaces, you can really create a special area for you and your kiddo to connect, play and learn at home.

Creating a space just right for your home

There are many activities you can implement at home but you do have to consider 3 things before you jumping into a plan of action.

  1. What sensory needs would my kiddo benefit from the most?
  2. How much space do I have?
  3. How much does it cost to create a sensory space?

First, let’s dive into #1. What sensory needs would my kiddo benefit from the most? You can go small scale and create a mini area with a sensory bucket and tiny manipulatives that you and your child can play with OR you can go big and create a sensory play space with a sensory wall and exercise area. You can actually have these areas custom built in the form of a POD which is amazing! But if you’re like me and don’t necessarily have the budget for that then you might want to consider a DIY option. You will also have to consider your child’s individual sensory needs. Think about large movements, small movements, table exercises and stretches. What does your kiddo need and will enjoy the most? Something we found fun for the whole family was to incorporate both and have the table small enough to move to the side to be able to create room for the larger activities.

There are many good ideas on how to create a sensory bin (and I’ll go into how we created ours soon), but for the sake of this piece let’s go a little bigger. For those that I’ve worked with including my brother and kiddo, we’ve created a large area where our family can do large movements including gymnastic equipment that I’ve observed was in O.T. rooms. Next we need to think about #2 How much space do I have? For space estimates you want to think about safety and comfort. Consider space outside of the activity, like walking space and space for other activities. If your room will be just wide enough to fit the bigger equipment it might not be safe and comfortable to put equipment wall to wall. With the bigger equipment you will be doing rolling, jumping and big movements and you don’t want your kiddo running into the wall. In this case go with the smaller sensory space ideas (sensory bin, small sensory wall, sensory toy bin). Or you can do what we did and create a combo sensory area.

For those that I’ve worked with including my brother and kiddo, we’ve created a large area where our family can do large movements including gymnastic equipment that I’ve observed was in O.T. rooms. We’ve created an exercise play space with gymnastics equipment. This gymnastics mat allowed us to have a space to do rolls and stretches and the cheese wedge gave us depth for obstacle courses, body rolls, games etc. We also like to incorporate balls and stretch toys into our sensory play time. This is also a soft climb set that I really like (if you have the space) which works great for building obstacle courses and gross motor movements. For our home, we like to have places to do tickles, jumps and rolls. Now for the final consideration and the one that will determine your design, money. I generally like to buy quality when it comes to things my family will ingest or put on their body. So food, supplements, food storage and clothes is what I like to spend a little extra on (Sprouts & speciality online stores). For things like toys and larger objects I tend to go a little less expensive. For most play spaces in our home we have purchased on Amazon, flea markets (refurbished), social media mom groups etc. I also like DIY projects so buying something old and making it new again is fun for me. If this is not your thing then the easiest will be to order online. For the gymnastics equipment and some sensory equipment (seats, touchable wall toys, pillows etc.) I’ve purchased online and it we’ve found it is great quality and lasts a long time (even given the beating that it gets on a daily basis!).

Things to consider:

  1. Soothing colors: blues and greens worked well for us but may choose to go colorful which works too!
  2. Touch and feel: Soft, squishy and scratchy etc.
  3. Lighting: Try to go with soothing lighting and if you have a dark room, try entertaining projectors

A way to connect with your kiddo

Your kiddo loves to connect with you! This a great way to share fun moments and give your bestie the sensory needs they crave. You can play a ton of games with these areas and keep your kiddo engaged and happy. Here are some ideas to start with:

  1. Read a book together while your kiddo cuddles in the sensory pea pod
  2. Obstacle course (e.g. body roll down the wedge, army crawl to the ball and dunk in the basket! )
  3. Rollie Pollie roll and stretches
  4. Roll the ball down the wedge
  5. bouncing and balancing (using the peanut ball to balance and build strength)

That’s it, you’re done! Now you have your own sensory area filled with engaging activities that you can do with your kiddo! Use this area as a reward and you’ll see your child move mountains to get to be able to use this room. Your kiddo will thank you for putting this together. Have fun creating this amazing space!

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