It can be easy to get jealous of all the Pinterest-worthy sensory rooms we see floating around the internet. As professionals in special education, we want what is best for our students. Many of our students need additional input throughout their days to feel regulated and ready to learn. As a school-based occupational therapist (OT), I am here to tell you that you do not need to break the bank to offer sensory-rich experiences to your children! If you have funds, and are looking for “dream”/ideal sensory equipment for a sensory space, check out my blog on 15 Must Haves for a Sensory Room! Below are some cost-effective ways to target each system!
Oil Timers [affiliate link] are a great way to engage the visual system for a low cost! They are also portable, so some of my students use them similarly to a fidget! Adding Fiber Optic Lamps[affiliate link] to a darkened [or not!] space is also a really fun and easy idea to get more visual input!
Here at Simply Special Ed, we love some good sensory bins! They are a quick, easy, engaging way to target skills and add some tactile input throughout the day! Check out our previous blogs on sensory bins to get a ton of different perspectives on how to use these from a few of our SEE bloggers! One of my favorite sensory bin fillers is water beads [affiliate link]. Nothing quite matches the texture of water beads! (Please do not use water beads with anyone who is mouthing or has the possibility of mouthing.)
Olfactory (Smell) System
There are some really great recipes for scented play dough in the Sensory Visual Recipes resource if you want to add additional sensory input to tactile or fine motor activities! We love to hide beads in the play dough for the students to find! Scented Markers [affiliate link] are another easy way to add in some smell sensory input to any activity. A lot of my students find coloring to be a calming/regulating activity. Adding preferred scents can add to this activity!
Pop Tubes [affiliate link] are a great way to add auditory (sound) input to a sensory space in an inexpensive way! Even pop-it fidget toys have an auditory component that I think my students enjoy more than the tactile sensory experience.
Vestibular Sensory System
Our sensory room is full of Therapy Balls [affiliate link]! We have chairs that offer additional movement because the seat is a therapy ball. Peanut shaped balls are also great for sitting on. Try reaching, crossing midline, etc. while sitting on the ball! Get a lot of great input by rolling out on your stomach and catching yourself on your hands to push back up! Some students who aren’t looking for movement-based input, may like to be “steamrolled” by a therapy ball rolling over them by an adult [avoid the face/neck!].
Scooter Boards are another great way to get some vestibular input. My favorite thing to do on scooter boards is to have the students go on their stomachs with their feet up [to really encourage upper body strength] and search around the room for hidden items [like puzzle pieces!].
Proprioception/Heavy Work Activities
Body Socks [affiliate link] are a great way to get a lot of deep pressure input! Pair with yoga poses [get SSE movement break yoga for FREE!] or a following directions game like Simon Says! If you need some deep pressure input that is less movement-based, Beanbag Chairs [affiliate link] are a great option! Any “calm down corner” [in my opinion] should have one! See this blog on 4 Ideas for a Calm Down Corner for some more suggestions! Something you might not think of as a good way to get proprioceptive/deep pressure input are Vibration Massagers. All forms of vibration provide this kind of input, and mini back massagers are a great portable option!
Give your students access to self-regulation/sensory tools in your classroom or sensory space with the Simple Sensory Self Regulation Toolkit that includes self-regulation visuals, choice boards, and request boards! Let us know what your sensory spaces look like over in our Facebook Group! I’d love to see what you guys are using!