Enjoy the Benefits of a Sensory Room at Home

By FCPS & Fairfax County Government
Healthy Minds
May 27, 2020

Earlier this year, we shared information on the Sensory Room at Providence Community Center. Sensory rooms utilize various lights, sounds, textures, scents, and motion to create a calming and explorative space. While we may have limited access to public sensory spaces at the current moment, there are simple ways for you and your family to experience the benefits of a sensory room while in the comfort of your own home. Bekah Stone, a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, offers ideas to get you started in creating a sensory environment with activities at home.

Lighting/Visual Sense

Focus on utilizing calming colors, like greens and blues or pastel colors. To create softer lighting, you can turn off harsh overhead lights and use soft lamp lights instead. You can hang soft fabrics or a simple canopy to the wall or ceiling. Consider using a flashlight, lava lamp, or artificial fish tank as an activity to promote eye tracking.

Motion/Vestibular and Proprioceptive Sense

These are your movement senses that help with balance and body coordination. Consider making use of wiggle pads, bean bags, soft mats, yoga mats, or other flexible seating in your home to allow and promote motion. Dance or use movement in conjunction with music to promote language development (for example, include hand motions when you sing a song like “Wheels on the Bus”). Trampolines, balance boards, swings, ladders, and slides are all excellent ways to promote movement and balance. Creating an at home obstacle course is a great way to incorporate both senses. Climbing over and crawling under items are great motor planning activities that integrate multiple senses. Incorporating a movement activity prior to a school session is a good way to let out some energy beforehand and promote focus for a seated or quiet activity.

Tactile Sense 

You can create simple texture panels for sensory input by using pieces of cardboard and adding mermaid fabric, zippers, pipe cleaners, felt, buttons, etc. Make use of soft blankets and various textured items like faux fur or mermaid fabric pillows or blankets. Fill bins or containers with beans, beads, rice, dry pasta, sand, or water beads to receive tactile input. In addition, you may add letters, animals, or other objects to the bins to create a seek-and-find or sorting activity. The warmer weather is also a great time to engage in water activities, like running through a sprinkler or using a water table. In addition, when focusing on a writing activity for school, it may be a good idea to incorporate an active tactile activity before the writing activity takes place. Fine motor activities such as playing with clay or playdoh are stimulating tactile exercises that can promote alertness and focus just in time for the writing activity that follows.

Taste and Smell Sense

Cover the labels of spices in your cabinet and have someone describe the smell (sweet, sour, spicy, earthy, etc.) and what the smell reminds them of (for example, vanilla may remind you of baking cookies with your grandmother) in order to promote descriptive words and memory recall. Eat foods with different textures and temperatures while focusing on how to describe if the food is hot, lukewarm, cold, sticky, chewy, hard, soft, etc. You may want to consider using an aroma diffuser to emit different smells. In addition, you can blow bubbles, use an electric toothbrush, or drink beverages through crazy straws for oral stimulation.

Auditory Sense

Sing songs, play “name that sound or song,” listen to a white noise machine, play with musical instruments, listen to nature sounds, and use toys or devices with sounds to demonstrate cause and effect. If you have someone with auditory sensitivity, consider using noise cancelling headphones in order to adjust to new or different surroundings.

FCPS Mental Wellness Consultations are Available

Any FCPS parent may request a 30-minute phone consultation with a school psychologist or school social worker. Parent consultations are available for all grade levels and student consultations are only available for students in middle and high school.

Healthy Minds is for parents, educators, and community-based providers who are interested in supporting student mental health and wellness. It represents a collaboration between FCPS’ Office of Intervention and Prevention Services and the Fairfax County Government. SUBSCRIBE to Healthy Minds and receive a periodic digest of our most recent articles.