I am currently helping one of my awesome elementary schools with ideas to build a sensory room/gym. A sensory room is a great resource for parents and schools to facilitate the sensory needs of a child in a safe way. In the picture above, you can see this is a pretty large sensory room. This was my gym in the first space that I leased for Learning Charms. The gym itself was a little over 1000 square feet. You can see the exposed steel beams in the ceiling which made it easy to hang swings. The owners of all the spaces I looked at thought I was crazy because the first thing I'd do was get a ladder and peep up in the ceiling -- looking for steel beams!
Below, you'll see a list and links to some must have's for your sensory room. A sensory room can be small-- you just will need to be careful and follow manufacturer's recommendations about padding and clearance. The recommendations below are for a medium sized (about a 10'x10') sensory room for kids aged 3.5 up to school aged children. The ideas below are all from Amazon and you can click and read more about the product. You can find these items all over the web, so look around and find what you need/want!
Lastly, you HAVE to supervise your child in a sensory room.
TO SWING OR NOT TO SWING?
This will depend on if you can easily tie into your ceiling for support. If you cannot, then it will depend on creating a structure that will support a swing (or buying one). A swing provides amazing amounts of proprioceptive and vestibular input, so if at all possible, get a swing system. If you don't have the ceiling support then look for swings such as below to use outdoors on a tree or existing playset.
** I like the platform type of swing as below because the child can lay on their stomach and get some really good extension in the trunk (great core exercise).
MATS / PADDING /PROTECTION:
I love the foam puzzle type of padding because it is versatile, easy to cut and affordable. You'll need to look for at least a 1/2" depth though and in some cases you might need up to 1" or more. Be aware of the flooring surface already available. If its concrete, you'll need a good amount of padding. You can double the foam mats up or may need to go strictly with gymnasium mats.
You may also want to get a few of the gymnastic mats that can be moved from place to place to support the activity.
GET YOUR JUMP ON
The proprioceptive input from kids jumping is great to wake them up so they can get focused and let their brain relax. Here are some different options to get kids jumping:
CRASH PAD OR CRASHING AREA:
This is for the bulls out there that need some heavy work and a place to flip and crash without a head injury. Crash pads are expensive, but kids that benefit from them really appreciate them. I've also used a large blow up pool and filled it with foam, pillows, and small soft balls with good result.
MUST HAVE CHALK BOARD OR FELT BOARD (FOR YOUNGER KIDS) AREA:
Most of the kiddos we work with have fine motor or handwriting goals. A chalk board is easy to paint in a quiet area. Grab a small spray bottle, mini sponges, and broken chalk (not sidewalk chalk) to use in the area. If you have younger kids you may consider a felt board. Buy or order felt (I prefer black or white for contrast). Use small pieces of wood, such as yard sticks, and staple and wrap the felt until its tight and then you can stretch and screw it right to the wall. Cut out geometric shapes out of contrasting felt colors .
ACCESSORIES TO MAKE IT ALL FUN:
These accessories give kids ways to make more sense of the room and to "tie" them into fun activities. I don't have a link for everything, but tried to as possible.
Gertie Balls- Amazing fun. Won't break windows or teeth.
I plan to post more pictures of my gyms that I have designed and how we used the equipment to create games that increased skill sets. Please comment below if you'd like to know/see particular things!
About the blogger: Stephanie Wick is a pediatric occupational therapist that founded and is lead O.T. at Learning Charms.
Read past Blog here