Last week I went to a special thank you dinner at my son’s school. We were thanking a group called Vivint because of their contributions that they had made to my son’s school. Included in that was that they built the kids a brand new sensory room, everything from paint to a new ceiling and all the new fun stuff to go in it. I wanted to grab some photos but there were just too many people checking it out. I actually had my child with me who does not have any disabilities and he really wanted to stay and play with everything in that room. He was like “Oh man, Kevin is lucky…we don’t have that at my school!” All kids love to do light and sensory play, even if they don’t have special needs.
But just as that event was over, my friend Kelly (who is a teacher) posted some really cute photos of her kids in a box. She had a big box, and she poked lights into it and her kids were having a blast. That got me to thinking….having a fun sensory and light play area doesn’t have to be expensive. While I’m extremely grateful for the new room at the school, any parent or teacher can give a child very similar experiences for a lot less money.
I encourage everyone to join us for the 2015 Light Play Challenge, where we will try to incorporate light play into every day for our kids. My son has both Cortical Visual Impairment and sensory issues and autism…so light play is very beneficial to him. It benefits all kids! And they love it.
So I thought that I would try to gather up some ways to build your own Sensory Room, Sensory Corner or Light Play area…for less money.
If your child is visually impaired, then work with your school district to see what you can do to qualify for grants or free items from American Printing House for the Blind. It doesn’t get any cheaper than FREE, so check their first to see if you qualify for items before spending anything. Still, even with the stuff he has at school, I like having fun things at home too.
My first choice to add to this, hands down….is these awesome pillow and blanket sets! I was approached and asked if I wanted to help promote this “baby toy” and I said, “Heck no! But I want one for my sensory room!” They are available from Melody Mates and they are just $29.99. I love ours and can’t believe I haven’t seen anything like this until now.
Check out this video of how it works:
I love that it has music and lights and it’s calming. Perfect for a light/sensory area.
I must say, this holiday season I have a relationship with FatBrainToys and they are awesome! Just from knowing a little bit about me and my family, they have been able to send us the most awesome light and sensory toys. They even have a whole section of Toys for Special Needs.
I love this new Arx thing--check it out, I can’t wait to use them on our light box. Clear, saturated colors AND magnets for building!
They also sell this awesome popper seat which makes noise and gives movement and vestibular input. For my little sensory seeker, if he’s doing it with light play, even better! Right now they have a special offer that if you buy the Teeter Popper, you also get the Squigz at a discount, which is another great sensory and fine motor toy.
Let’s get back to our sensory areas at home or in the classroom. First, you need to designate the area. It would be lovely if we had a designated area or room to do light play. I have a very small house and we use every room, every day. So I am very cognizant of families who don’t have a lot of extra space. Ideally for light play, you want to be able to darken a room. Some ideas:
- Bathroom or other space without windows
- A walk in closet, yes I’m serious! Good reason to clean out and keep it organized, if your child needs some sitting space.
- Room darkening shades or blinds
- Bathroom with dry bath tub, let them sit fully clothed in dry tub if the shower curtain darkens it.
- a cardboard box! Look at how much fun Mackenzie is having! And it’s free!
If I was going to splurge, I love this bed tent idea. It’s room darkening and I know my son would love to sleep in it too. But it is over $100.
Still, it doesn’t take up any additional space. If your child has a 4-post bed or bunk beds, you might also brainstorm on inexpensive ways to replicate this idea. There are also many other much less expensive play tent ideas, prices on Amazon range from about $20-$50.
I like the tent or box idea because you can keep all of your items in it. So now that we have our area, let’s add some light!
If you are using your bathroom or bath tub as your dark area, there are actually fun light up toys you can get for your tub.
If you use my friend Kelly’s idea above, you can get a simple string of Christmas lights for $2-$5, easily. Also, don’t forget every day flashlights that you may already have around the house. My boys love to play with our flashlights.
If you want lights and funky texture, check this out:
You can get rubber ducks that light up and all sorts of cool stuff. Definitely check out what Amazon has to offer.
Amazon also has sound-activated light sticks.
If you are trying to encourage movement in your child, both of these toys have light, sound and encourage movement.
- Christmas lights on a string
- fake candle lights with flickering bulbs (like what people put in windows at holiday time)
- Lite brite toy
- pen lights
- glow sticks
If you want to work on fine motor while doing light play, Crayola has really come out with a fantastic assortment of products lately. Check out their products below. I have them on our wishlist for Christmas and really hope that we get some. I saw the dome at CVS for just $5 last weekend but they were sold out. Many of these can be purchased inexpensively.