I created a homemade sensory resistance tunnel for my boys, as I mentioned in my homemade stretchy resistance bands tutorial and in my O.T. at home jar. This sensory tunnel is great for gross motor play and proprioceptive sensory input. Just like the stretchy bands, the tutorial is really simple!
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I have always wanted to sew a sensory tunnel since they are so expensive, especially when you consider the fact that they are just a piece of stretchy fabric. This rocket resistance tunnel and this sensory tunnel both cost over $100! I made mine (as well as the two stretchy resistance bands) for $25. Plus, I could make it any color I wanted. Or rather any color the kids wanted.
How to Make a Stretchy Sensory Tunnel for Kids
To make a sensory resistance tunnel of your own, you will need:
- Spandex in the color of your choice - 3 meters long (or approximately 3 yards long) - J picked bright yellow, which is fun, but totally hard to photograph.
- Sewing machine
The spandex was too wide to make a good resistance tunnel. So I cut the fabric so that it was about 45 inches wide. I made my tunnel a bit roomy so that it would grow with the boys and so that it could fit an exercise ball through as well.
Once your fabric is cut to about 3 meters long x 45 inches wide, then it's time to sew. Now the sewing part is relatively easy and straightforward, but it is a lot of fabric to get through the machine - just as a FYI. Fold the fabric in half so that it makes a long rectangle (like pictured below). Use a zigzag stitch along to sew the ends of the spandex together. Don't forget to backstitch at the start and the finish. That's it! Easy, right?!
Ways to Use the Homemade Sensory Resistance Tunnel
The best part about this sensory tunnel is that it is versatile. We use it for so many different activities. Obviously we use it as a tunnel, like below, but sometimes I get the boys to crawl through the tunnel while pushing an exercise ball. It's a great heavy work activity!
We also use it like stretchy resistance bands. Simply stand in the middle of the sensory tunnel, grab each end with your hands, and stretch! Here's J demonstrating.
The sensory tunnel also doubles as a body sock like this sensory sock. Just climb on in and start making shapes.
Or play peek-a-boo.
Seriously...how darn cute is this?!
K also likes to wrap himself up like a mummy and walk around. Banana man returns (see reference)! And sometimes the boys will climb into different ends to make a double body sock.
We also use our homemade sensory tunnel as a toy trampoline, which was an idea that I got from the book Motivate to Communicate: 300 Games & Activities for Your Child with Autism. The boys grab some stuffed animals (Lubies work perfectly because they are round like balls), grab the ends of the tunnel, and shake it like a parachute.
We also like to use it as a sensory swing. My husband and I just grab each end of the tunnel, pick it up, and gently swing it back and forth. Sometimes, if I'm feeling like a good workout, I grab both ends myself so that the boys have to curl their body into a V shape and spin them around for a bit. J particularly loves doing that!
And finally, here are some other suggestions:
- Play tug of war. Two people grab opposite ends of the sensory tunnel and pull back and forth
- Create a high jump or limbo bar with it. Two people hold each end, lower and raise it, while encouraging the kids to jump over, crawl under, roll under, etc. It's a great way to work on the words "over" and "under."
- If you have a smooth soft surface like some tumbling gymnastic mats, then you can have your child climb into the sensory tunnel or lay on top, then pull them across the mats. It's sort of like riding a magic carpet!