Wednesday, August 04, 2021

How to Make a Sensory Room on a Budget

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Want to make your own DIY sensory room at home? Here are some tips on how to make a sensory room on a budget!

It might seem overwhelming to support your child's sensory needs at home. Especially if you have to balance the different needs of multiple children. After all, each child has a unique sensory profile. So their preferences can and will be quite different.

One way to support those different needs is to make a sensory room.

Although technically it doesn't have to a be a full room. It could be a corner, a closet, or even smaller sensory areas randomly scattered throughout your house. Even just a few key sensory toys sprinkled throughout the house can make a huge impact.

The goal is to fill that dedicated space with sensory equipment and tools that are tailored to your child's needs, but if you were to purchase all the items on your wish list, it can get quite expensive. I mean swings alone can cost a lot of money. It all adds up. 

But you don't have to buy expensive sensory tools. I promise. I'm like the queen of making DIY hacks to support the needs of autistic and sensory kiddos. So I can definitely help you make a fun and effective sensory space for your child at a fraction of the cost.

And these tips on how to make a sensory room on a budget can help. That's why you're here after all, right?

Tips for how to make a DIY sensory room on a budget

Tips on How to Make a Sensory Room on a Budget

There are tons of cool sensory tools on the market. And I know that sensory tools like crash mats and swings can be expensive. A quick google will confirm that. Besides, you might not want to spend a couple hundred dollars on things that your child may or may not like. So let's dig into those tips shall we?

1. Use and repurpose things that you already have for your sensory space

Before you buy anything, take stock of what you already have on hand that could be used to build your DIY sensory room. For instance, you could hang up some Christmas lights for sensory lighting or use a foam play mat for flooring. Or some throw pillows, a heavy blanket, and a stuffed animal or two can make a quick calm down corner for your child.

Here are some other ideas that could help you make a great sensory space using items you have on hand:

  • Stuff a duvet cover with some pillows to make a DIY crash mat (it's one of our most popular sensory items and tutorial on the blog for a reason!)
  • Fill up a laundry basket or small paddling pool with balls to make a small ball pit for some full body sensory stimulation (or try it in the bathtub!)
  • Use a pool noodle as a DIY balance beam (great for a small sensory room space too!)

So before you spend money on anything, look around your house for ideas first. You might be surprised by what you already have that could be used to meet your child's daily sensory needs.

2. Check your local dollar stores for inexpensive sensory items

You can find fidgets, textured balls, sensory bin fillers, lighting, bubble wands, and so much more at your local dollar store. So definitely peruse the aisles to see what you can find that fits your child's sensory needs. 

3. Make your own sensory toys and tools

There are lots of DIY sensory tools that you can make for cheap. Think swings, sensory tunnels, light tables, sensory bottles, DIY fidgets, weighted vests, weighted blankets, sensory tables, and so on. The list of things - big or small - that you could make goes on and on! 

4. Browse clearance sections for potential sensory items or materials

You might be surprised what you find in the clearance sections of home improvement stores like Rona or Home Depot. I found swings and a rope ladder on clearance that we ended up using in our sensory room. Or maybe you'll find climbing holds to build your own climbing wall. Who knows! 

I've also bought clearance fabric to make a lot of our DIY sensory tools. But other places to look for things to put in your own sensory room would be Walmart, Target (oh how I miss having Target in Canada!), Canadian Tire, or craft stores like Michael's.

5. Buy used sensory items

Search what's available locally by browsing online marketplaces and buy some gently used equipment. Think eBay, Kijiji, Facebook marketplace, etc. Or start hitting up some garage sales in your area. You might be able to find some great sensory tools that way. Or maybe someone in your local autism or parenting group is getting rid of some items too. That's how I scored a sensory swing for just $10 before. 

If you live in or near a city, check to see if there is a local freecycle group or even a freecycle day. I scored two swings from a neighbor down the street on a freecycle day. Plus, a steering wheel that we used for this homemade sensory board. It takes a bit of luck to find free sensory room items like this, but it is possible!

6. Look for versatile items that can be used in a variety of ways (especially if you have a smaller sensory space)

Another tip is to look for versatile tools. That is, things that can be used in different ways. For instance, our homemade sensory tunnel can be used as a body sock and as a sensory swing for a small child. Another example would be a large exercise ball. It can be used for rolling on your child's body for deep pressure or it could be used as a flexible seating option.

So try to get creative and think of other ways to use the items that you do find for your space.

7. Use free printable calm down and sensory resources to finish off your sensory space

Think of resources that you could use to make a calm down kit to put in your child's space. Things like this free deep breathing social story or these calm down cards

Or you could print off some games that your child finds relaxing. Word searches, mazes, and I spy games, for example, are great visual tools that can help your child regulate. And they can all make a great addition to DIY sensory rooms.

Or you might want some posters to decorate the walls in your dedicated sensory room. Think emotion wheels, posters with positive affirmations, coping skills lists, feelings chart (try our LEGO one!), and so on.

You could also use a sensory red flags checklist to help you determine if your child is a sensory avoider or a sensory seeker. Then you can use this information to pick the best sensory stimuli for your child and plan out what will be the best tools for your child's preferences.

Tips for how to make a DIY sensory room on a budget

Well, that's it! I hope you found these tips for how to make a sensory room on a budget helpful!

Other Resources for your DIY Sensory Area Project You'll Love

10 Amazing DIY Sensory Wall Ideas for Kids

Sensory Hacks for A Small Sensory Room Space

Homemade Sensory Swing Guide for Kids

How to make a sensory room on a budget - great tips!