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These tips have all been sent in by other parents, carers and professionals in the learning disability community. We hope they will give you plenty of ideas to try, but please remember Netbuddy is not responsible for the information provided or any of the activities suggested.
Sensory panel light
This is a great sensory panel light from Argos. Very calming and a bargain at £12.99
Cheap sensory items
UK netbuddies - the discount retailers Home Bargains and B & M bargains both have some good, cheap sensory items in stock. Various lava lamps, disco balls, bubble tubes etc. I also got a make a fiber optic peacock set and a volcano light - all very sensory. And between £5 - £10
Sense of Calm
Sense of Calm is a DVD that can be used at home or at school as part of relaxation
time or to help calm in those moments when things kick off.
I made a DIY sensory den at home for my son who has ASD by draping a blanket over two chairs and covering with a cheap emergency foil blanket. Place a rug underneath and you have the perfect den! My lad loves to hide in his one with all his sensory toys on the rug
DIY sensory books
I've made some great sensory books for my granddaughter. I take stories she responds to well and look for props to bring the narrative, sounds, colours, textures and smells to life. Puppets to animate the characters - loads of great ones on Amazon. Lots of discounted books available from the Book People
Check out toy libraries as a means of trying expensive sensory equipment. STEPS, Cerebra and now Newlife Foundation have national schemes. You may find schools / centres locally which offer the same.
DIY projector tent
I made a fantastic, cheap sensory area for my son. I bought a Photographic projector tent and I use it with some sensory lights. The shadow ceiling light from Argos is a favourite. Works a treat and keeps him entertained and happy
The kids all like having name signs of their doors and I didn't want Emma, who has a visual impairment, to miss out. Hers has a butterfly on it she can feel, and a Big Point button behind it, which I recorded "Emma's Room" on which she can press to hear it
Fill two balloons (one inside the other) with sand or flour for a fun, sensory activity.
Sounds and colour
My daughter recently had cochlear implants. We have given colours sounds: red is a fire engine siren, green is a lawnmower, black is loud thunder etc. Its fun and I hope its helping her to make sense of her new world
Paint with smells
I like to do 'smelly painting collages' with my daughter. Using mint sauce, coffee, chocolate, sherbert etc. We've also tried making a pulp from grass by adding a bit of water to it. My daughter is visually impaired so it really helps bring the world to her!
Berry tasty paint
Squash strawberries, blackberries, rasberries, blueberries etc to make a tasty paint. Mix together the colours and tastes. Great messy fun!
The fusion ball from hawkins bazaar is a fantastic multisensory ball. My daughter has PMLD and loves it! Its tactile, has lights, music and movement. Cheaper than most sensory toys but just as effective
My husband made our son a great infinity mirror following this online tutorial. Fab sensory item and change out of twenty pounds too!
Sensory Direct weighted blankets
Sensory Direct makes weighted blankets with individual pockets which can be adapted to the right weight for the individual person. They are a fair price. They also have lots of information on their site about weighted blankets & their use. sensorydirect.com
Rice is nice
Fill a bin with rice and let your child/adult plunge their hands deep into it. Hide some toys and measuring cups for added fun. Dried beans also work well.
Make a body sock
Body Socks give great proprioceptive and spatial feedback but unfortunately cost a fortune. Make your own out of lycra tubing or lycra fabric available from most fabric shops. Stitch one end closed using a zig zag stitch with velcro or a zip on the other end.
We've created a 'sensory wall' by sticking old yoghurt pots on the wall - you can also put bubble wrap, biscuit packet insides, corrugated paper, sand paper ....
Portable tactile fabricsMy daughter loves anything tactile or visual, and she particularly loves floaty dresses or skirts. We went to a local fabric supplier & chose around 12 different fabrics especially tactile or patterned ones and had them cut into large pieces. We put them all in a drawstring bag, & now we can just pick it up & go. Keeps her occupied for ages
A friend has had great success with a 'dark den' for her sensory impaired, autistic son. I am just about to buy one for our 9-yr-old son. I have found one for £45 but you can find various ones by googling 'Dark Den'. It's a good place for calming down after school/weekend play.
If you put 'sensory trails' in your search engine you might well find one local to you.
My daughter loves to rake her fingernails on our leather sofa, so we encourage her with other materials now so she still gets the sensory feedback without damage. Favourites are a plastic chopping board, a faux leather cusion cover and the ring binder from a note book.
Try a Chillow
You can buy a Chillow, which is a cold pillow, that can be very soothing and comforting for people with sensory issues. www.chillow.co.uk
Rajan was really hyper at school and irritable all the time. We noticed when he changed from his synthetic school clothes in to his cotton pyjamas he became calm and compliant. The synthetic fabrics (even the labels) were irritating his skin which he hated. So do check clothing and substitute it for more natural fabrics. Also always wash your clothes in NON-BIO washing powder. BIO seems to have an irritant in it that can affect the skin of autistic people.
Total SensoryTotal Sensory have a range of portable sensory boxes - Infinity Box, Sparkle Curtain Box, Bullseye Box and Fiesta Box. Very relaxing before bedtime. www.totalsensory.co.uk
Gelli Baff is powder that turns bath or paddling pool water into jelly-like goo. It's great for sensory fun. Once you've finished, you just sprinkle a second powder over the goo and it turns back into water. www.gellibaff.co.za
Try before you buy
Sensory equipment can be expensive so try before you buy. Look out for sensory equipment in toy libraries.
Weighted blankets and objects can exert a calming influence on some people. Try taking an old favourite stuffed toy and filling its paws and tummy with curtain weights, nuts and bolts or other heavy items. Great for sitting on people's laps when they're feeling jumpy.
Home-made sensory toys
You can make sensory toys yourself with easy-to-find items. For starters, try: a balloon filled with sand and knotted securely, a smooth stone, an old set of keys, a combination lock.
Scented bubbles are great for sensory stimulation. Many sensory catalogues and supermarkets sell them.
Illooms are light-up balloons that glow in the dark. Brilliant for sensory fun!
Sensory flour games
I mix cornflour and water together and it makes a great sensory play tool. Also put flour into a plastic bag and seal it with some food colouring. As it gets squished round it will change colour.
Texture bookChris likes to rub his hands over textured wall paper, so I made a book out of a photo album using different textures like wall paper, sand paper, bubble wrap, washing scourers, foam wash cloth etc It is an alternative to him scraping the walls.
Here I am
Sally is visually impaired, so I wear a foil string wig when I talk and play with her, it gets her attention.
We have installed a UV light in our dark hallway and use fluorescent cards with shapes cut out to stimulate Ruby who is visually impaired. As she gets older we are turning shapes into letters, words, numerals, books.
Foil play mat
We use a foil emergency blanket as play matt for Matty - it is great for sensory stimulation as it is shiny and makes nice sounds.
Wall and ceiling projector
A star laser projector is really relaxing and reasonably priced. Jojo likes to lie flat a lot so can't see things that are eye level, he also has visual impairment but loves this projector as it projects to the walls and the ceiling so he can see it wherever he looks.
Tins and sound
Old tins make great auditory aid for visually impaired people for counting objects - drop each into the tin. The objects also can't move out of working space as they stay in the tin.
Grace can be comforted and stimulated for hours with silver paper. It is thick enough to resist biting and tearing, is silver coloured which reflects the light, is plastic coated which gives off a pleasing ‘crackle’ sound, is safe and is really tough and endurable for constant fingering. We use Melinex polyester film 125 micron, Code 0214 2166 which we buy from Paperchase.
Tents (play tents for kids) make great sensory spaces when kitted out with everyday items e.g. fairy lights, hanging old CD’s, tinsel, etc.
Sensory indoor tray play
We use a plastic box and fill it with different things for sensory play. Sometimes dried beans, sand, shaving foam – we put different smells in like vanilla essence or curry powder to make it more interesting. Sometimes we squeeze toothpaste in which is good fun when you get it all over your hands because it dries quickly. If you have the patience you can even fill it with baked beans !
Bags or tights
Laundry bags can be used to fill with shiny or scrunchy materials ….….. You could use old tights too.
Fill empty small pop bottles with different contents and use as shakers.
An old broken hula hoop can be used as an overhead resource holder.
You can attach different things onto gloves and waistcoats.
Add food colouring to different foods e.g. custard, rice …..
We use a powerful torch (osram) to highlight parts of the picture or page when we are reading or looking at pictures with Jenny.
Put good smells in paint or playdough to make it more interesting.
Paddling pools have many uses!
We use our paddling pool for all sorts of things, you can make it a ball pond, fill it with balloons and in the summer you can put food colouring in the water to make it different.
Sensory activity pack
Tacpac have a sensory activity pack for using with their touch and communication programme which is a resource particularly for children with sensory needs and complex/multiple disabilities. You can put together your own.
Toby has all sorts of physical sensory needs to do with motion and movement. We went to a private Occupational Therapy service who put together a great physical programme for him which made a big difference. London Based www.maximumpotential.org.uk/.
We made a resource box of smells for Cathy. You can use photo canisters, herb jars etc
We often take Roger out for a smell tour, we have made a route which goes past places like the fishmongers, fish and chip shop, The body shop/Lush soap shop, pet shop, etc
We buy different candles and incense sticks.
We buy scented lipsalves
We borrowed an African drum from a friend and found that Simon loves to drum along to CD’s.
Let the music come to you....
www.livemusicnow.org.ukis a UK charity who have trained and experienced musicians who bring music to people with Special needs. Good for Groups.
Weekend sound tour
We take Hannah to the centre of town at the weekends because she enjoys touring the buskers.
You can get cheap boxes of indoor fireworks – we get a box occasionaly for some fun. They are good for birthdays, visuals and smells.
Ellie likes our home made aromatherapy massage sessions. I put on relaxing music and massage her. Don’t forget the aromatherapy oils need to be diluted in to a special carrier massage oil. Also different people like different pressure so experiment a bit according to personal sensory needs.
Our friends have a hydrotherapy bath which they invite Tom to use occasionally, he totally loves it and it’s great for his muscles.
Jonny got very distressed whenever the bus stopped. We worked out that if he had a vibrating ball or cushion during the periods the bus stopped he was quite happy.
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