15 Must-Haves for Your Sensory Room

15 Must-Haves for Your Sensory Room

I am so blessed to have my own space – THAT DOUBLES AS A SENSORY ROOM! – at each of my buildings as a school-based occupational therapist (OT). To see what one of my rooms looks like, check out my OT Room Tour blog. Let me start by reminding you that fancy equipment is absolutely not necessary to enrich the sensory experiences of your students. That being said, I’m sharing one or two of my favorite/”dream” sensory room tools below for each of the sensory systems to get your wheels turning when you think about items to incorporate in your sensory rooms.

On a budget? Have limited space? Check out my blog on **How to Create a Sensory Room on a Budget** for some more cost effective item suggestions!

Visual Sytem

a picture of the author's sensory room entrance with sensory tiles to the right

Sensory Tiles [affiliate link] are a fan-favorite for my students! We love to:

  • do wheelbarrow walks across them
  • hang them on the walls
  • use them in obstacle courses to jump on

*Check out my blog series on Building Blocks to Success in Pre-Writing to hear more about why gross motor skills that build core and upper body strength and working on a vertical surface [like the wall] are great to support pre-writing and handwriting skills!

a student looking at a bubble tube as a visual sensory activity

Bubble Tubes [affiliate link] are SUPER cool for kiddos who love extra visual input! We don’t have any, but they’re on the wishlist!

Tactile System

student smiling covered by red, blue, yellow and green balls in a ball pit for a tactile sensory experience

A Ball Pit [affiliate link] would be a super fun addition to any sensory room! I have had kids light up and engage so well when they are working in a sensory ball pit. You get a combination of tactile and proprioceptive sensory input, but can also include skills like:

  • color sorting
  • turn taking
  • letter identification or formation by writing letters on the balls

* Check out the Simply Special Ed Shop for some other FREE color sorting resources!

Taste & Smell System

Let’s combine the tactile [touch] sense with another awesome sensory activity: Scented Kinetic Sand! These make great sensory bins! Check out my blog on holiday sensory bins for some more fun ideas!

oil timer in a sensory tray with green kinetic sand and molds

Auditory System

Music Puzzles [affiliate link] are such a versatile tool to use during therapy sessions or sensory room time! Many of my students are either (a) motivated by or (b) could benefit from additional practice with puzzles! I love that they help to build in a certain level of predictability with a clearly defined “end point”. Try:

  • hiding the pieces in a sensory bin
  • animal walking from one side of the room to another to find the pieces
  • put them in a tunnel or as part of an obstacle course

*Check out the Cut and Paste Fine Motor Sheets Bundle for more puzzle-like activities that kiddos will love!

Vestibular System

platform swing that is in the author's sensory room

I love to have a variety of swings in my sensory room (like a Platform Swing or Bolster Swing) *affiliate links*! If I had to pick, the swings are the most requested item in my sensory room! The trampoline [affiliate link] is also a favorite vestibular item! Be creative with how you utilize swings:

  • go on your stomach low to the ground so the student has to use their upper body strength to push/pull themselves and core strength to look up [or give you high fives!]
  • hang upside down on the bolster swing like a “sloth” to work on core strength and anti gravity flexion
  • get some heavy work in by having one child push another student

* Check out the Simple Sensory Self Regulation Toolkit resource to allow students some choice in the activities they need to help their bodies feel “ready to learn”!

student standing in socks on a boss ball squatting down to pick up holiday bows with tongs

Bosu Balls [affiliate link] are a great way to work on balance during sessions and can be used on either side for a variety of challenges. Look how the student above is practicing fine motor strength in addition as he picks up holiday bows with tongs while on the boss ball!

Proprioceptive/Heavy Work Activities

an elliptical and 3 foot barrel tunnel in the author's sensory room

I used the 3 Foot Barrel so much when I worked in pediatric outpatient [like almost every session!], that I HAD to add one to my sensory rooms in the school. To combine a “body sock”-like feel and added deep pressure, you may want to invest in a Fabric Tunnel . Kids absolutely love using either one of these tunnels! You can target so many skills:

  • motor planning [try crawling through or rolling yourself inside the barrel or pushing a therapy ball through the fabric tunnel in front of you]
  • upper body and core strength [to climb in and out of the barrel]
  • endurance and strength [I often hide puzzle pieces inside the barrel and have students get one at a time]
  • teamwork and communication [have students hold and pull ends of the fabric tunnel while another crawls through]

*Check out my blog on Implementing a Sensory Path in your school to see some other ways that our OT/PT team worked to provide heavy work opportunities for a variety of students in our school setting!

trampoline with a handle in the sensory room

What are your favorite items in your current sensory room? What would you include in your dream/ideal sensory room? Share in the comments or over in our Facebook Group! We’d love to hear what your students enjoy!

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