DIY Sensory Tools
At Leaps and Bounds, we use sensory tools every day to compliment the therapy we do with our kids. Not every tool works for every kid. We like to have lots of “tools in our bag” so that we can find the right ones for our kids and families. Some of the tools we use in therapy need to be purchased, but there are a lot of really great ones you can make on your own at home. We have put together a list of some of our favorite DIY sensory tools.
1. Tactile Bins
Tactile bins can be used for a variety of reasons. We use them to help a child calm or organize their bodies, but they are a great learning experience too. They can be used to help children explore and learn about their world through their senses. A tactile bin should be large enough for a child to get both hands in to play and learn. Our favorite tubs to use as sensory bins are about 6” tall. This allows for kids to sit next to the tub and reach in. Some common fillers for sensory bins are rice, beans, corn, cornmeal, etc. We like to add essential oils or extracts to also target the olfactory sense.
Check out our Pinterest board for other tactile bin ideas:
2. Calming Bottle
A calming bottle can be used to help children calm that are anxious, overwhelmed with sensory input, bored or fidgety. They can be a very useful tool whether you are at home, the store or a friend’s house. This tool can help teach kids about self-regulation by giving them a tool they can use to help them better regulate how their bodies are responding to emotional or sensory based stressors. The visual input the bottle provides can help kids focus on the glitter that is falling and take their attention off the stressor.
• Water bottle
• Hot water
• 1 bottle of glitter glue
• Small tube of ultra-fine glitter
• Super glue
• Optional (clear tacky glue)—this will make the glitter take longer to settle before shaking it again
Instructions: First, take the label off the water bottle and clean it thoroughly. Next, fill the bottle about ¾ full of hot water, add 1 full bottle of glitter glue and 1 small tube of ultra-fine glitter. Then, use super glue to affix the bottle cap.
3. Squish Ball Fidgets
Fidgets can be fun for everyone to make!! They can be useful to keep in the car, purse or backpack so that they are accessible when needed. Fidgets can provide sensory input to help kids that are anxious, bored or overstimulated.
• 2 Balloons—one to fill and one to wrap around the finished balloon
• Filler—options can include flour, rice, gel, beans, etc.
Instructions: Blow the balloon up first to stretch it out. Then use a funnel to slowly add in your filler. Keep stretching the balloon as you fill it, but don’t attempt to blow it up again or you will end up with a mouth of flour. Once you have it filled up to the desired size, tie it off. Then cut the top of another balloon so that you can wrap the second balloon around the first. This will make it a bit stronger so that you don’t have a mess on your hands.
4. Weighted Sock Buddy
The weighted sock buddy can be placed on your child’s lap to provide deep touch pressure. Deep touch pressure can create a calming feeling and increase attention. The additional textured fabric on the back can serve as a hand fidget, and by providing tactile input, can also promote a calm/alert state.
• One long male tube sock
• Sand, rice, or corn kernels
• One leg of a nylon or a knee-high nylon (optional, but recommended for lining)
* Optional: Decorating materials (permanent marker, red cloth, glue, and googly eyes), fur or various textured fabric
Instructions: Take the long tube sock and fill it with either rice, sand or corn kernels. (If you have nylon for lining, fill this first, and place it inside the tube sock.) Leave enough room at the end of the sock to tie the end. Once tied, your child can decorate the sock like a snake, with two googly eyes, a smile with permanent maker or puffy paint, and a red fabric or yarn tongue. For additional sensory input, add textured fabric to the back.
5. Easy-No Sew Crash Pad
Crash pads take up a bit of room, but can be a great tool for kids that are always on the move. A crash pad/ pillow can offer a space for kids to run, jump and crash which provides input to several senses – vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile. It also provides a child with deep pressure and heavy work as they move around on the pillow. If you have a child that likes to move and crash, this crash pad may be a helpful tool for your family.
• Large duvet cover (ideally one that zips)
• Soft filling-You can use upholstery foam, stuffed animals, pillows, blankets, etc.
* We purchase scrap upholstery foam from a local shop that upholsters furniture.
Instructions: Fill the duvet cover with lots of soft filling. Make sure to fill it full enough so that you don’t have open spaces. You can also make a crash pad with an additional lining. This makes it easier to take the top lining off for laundering. Once your cover is filled and closed, let your kids run, jump, crash and have fun!!