Tuesday, March 26, 2019

8 Must-Have Items For Your Child's Home Sensory Gym

Sensory Processing Disorder is a challenge for parents and is something many of us in the adoption community struggle with.   I've shared many times about having a child with SPD including the phrases that we use and some of our hacks

When we bought our current home, one of our favorite features was the unfinished basement.  This may surprise some, since finished basements are highly sought after.  After all, basements are expensive to finish, so having it already taken care of is a a perk.

However, we saw the large, blank canvas as an opportunity to create the space our children needed vs. a space someone else decided was best.   

We added a few things:  a bathroom and a stage.   (Yes, a stage, because there was a weird, unused space under the stairs.  It was easy:  a platform covered with clearanced-out faux wood flooring, curtains, and clearnaced out lanterns hanging above for ambiance.)  

But the rest?  The rest is just one big open space.

Once our child was diagnosed with SPD and we began to understand the child's needs (and reject the stereotypes and misunderstandings), we began to convert the toy-disaster space to a sensory gym.   

The space not only serves our child with SPD, but all of our kids and many of their friends.  

Don't think you need to build your sensory space all at once.  Quality sensory equipment for growing kids can be pricey.  Create a list of what your child's needs are and what budget you'd like to stick to.  

Here are the must haves:

1:  A trampoline.

Whether you go with a larger one like we have (we have tall ceilings) or a mini for kids (or an exercise trampoline for adults, which accommodates bigger kids), a trampoline is a must-have!  My kids love piling themselves, large balls, and giant stuffed animals into the trampoline for the ultimate sensory experience!     

2:  A gymnastics mat.

It's portable, sturdy, and versatile!  My kids fold up their mat into a square or triangle as a tunnel for climbing thorough/hiding in or use it as intended, for gymnastics.   

3:  Light cages.

Protect bulbs from shattering by covering your lights.  We love these because they are simple and inexpensive.   SAFETY FIRST, ya'll!  

4:  A swing.

Our swing is over carpet (leftover from various projects and pieced together over the concrete floor) and hangs from the steel beam that holds up our house.  It accommodates hundreds of pounds (perfect for multiple kids or an adult and child).  You do have to purchase the hanging equipment separately.

5:  Peanut balls.

We had an old, large exercise ball, but when I discovered these peanut balls, I knew they'd be a great addition to our sensory space!  They're great for rolling around on!  

6:  Ride-on toys.

Our basement space has a lot of concrete flooring, which is perfect for ride-on toys!  The Radio Flyer Ziggle is by far the best ride-on toy for my child with SPD.  It spins (or not) and requires a lot of of "wiggle" from the child in order to move.  We are asked ALL the time about this toy, and friends love trying it out.   Our other favorite is a plasma car.  We own FOUR of them (some bought used from local swap sites).  

7:  A slide.

Despite my big kids being...big, they still climb up and down the little slide we've had for years!  They like going down on their stomachs, hanging downward/reclining on it, and helping their baby sister down it.  

8:  Balance toys.

My kids LOVE the Teeter Popper (it's a sensory seeker's dream come true) and the Spooner Board.  Both need to be used on a solid floor.  

Other things we have in our sensory space include:

-a giant wall mirror.  We got this free from someone on a local swap site.  The kids LOVE watching themselves dance.

-dress up.  We've accumulated many dress-up pieces over the years from Halloween, hand-me-downs, and birthday gifts.  If you have a preschooler, we are big fans of the Melissa and Doug costumes.  They are very well made, easy for a child to self-dress, and come with several accessories!  

-a radio, of course!  My kids love taking our old I-touch downstairs and choosing music to blast!  

-blue walls.  We decided to have drywall hung and painted the walls a medium blue.  This is much more inviting than the previously gray concrete walls.  Choosing a color that is happy but not over or under stimulating was important to us!  

-construction cones, which are fun for setting up obstacle courses for ride-on toys.

In the future:

-We'd like to add a "rock wall" and a large cushion below.  For now, our kids just climb the support poles and slide down them.  

No, thanks:

-we decided NOT to do a ball pit of any kind.  Sure, it can be fun, until all the balls are all over the basement, and your child refuses to pick them up.  We just didn't want that many pieces everywhere.

For more on SPD, adoptees, and meeting the needs of kids with different needs, check out these favorite books (click on the cover to learn more): 

And you can check out our favorite children's picture books on belonging, acceptance, and difference here.  

Do you have a space you can convert as a sensory area?  What items are on your must-have list?  

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