DIY Child Sensory Room
This week we are going to shift gears a little and explore an easy, DIY project using only household items. This is a fun activity for the whole family to get involved with and results in an adorable clubhouse for your littles!
Parents of little children (and especially children who may have some sensory issues) often find their kids may be easily overwhelmed and need a safe place they can retreat to for some quiet play to regroup. Sometimes that early intervention can help stave off a meltdown. Adding sensory toys or activities to the interior of the clubhouse can make an inviting place for a toddler to calm down.
For Christmas this year, my daughter's Deaf/Hard of Hearing teacher recommended some sensory play activity ideas...one of which included putting some Christmas lights in a large box for her to see and enjoy. It being the holidays, I was looking at a few days off of work with no major projects scheduled--so of course I couldn't be outdone by Pinterest!
My creative and competitive neuroses activated, I endeavored to build a full sensory room clubhouse using only found materials around the house.
Without further ado...I give you...THE MATERIALS LIST!
What you will need:
Cardboard boxes--I used several Amazon boxes, an old diaper box, and part of a box used to ship my husband's gaming computer chair. I don't have an exact amount, I just kept adding cardboard until the clubhouse seemed like the right size.
LOTS of duct tape
About 1x yard of any soft fabric--I used some old fleece fabric from a baby mobile project I had worked on several years ago
Low temp hot glue gun (do I need to specify you will also need hot glue sticks??)
LED Christmas lights--LED is important because you don't want the lights giving off any heat, they could pose a safety risk
X-Acto knife or similar
Let's Get Crafting!!
Open up all your boxes and consult with a furry expert on how best to assemble them into your masterpiece clubhouse. After much detailed discussion, Mugen and I came up with an agreed architectural plan.
Try as much as possible to essentially weave the flaps of your various boxes together to give greater stability and support. Upon completion, my daughter immediately started testing the tensile strength of her new sensory room by kicking it repeatedly...at that point I was so grateful for using (what seemed at the time) as such a seemingly ridiculous amount of duct tape.
Are my edges square? NOPE. Did my two-year-old care that her house was slightly crooked? NOT AT ALL. For projects like these I don't stress about perfection.
**Special note: this is the step where I SHOULD have added the windows. Instead I finished the whole thing...my husband took one good look at it and said "you know, it really needs a window"...and darn it if he wasn't completely right. That led me to staying up until about 1:30 in the morning cursing at my prolific use of duct tape as I hacked through layers of cardboard with an X-Acto and eventually a kitchen knife.
The Lesson Here: Don't be me...
You can cut out windows in this step MUCH easier. I accomplished this by finding a square drink coaster, holding it up to the side and stenciling four window panes about 3/4" apart. Cut these out with your X-Acto and reinforce the panes with...you guessed it...even more duct tape!
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ALL YOUR PERMITS IN HAND...you will be constantly subjected to unannounced inspections!
Thankfully, the inspectors also didn't care about my crooked lines
Using what likely will be all the available cardboard and duct tape in the house, finish the base construction by adding a floor and front porch.
Using the X-Acto knife, poke holes in the top of the clubhouse to run Christmas lights, make sure they are large enough for the lights to completely break through.
This was probably my least-favorite step, simply because it was very cramped for a full-grown adult to carpet a toddler's clubhouse.
I measured out the width and length of the clubhouse interior and cut the fabric with several extra inches on each side to spare.
Using the hot glue gun, I tried to mimic the real technique for laying carpet. I began tacking the fabric on one side, stretching and laying it flat, gluing as I went. By the time I had stretched the fabric all the way across the floor, it was taught and had excess fabric along all sides.
With the X-Acto knife and lots of grumbling, I crawled back into the sensory room to cut away all the excess fabric, until a lush carpet of wall-to-wall fleece fabric was all that remained.
It's time to decorate!! Anyone who steps foot in my house at Christmas time will feel like an Elf bomb just went off in their face. For this sensory room, you can use any wrapping paper you like (you can even switch it out to make the room festive for holidays all year long!)
Wanting a gingerbread house effect, I looked through the copious amounts of wrapping paper I have stashed around the house until I found an appropriate exterior and contrasting interior paper selection.
My step-son argued that any self-respecting gingerbread house needs to have a chimney...so we wrapped an old shoe box in a complementary wrapping paper and taped it to the roof.
**Note...because we were using LED Christmas lights and because we vowed we would never leave the clubhouse unattended while lit, we went ahead and covered the Christmas lights with the gingerbread wrapping paper to complete the look of a finished roof.
If you followed my advice and cut out the window panes in Step 2, cover the window panes with the wrapping paper and then cut out the missing squares by feeling for the "void space" with your fingers. Reinforce your cut edges with clear packing tape.
The project is now essentially done! I wanted to use this clubhouse as a sensory room for my daughter, so I started to add additional elements from here. First, one of my step-sons did an an incredible art installation--and major kudos to him for fitting in there long enough to hang all his artwork!
My daughter was born deaf, and we are working with her a lot on learning ASL. I took pictures of the family members she sees most often and printed them out with not only their name but also the sign diagrams of each name.
I personally have a small home laminator machine (it cost $20 on Amazon). I laminated each card but without that machine you can achieve a similar effect by layering scotch or packing tape over each page. Using small velcro dots, I attached each "flashcard" to the walls so my daughter could pull down the card, look at it, and rearrange as desired.
The velcro also serves as a GREAT sensory toy as it provides both auditory and tactile stimulation.
Finally, I decided to add some scent elements and tied some cinnamon-scented pine cones to ribbons and hung them from the ceiling. These were fun for my daughter to bat around and made the sensory room a delicious-smelling safe space for her to hang out.
What do you think? I would call it a rousing success!!
Try it out! Post your pictures, comments, or ideas below! Thank you very much for following and stay tuned for more hacks, crafts, and project ideas.
Let's celebrate those Mad Mommin' Skills!