Sensory toys and equipment are fantastic ways to help kids get the sensory input they crave and help them overcome the sensations they fear.
But if you’ve ever envied the sensory tools occupational therapists have at their disposal, you know that a lot of the sensory toys are EXPENSIVE and take up a ton of space.
So if you don’t have room for a gym and haven’t won the lottery recently, you have to get creative to meet your child’s sensory needs.
Did you know your home is FULL of sensory equipment just waiting to be utilized?
Use Any of the Following Furniture for Sensory Input. Click or Read On for Details.
Sensory Toys and Equipment from Furniture
While most adults like to sit still on couches, they’re actually a treasure trove of sensory input!
Our couch basically doubles as a trapeze gym.
My boys will stand on the arms of the couch and belly flop down into the soft cushions in the middle. The fall is great vestibular input (think all things movement and height) and the crash is gives full body proprioception (deep calming pressure and body awareness).
Another way we use our couch is a comfortable way to invert the head. Again, when a child is upside down, they’re getting lots of vestibular input to the inner ear that can help calm and regulate. Learn more about the calming benefits of hanging upside down HERE.
The traditional rocking chair is well known for its calming abilities, but do you know why? The back and forth movement stimulates the inner ear or the vestibular system in a way that helps the whole body to regulate and relax. Try doing your next read-aloud in a rocker with your child on your lap and you’ll be amazed at the calm that comes over both of you!
If you have an office or computer chair that spins, you should put that bad boy to use! Again, the movement of spinning will give strong input to the vestibular system of the inner ear. But unlike the rocking chair, spinning has the tendency to be alerting and energizing.
Be especially cautious with vestibular input. It’s the most fickle of all the senses and what can be helpful one minute, can suddenly change into overstimulation and meltdowns. ALWAYS follow your child’s signals and listen to your medical professionals advice!
If you have two levels in your house, or stairs up to your porch, turn the stairs into sensory equipment!
Get your kids climbing those stairs so they’re doing “heavy work” and getting oodles of calming proprioceptive input through their legs. Too make it more engaging, create a relay race on the stairs and have kids bring different weighted objects up and down. (Use common sense and keep things age appropriate and safe).
My boys also love to simply jump off the last few stairs onto the landing. Talk about proprioception into the joints and ligaments! If your child is younger and less coordinated, you could create a pile of pillows or a mattress to crash into upon landing.
Now this one might make some of you cringe. But before we were able to find an indoor trampoline on Craigslist, I let my boys jump on their beds for sensory play. In fact, when my 2 year old was a little too shaky to be safe on the trampoline, I let him jump in his crib!
A bed might also be a great place to have a sensory hideaway. Let your child have a space where they have more control of the sensory input coming at them. Try draping a sheet over the area to create a tent. Be mindful of the effects of lighting and noise and allow your child to give lots of input!
Quite possibly our most used sensory toy. Pillows can deliver all sorts of proprioceptive pressure while still being comfortable. Have your child squeeze a massive pillow with all their might to give their arms some heavy work and their torso deep pressure. Let them yell into a pillow to get their auditory needs out (as when as some proprioception for the lungs!)
If you invite your kids into a pillow fight, I guarantee they will have fun and no idea that they’re getting loads of proprioceptive input as they get hit or get whacked. 🙂
Don’t forget the biggest space in your home; the floor! Do some animal walks, relay races, obstacle courses, or simply dance!
Put painters tap down on the floor and make a sensory infinity loop or an alphabet hopscotch.
While all these items might not be as flashy as official sensory toys and equipment, you’ll save money and space and might actually DO sensory activities since they literally surround you!
I’m sure I’ve missed some household items that double as sensory equipment. Tell me in the comments below the creative ways you’ve used your home to get your kids some sensory input!
Full Spectrum Mama says
“if you don’t have room for a gym and haven’t won the lottery recently”
HAHAAAAAAAAA — EXACTLY!!!!
Love this post — so sensible, practical, wise, fun!
Thanks and love,
Full Spectrum Mama
These are all great suggestions and many we are already doing in our home with our two little girls age 2 and 4. We actually made a crash pad with a $5 used duvet cover (that we washed – obviously ;-)) and old couch cushions that my husband lovingly sawed into small squares…but so far the couch seems to be the natural go-to for jumping and crashing. We started doing this thing we call “Boops”, where mama lays on the couch (bonus for mama) and the girls stand in front of my knees and I “Boop” them – touch my big toe to their belly button, say “Boop!” and they fall backwards into a pile of pillows and blankets. Have them turn around and give their bottom a boop and they fall forward into pillows. They LOVE LOVE LOVE it and it usually turns into tickling and pillow fights. We do it almost religiously every night before bed. So yes, sometimes the best tools are run of the mill household items. Granted, it can make us parents a little crazy knowing the freshly washed blankets and pillows are being used on the dirty floor or dragged across the kitchen floor or entry floor… but then again we can wash them…again… 🙂
A toddler or a doggie pool filled with stuffed animals or just a big box filled with stuffed animals is something our daughter like to sit in for proprioceptive input. She asks for animals to be piled on top of her and then we turn the box over so that she can fall out of it.
What a great idea! Yes, that all over touch is awesome from proprioception!
I read this and realized these are all the things my children seek out and try to do themselves on a regular basis! Spinning on my office chair, climbing the steps, jumping off the bottom, pillow fights, spinning in place, jumping on our big bed…However, I also realized I stop them from doing most of these things because we live in an upstairs apartment and we are constantly telling them to quiet down 🙁 We can’t jump on the floor due to the people below us and we can’t be too loud. I’m going to have to try harder to allow them to do some of these things quietly!
Love that you’re seeing your living space with new eyes! Maybe your neighbors would be ok with “loud” hours if they know ahead of time?