Sensory rooms can make a big difference in a child’s development. Unfortunately, many families with loved ones who could benefit from a dedicated sensory room often don’t feel they have the space or budget to create one.

Not so! Creating an effective sensory space doesn’t have to be expensive or require an entire room of your house. Just take a look at the following tips we’ve compiled to help you build a sensory area that fits your budget.

Consider the needs of your loved one

The first step in planning any sensory space begins with the kiddo who’ll be using it. Every child is unique, and the sensory space you make for them should be as well.

Take note of some of the toys, therapy items and sensory activities your child enjoys during his or her sessions. If your child likes working with certain items or performing certain tasks, it might be best to find similar items that meet with your budget. Ask the clinician or therapist about what your loved one likes working on or with, then research options based on those findings.

Carving out some space

A term like “sensory room” can be a little intimating and even discouraging, especially when you don’t have an entire room of your home available to set one up. Don’t get down, though. Smaller sensory areas can be just as effective as larger ones.

Think about the space you do have to offer rather than what you don’t and how you might individualize that area for your child. Is there a way to rearrange the furniture in a room to create a sensory-focused corner? Maybe there’s a closet in your home that you can convert the area in and around to build out a sensory nook. Open your mind to the possibilities hidden around you. After all, sensory spaces are great places for imagination. This is a chance to use yours!

Low-cost solutions, high-quality experiences

Now that you have an idea of the size of the space and some sensory item ideas, it’s time for the tough part: figuring out how to make it work with your limited budget. Before you take a hammer to your piggy bank, take some time to look at your wish list and think about alternatives:

A thrift shop portable CD or cheap mp3 player and some laptop speakers can work just as well as a brand new stereo. Aging computers that have become too slow current applications can be great for music, too, and some desktop media players feature soothing visualizations that react to whatever track is playing.

Ball pits are popular sensory items, but they can be way pricey. An inflatable pool with high walls can work well and won’t cost much to replace if it gets damaged.

While some sensory rooms feature swings and trampolines to promote vestibular stimulation, a more cost-effective solution could be a rocking chair or exercise ball.

 Don’t be afraid to get a little DIY with some items. Building you own sensory boards or blocks, sensory table or sand and water tubes can be a fun weekend project and save you a decent bit of cash. Hanging strands of old Mardi Gras beads or textured ribbons is a great idea, too!

Use twinkling Christmas lights, LED net-lighting or lava lamps to add an inexpensive glow to your sensory area. A re-purposed electric color wheel typically used for old aluminum Christmas trees can add some soothing color change to the room as well.

If you choose to portion off a bit of another room, consider buying some cheap, solid color fabric and hanging it like a curtain around the area. Giving the kiddo a little privacy and making them feel like it’s their space could do wonders for their confidence.

Also, don’t forget to mine the Internet for ideas. Pinterest in particular can be a good place for seeking out sensory room inspiration when you’re looking for affordable solutions for your new space.

Check out some funding options

You’re bound to run into an expensive item or two that could make the perfect addition to your sensory space that just can’t bring yourself to compromise on. That’s why you should take a little time to research special needs organizations and charities that assist with funding certain types of adaptive and special needs equipment.

Just don’t let the idea of not having those items keep you from creating your space. Remember: building a sensory room is a process. Starting small will allow the sensory space you create to grow and evolve with your child’s needs. It can also be a great way to learn what items provide your loved one maximum benefit and what items to donate to another family.

Make room for sensory needs

At eSpecial Needs, we’ve help thousands of families, therapists and clinicians put together sensory areas for users of all types. If you have questions about your sensory area project and some of the items you might want to put in it, contact us or chat online with one of our customer service representatives and we’ll do our best to give you a hand no matter what your budget looks like.