How to Create the Perfect Sensory Room for Your Child

Caroline Gilbert
Written by Caroline Gilbert
Updated May 11, 2022
How to Create a Sensory Room for Your Child

These sensory room ideas can work for a variety of spaces and budgets

For children with autism or sensory sensitivities, sensory rooms can offer a safe space to practice coping skills or return to a calm baseline after being overstimulated.

Each sensory room will be designed to meet a child’s specific needs, and especially for rooms intended for multiple children, the activities and environment will vary. Their needs may change over time and it will likely take a bit of trial and error to build a space that’s unique to your child.

Whether you’re starting from scratch or repurposing an existing room, our sensory room ideas will help you discover creative ways to start building a space in your own home.

What Is a Sensory Room?

For children with sensory sensitivities, such as autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sensory rooms can specifically provide a safe space to decompress when experiencing sensory overwhelm. These rooms can include soft spaces, subdued lighting, calm sounds, and even relaxing scents to help provide a break from overstimulation.

Occupational therapists have found success using sensory rooms to promote sensory integration, and you can create a similar safe space for your children in the comfort of your home. 

Sensory Room Ideas

You have endless options when creating a sensory room in your home. You can add anything from lights to promote a calming baseline to ball pits and trampolines to allow children to explore their sense of movement and space or get some extra energy out.

Just keep your children’s specific needs in mind, and you will create a multisensory space that they—and even you—can enjoy. When creating a sensory room for your child, consider collaborating with a healthcare professional to ensure you are giving your child the safest experience possible that is also catered to their needs.

What to include in a sensory room
(1) Photo by Suyash.dwivedi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; (2) Photo by Philippe Put under CC 2.0 ; (3) Fairfax County under CC 2.0; (4) Photo by Piera Jolly from Personal Creations under CC 2.0; (5) Photo by Ron Lach]

Sensory Lights

Choosing the proper type of lighting can be particularly helpful to children with autism who can become distracted or pained by harsh, flickering, or humming lights. Soft, adjustable lighting in soothing colors such as blue can create a safe, calming environment.

When choosing what lighting to include in your sensory room, consider your child’s visual stimulation needs and decide what environment makes the most sense. Some children may find certain types of light calming, while others may find it overwhelming. 

Hiring a local lighting professional can make the process smoother and ensure everything’s properly in place. Check out this list of different types of lighting you might want to include. Again, you may want to consult your child’s doctor before installing lighting in a sensory room to ensure you’re getting the biggest benefit.

  • Fiber-optic lights: Fiber-optic lights can change colors slowly, contributing to a calm, relaxing environment.

  • ​​​Lava lamps: The soothing colors and slow movement of lava lamps provide a gentle, calming vibe, as children track the bubbles.

  • Bubble tube lights: Bubble tube lights offer similar benefits to lava lamps, engaging and mesmerizing children with small bubbles that rise to the top of the tube. Bubble tube lights help children to focus and relax.

  • Light filters: Calming blue filters can be placed over fluorescent ceiling fixtures, reducing or eliminating harsh glare and flickering, transforming the light into a soothing shade of blue.

  • LED cubes: The soft, glowing colors of LED cubes change gradually, keeping your kids’ attention.

Sensory Walls and Boards

Sensory walls and boards can engage a variety of your children’s senses. Which one you’ll choose depends on the purpose of the room and your child’s preferences. Some lighted walls can soothe and teach with calming colors, while sensory boards with fuzzy carpet, raised bumps, velvet surfaces, and other textures can enhance their tactile experience. 

  • Sequined wall panels: Reversible sequins change color as you run your hands over them, creating interesting shapes for a fun, tactile experience.

  • Interactive music walls: Pressing the screen produces colorful patterns, accompanied by music, encouraging cause-and-effect recognition, color identification, and just plain fun. This type of sensory play can be utilized in rooms focused on play and learning rather than creating a calming baseline.

  • Interactive light-up rainbow panel: Colors light up in sequence on this rainbow-shaped panel, or your kids can use buttons to change the colors themselves.

  • Corridor wall panel: An array of shapes, including balls, spinners, an abacus, and knobs, provides a variety of visual and tactile experiences for your child. 

Beanbag Chairs and Crash Mats

Crash mats (also called crash bags or pads) and bean bag chairs help your kids gauge their body position and just get comfy. You can promote this comforting spatial awareness by including any of these items in your sensory room:

  • Crash mat: Great for jumping, tumbling, or just plain crashing, these puffy cushions provide the perfect place to land. They allow your children to explore movement-based activities and release energy safely.

  • Bean bag chair: A semi-surrounding sensory experience can help your children find a tactile experience that’s cozy and comforting.

  • Convertible couch: Cushions can be arranged as building blocks in various shapes, creating sitting spaces, playhouses, and more.

Benefits of sensory toys and activities for children

Auditory Equipment

Auditory equipment such as walls, music or sound systems, and vibrating platforms can provide benefits for children in a sensory room. In addition to music, sounds of nature such as light rain, waves on a seashore, a flowing stream, or rustling leaves can help create a calming, soothing environment. 

Some children may need auditory equipment like noise-canceling headphones to block out sound, while others may be soothed by music or noise machines to create a more immersive environment. Again, this may take some trial and error to cater the room to your child’s needs. 

Some types of auditory equipment for sensory rooms include:

  • Vibro-acoustic platform: You can feel sound, not just hear it. As you sit or lie on this platform, you can feel the music pulsing through your body.

  • Noise-canceling headphones: If you want to include more than one child in your sensory room, or know that your child is sensitive to noise, consider adding noise-canceling headphones to block sound for those with sound sensitivity.

  • Rainsticks: These long wooden tubes filled with small pebbles reproduce the soothing sound of rain when you shake them, offering a rewarding sound when children play with them.

  • Sound equalizer: A sound equalizer uses a microphone and displays to encourage your child to develop vocalization skills. A display lights up when the mic picks up sound, creating visual, positive feedback for vocalizing. This addition may be most appropriate for rooms designed for play and learning rather than sensory stabilization. 

Calming Colors

“Hot” colors such as reds, oranges, and yellows can be jarring or overstimulating for some children, but “cool” colors like blues, greens, purples, and browns can have a calming effect. Explore your color options when determining how to paint the room.

Although you can paint the room yourself, consider hiring a local painter, especially if you want intricate work done, like adding a soothing mural. Always keep your children’s interests and needs in mind and give them a voice when choosing a color.

Sensory Activities

Different sensory tools can help your kids develop motor skills, create a calming space, and help them safely explore how their bodies respond to the information gathered by their senses. Some sensory activities promote physical, social, and emotional development and also can give some children a way to safely release extra energy. 

It’s important to consider your child’s tactile needs. For example, if a room is focused on calming, you may choose not to install any sensory play activities, such as trampolines. If your child needs to safely release energy, more interactive activities like ball pits or swings may be a good option.

Ball Pits

Ball pits encourage motor skills and provide tactile sensations as your kids roll, crawl, or hop through a pit containing hundreds of balls. You can even hide toys inside for them to find. You can purchase simple ball pits or have a professional install one in the corner of your sensory space.


A trampoline with a handle can provide a safe and fun way to encourage spatial awareness in your kids—just be sure to find a trampoline sized for your child that can safely be used indoors. 


Your kids can also develop spatial perception and body awareness by crawling through tunnels. You can use anything from portable, foldable tunnels or create a stationary, maze-like tunnel of fun with the help of a pro who can install one safely.

Sensory Bins

Consider adding several sensory bins filled with dry rice, beans, pasta, water, or other textured materials in your sensory room. Sensory bins encourage your kids to engage in tactile, open-ended play to explore different textures and sensations. Include funnels, scoops, or spoons so that kids can sift through the base material and search for objects placed inside.

Sensory Toys and Tools

Below are some great ideas for calm, soothing sensory toys that make a great fit for any multisensory space.

Fidget Toys

Handheld fidget toys and tools, such as putty, stress balls, and fidget spinners or cubes, can help reduce stress and increase focus. Include several different types of fidget toys in your sensory room to encourage tactile awareness while decreasing anxiety.

Weighted Blankets

If your child has trouble sleeping, a weighted blanket can provide deep-touch pressure that improves sleep. These blankets use beads or balls to add a bit of weight to the blanket and can help reduce anxiety. Perfect for nap time, bedtime, or relaxing, kids and adults love the soothing effect of weighted blankets. 

Body Socks

These stretchable body wraps can be comforting and fun. Body socks offer resistance to movement inside, improving balance and body awareness, and offering a snuggly, comforting cocoon. Just be careful of slipping—kids love to move around in these.

Sensory Swings

You might consider having a local handyperson install a sensory swing to secure it safely. Sensory swings come in a variety of forms, including cocoon swings, hammock swings, and log swings. Not only can a sensory swing provide the same freeing fun as its outdoor version, but it can also help with balance and can even provide a cozy spot to relax.

Exercise balls

Your child can roll around and balance on tactile exercise balls equipped with small bumps to provide added stimulation. They help with body, spatial, and tactile awareness, and may be another addition that’s good for kids who want to safely get energy out.

What to Avoid in a Sensory Room

When creating a sensory room, avoid elements that create too much stimulation, resulting in sensory overload, especially if your goal is comfort and calm. As you see all your options, you may feel tempted to add anything and everything into your sensory room, but you need to keep the following sensory needs in mind. Consult your child’s doctor to see what benefits a sensory room may be able to provide them specifically.

Sensory Room Considerations

  • Sensory overload: Experiencing too much sensory information at one time can lead to sensory overload, causing anxiety, stress, and even physical pain/discomfort. Be sure you carefully select how much you include in your sensory room, or try rotating certain items in and out on specific days to keep the stimuli low.

  • Sound: Your child may have trouble weeding out background noises. Sounds can become magnified, becoming distorted and dissonant. Reduce noise levels by including noise-canceling headphones or by soundproofing walls.

  • Smell: Some children express sensitivity to odors, even ones that you might find pleasant. If you plan to add scent to your sensory room, understand what your child can tolerate and keep the level low. When you create your sensory space, make sure you place it away from environments, such as a kitchen, where you won’t be able to control smells as easily.

  • Touch: Different textures may be uncomfortable, and your child may not like having anything on their hands or feet. Touch—including the touch of others—can be unpleasant or even painful. When including textures in your sensory room, find ones that usually feel safe.

  • Vision: Bright objects can become distorted and appear to jump around, and some children may have light sensitivity. Create a calming atmosphere in your sensory space by keeping lights subdued and soothing, and keep bright objects to a minimum if they become a distraction. Some children find it easier to focus on details than take in an entire room, so consider breaking the room up into different mini sensory spaces.

How effective are sensory rooms
Photo credit: AntonioLeonMexico, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

Rooms You Can Use as a Sensory Space

You don’t have to build an addition to your home to create a sensory room. You can modify an existing spare room in the house or set up an unused corner as a sensory space for your child. 

If you don’t know where to begin, here are a few ideas on how to repurpose a room:

  • Playroom: Repurpose a playroom for your child to explore different sensory objects in a safe and calm environment.

  • Study space: Paint the walls with calming colors and provide soothing background music or noise-canceling headphones to enhance your child’s focus.

  • Bedroom modification: Add calming colors and warm, dimmable lights to your child’s bedroom. Ensure that your child can have a comfortably dark room while sleeping, and consider adding a weighted blanket to their bed.

Every Sensory Room Is Unique

Creating a sensory room can encourage your child to develop skills in a safe, calming environment. You can make your sensory room simple or hire a local professional to make it as elaborate as you like. 

Just remember that what you include depends on your child’s needs and level of sensitivity to different stimuli. Whatever your situation, you have endless options to choose from and can begin to design a sensory room that’s right for your child.