Creating Sensory Spaces to Support Emotional Learning
How do sensory spaces help?
How to create a calming space at home
- Pillows and blankets
- Pictures of the family, friends, or pets
- An emotions chart
- Calming strategies
- Noise canceling headphones or earmuffs
- Paper and coloring materials
- Favorite stuffed animals or toys
- Sunglasses and a hat to wear if they choose (for blocking out bright lights or to “disappear” for a moment)
- Homemade manipulatives, like fidgets made of yarn and pipe cleaners, baggies filled with hair gel and food coloring, or sensory bottles (oil, water, food coloring, glitter, small toys)
- Paper with a stop sign on one side (“Not ready to talk.”) and a green light on the other (“Ready to talk.”)
How to use a calming space
- Have your child help pick where they’d like their calming space to be.
- Offer options for different calming toys and materials, so they can choose what works best for them.
- Talk to your child about what the space can be used for and rules for the area. For example: "Sometimes when we feel frustrated or upset, we need a moment to ourselves. This is a special place for you! You can come here to get away when you need it."
- Consistently model specific words and phrases for tricky feelings so your child builds their emotional vocabulary to identify their needs. For younger children that might be: "I'm mad," "No, stop," or "I don't like that." For older children it may be: "I need a break," or "I'm not ready to talk.”
- Continue to evolve your calm space, observing which tools and strategies work well and which need swapped out.
How to create an active space at home
- Shapes on the floor (painter tape inside or chalk on cement) to jump across or run in place
- Bean bags and buckets or cardboard boxes for throwing targets
- A weighted wagon or box for pushing along a maze or course
- Coloring and arts and crafts supplies
- Bubble wrap or water bottles for stomping
- Taped lines for balancing steps
- Newspaper or scrap papers to shred
- Masking tape or sidewalk chalk hopscotch
- High-jump markers (Cut out handprints and tape them up the wall. See how high your child can jump for a “high five.”)
- Cutout handprints on the wall for practicing wall push-ups
- Pillows for yelling into (This one's great for adults, too!)
How to use an active space
- Have your child help pick where the active space should go. You’ll want it to be away from their calming space or any designated quiet areas in your home.
- Offer options for different active toys and materials, so they can choose what works best for them.
- Talk to your child about what the space can be used for and rules for the area. For example: "Sometimes when I feel antsy or upset, I need a way to move and feel better. This is a special place for you! You can come here when you need it."
- Continue to evolve your active space, observing which tools and strategies work well and which need swapped out.