Setting up sensory stations is a way to allow children to easily meet their sensory needs whether it’s in your home or the classroom. We homeschool and for a few years now have used a few unofficial sensory stations in our classroom but I have recently begun to create official sensory stations and a chart to let the kids know what the stations are.
Disclaimer: I am in no way responsible for any injury that occurs in the course of any of these suggestions. I am simply a parent of many children who have sensory processing disorder and am sharing our experiences with you.
There are many ways that you can provide kids access to these stations. You can have them rotate through the stations in between other activities, have them rotate through the stations at a set time, or you can simply provide the stations and let the kids know what they are and that they are welcome to use them when they need to.
You can choose to have the station set up like a circuit and have them numbered or ordered in a very organized way or you can have them be more of a fluid concept. I would suggest that if you have children with autism or children who just need more structure, you have some type of chart or way for them to keep track of the stations if you don’t have them laid out in a circuit.
When the weather is nice, we are able to incorporate some outdoor stations into our rotation which makes things even easier and often the fresh air and change of pace help the kids almost as much as the actual activity.
Our current sensory stations are:
-the trampoline – They can choose just to jump or can play some trampoline games.
-sensory bin – I make a new sensory bin every week and the kids love playing in them. If you are looking for ideas, I have dozens of examples of our sensory bins in the sensory bins category (click that link to take you there) or if you are new to making sensory bins, you may want to consider purchasing my Sensory Bins ebook.
-playdough – Right now, the playdough station we have set up is what we call Stuck in the Mud, but the playdough station changes throughout the year such as having a Gingerbread playdough station set up in December. Your playdough station doesn’t need to be elaborate. Include playdough and playdough mats or some simple toys or kitchen gadgets.
-merry-go-round – I know that most people don’t have a merry-go-round set up in their backyard, but we happen to. My dad found one at an auction a few years ago and had it put in for us. The reason I share this station though is because it is great for meeting vestibular sensory needs. There are other things you could do to create a vestibular (think spinning or balance and movement) sensory station. A climbing wall, jungle gym for monkey bars or swinging, indoor swing, a tunnel for crawling through, or a spinning chair would all be excellent vestibular sensory stations.
-busy bags – We use busy bags for a variety of things but many of the ones that I make are very sensory rich, so they work well as a sensory station.
–anti-anxiety kit – This includes sensory balls, lavender playdough, a kaleidoscope, mini massager, and more.
-sponges and water – This is an example of a one time activity that the kids enjoyed so much, I turned it into a regular sensory station.
-auditory station – We always have this station set up in our classroom. It consists of a pair of headphones and a CD player. I put out different audio books and music each week.
-bean bag chair – We have a large bean bag chair set up in our homeschool classroom and the kids love it for downtime. They can go there to read, snuggle with me, or just to relax.
We do have some other stations such as a bin full of instruments, a playground, sandbox, and tunnel that I sometimes throw into the mix. Other times, I create an entirely new sensory activity that is really popular with the kids so I turn it into a sensory station.
Sensory Station Ideas:
–water or sand table
-ball pit (this can be made easily by filling a kiddie pool with balls or pieces of cut up pool noodles)
-swing (indoor or outdoor)
–mats for summersaults, rolling, wrestling, flips
–shaving cream painting, fingerpainting, condensed milk painting, freezie painting, ice painting, puffy paint, face paint
-crab walk, crawl
-frog jump, bunny hop, jumping jacks
-jello, goop, gak, silly putty, slime (those links will take you to recipes to make your own)
-sensory tot trays
-heavy work like carrying books, a laundry basket push, pulling a wagon filled with rocks, carrying pails of water
-hanging area such as a chin up bar or monkey bars
-large hopping ball or exercise ball
-couch cushions or blankets for rolling up in or sandwiching between
-body socks or body tubes
-ice activities like this one or this one
-square or circle made with masking tape on the floor for jumping on one foot or doing lazy 8s
-drums, shakers, or other instruments
-instruments for creating a marching parade
-dancing station with music and a large area to move in
-pouring and scooping
-pots and pans and spoons (for stirring or banging)
-bean bag chair
-auditory station (headphones and CD player for music or audio books)
-bin with soapy water for washing play dishes (or real dishes), cars or toys
-dress up station
-cooking station for older kids, particularly recipes that create dough that requires kneading or a lot of mixing
The great thing about being able to create your own sensory stations is that you can customize them to meet the sensory needs of your kids or students. You can also change them to fit weather or seasonal needs. Changing them from time to time also helps keep children interested and engaged. What sensory stations have you tried out?
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Vicky @ Mess For Less says
Can’t wait to try that mud playdough! Pinned and stumbled!
Thanks so much Vicky!
Missy @ Dot-to-Dot Connections says
My kids love sensory bins and I really do need to come up with some more ideas. Thanks for sharing!
Theres Just One Mommy says
Love, love, love all the ideas!
Hi, My son has huge sensory issues. He does not like being sticky, dirty, or anything of the sort. The poor boy does NOT like bubble baths. I cant get him to do any of the sensory bins that I have. What are some ideas to get him to work on this? He is almost 2.
I would start by making sensory bins out of materials that he does like. If you notice that there are textures that he gravitates towards, make those into a bin. You can also use water and some of his usual toys just to get him used to the idea of playing in a sensory bin and gradually add more textures.
Meisha, If your son sees an Occupational Therapist ask them about Wilbarger therapy and the medical brushes that are used for desensitizing sensory tactile kids. It worked wonders with my kid when he was in 2nd grade. Although we don’t see an OT any more, I still use the brush every once and awhile now (and he is in 6th grade now!)
JDaniel4's Mom says
Mud play dough sounds really wonderful. We will have to try it at my house!
Tshanina | Thrifty T's Treasures says
These activities look like fun for kids of all ages! Thanks for sharing!
Selena @ Look! We're Learning! says
As a mom to kids with SPD, I am learning so much from you, Sharla. Pinning this!