#262 - 6 Key Components to Building a Sensory Friendly Home

by Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC June 28, 2023

#262 - 6 Key Components to Building a Sensory Friendly Home

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6 Key Components to Building a Sensory Friendly Home

Today’s episode is in response to a listener question - how do you build a sensory-friendly home?

We offer practical tips and insights on how to create a home environment that minimizes sensory overload, including the use of calming colors, lighting, and textures. We also touch on the importance of incorporating sensory activities into your daily routine, and the benefits of investing in sensory-friendly products and equipment.

Whether you're a parent of a child with sensory processing challenges or an adult looking to improve your own living environment, this episode is chock-full of valuable information and resources. So, tune in and join us as we explore the world of sensory-friendly living, and discover how you can create a more peaceful, comfortable, and welcoming home for yourself or your loved ones.

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Links

All Things Sensory Podcast Instagram

Harkla YouTube Channel

Harkla Website

Harkla Instagram

Build a Sensory Corner (YouTube)

Episode 33 The Power of Touch for the Tactile System

SENSE-ational Spaces, LLC

 

6 Key Components To Building a Sensory-Friendly Home

Whether you’re a caregiver or interact with a child who has sensory processing disorder or sensory challenges, it’s highly advantageous to establish sensory-friendly environments that cater to their sensory requirements. Even individuals without such difficulties may reap the benefits, as we all have sensory systems that require occasional regulation and support.

Enhance The Sensory-Friendliness Of Your Home

Let’s deconstruct strategies for enhancing the sensory-friendliness of your home, one room at a time. For instance, in the bedroom, you could incorporate blackout curtains, a weighted blanket, or a compression sheet on the bed.

You could add a vibrating toothbrush, hairbrush, and twinkle lights in the bathroom instead of harsh fluorescent lighting. In the living room, including swings, bean bag chairs, or opt for dimmer lighting or red light plugins.

Walk through each room to assess its sensory-friendliness and consider implementing some popular options, such as:

  • Beanbag chairs, ball pits, crash pads, or play couches that invite relaxation, jumping, or falling.
  • Adapting the lighting in your home to correspond with the time of day.
  • Sensory swings, ladders, trapeze bars, regular swings, stair slides, or regular slides for increased movement and sensory input to self-regulate.
  • Sour spray, chewies, sensory bins, mud kitchens, and essential oils can be conveniently utilized in compact areas.

Your home already has numerous sensory activities, products, and items. The key is to ensure they are utilized effectively.

Changing the lighting in your house

So look at your light bulbs; if they are fluorescent lights, remove them. Studies show that fluorescent lights are unsuitable for our brains or eyeballs. Then change the light bulbs to a different watt size, colored light bulbs, or dimmable options. You can even turn the lights off when you don’t need a bright light. So during the day, open your blinds or curtains and use natural light instead of artificial light.

Going outside in the morning without sunglasses and getting that natural light can benefit your circadian rhythm. It can help improve sleep as well. Ultimately, use daylight to your advantage by getting outside in the morning and at night. You can also put a red light in your house, or your child’s room as red is very calming and organizes that nervous system and sends the message that it’s time to go to bed.

Craft A Comfortable Sensory Corner

Assign a secure and peaceful spot in the primary living area or your child’s bedroom. This location can be a tent, a stack of blankets, or a Nugget fort.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate; it can be as simple as a closet with comfortable cushions, pillows, twinkling lights, calming sensory tools such as a weighted blanket, stuffed animal, noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses, chewing gum, or essential oil bracelets. Consider all eight senses and how each strategy can help regulate the nervous system when implementing them in this cozy corner.

Moreover, talking to your child about utilizing the cozy corner when upset and during playtime is beneficial. When they’re calm, discuss how they can use this space as a calming retreat when experiencing frustration, incorporating visual tools like the Zones of Regulation.

Incorporate Visuals Throughout Your Home

Creating a visual schedule for your child’s daily routine and specific activity schedules can be advantageous. For example, during the school year, you can involve your child in creating a visual plan for their morning routine and encourage them to use a dry-erase marker to check off each task.

Be Conscious Of Textures

Put on your sensory goggles and observe the various textures in your home, including your clothing, blankets, sheets, carpets, and furniture. Each item has a distinct texture that can be desirable or undesirable for sensory-sensitive or sensory-seeking individuals.

Utilize this newfound awareness to supply appropriate textures for your child’s nervous system, particularly at bedtime. Ensure that their pajamas, sheets, blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals possess the desired texture that comforts them.

If your child displays high sensitivity to textures, you can assist them in desensitizing their bodies using techniques like vibration or deep touch pressure such as massage or a washcloth. These modalities can enhance their tactile system’s ability to handle and regulate sensory input more effectively.

Integrate Auditory Aids Into Your Home

You can incorporate various auditory tools, such as noise-canceling headphones, music-playing headphones, speakers, or metronomes, at different times of the day. It’s essential to be mindful of how much auditory input your child is receiving since it can significantly impact their nervous system.

Music can be a powerful mood enhancer, and you can leverage music as a beneficial tool by swapping out cartoons on the TV for a Spotify playlist your child can listen to while preparing for their day or playing. Compared to watching TV shows, listening to music offers unique auditory input that facilitates better engagement in additional activities.

Have Plenty Of Sensory Tools Available

We aim to make these tools accessible to as many people as possible, recognizing that not everyone can acquire a ball pit, rock wall, or beanbag chair. It’s essential to use what you have and adapt it to meet the sensory needs of your household by putting on your sensory goggles and thinking creatively.

Here are some cost-effective options for creating your own sensory spaces:

  • Make a crash pad by taking the pillows or cushions off your couch and putting them on the floor.
  • Create a swing for your child by gently swaying them in a blanket.
  • Offer sensory tools and fidgets, such as chewies, aquarium tubing, or sour spray.
  • Head to the playground to play and enjoy the outdoors. If a playground is not accessible, consider trying a body sock as an affordable sensory strategy for seekers or tactile/visual avoiders.
  • Consider installing a pull-up bar in your hallway for joint traction and heavy work.
  • A scooter board is versatile and can be used on carpets and hard floors, making it a helpful transitional tool for moving between different areas of your home.

Creating a sensory-friendly home can significantly enhance comfort and reduce sensory overload for kids with sensory processing differences. By being empathetic, creative, and involved in making adjustments, we can turn our homes into safe, engaging, and nurturing environments that cater to the unique sensory needs of each individual.

Remember, these strategies don’t require significant investments; even small changes can provide a substantial impact. Keep experimenting and discovering what works best, and you’ll be well on your way to building a truly sensory-friendly home.

Watch our YouTube video about building a sensory corner in your home

 

BORING, BUT NECESSARY LEGAL DISCLAIMERS

While we make every effort to share correct information, we are still learning. We will double check all of our facts but realize that medicine is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor / therapist may have a different way of doing things from another. We are simply presenting our views and opinions on how to address common sensory challenges, health related difficulties and what we have found to be beneficial that will be as evidenced based as possible. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or your children. Consult your child’s pediatrician/ therapist for any medical issues that he or she may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast. Under no circumstances shall Rachel Harrington, Harkla, Jessica Hill, or any guests or contributors to the podcast, as well as any employees, associates, or affiliates of Harkla, be responsible for damages arising from use of the podcast.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.


This podcast should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing “standard of care” in a legal sense or as a basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.

Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC
Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC

Rachel Harrington, COTA/l, AC, CPRCS, and Jessica Hill, COTA/L, CPRCS are Harkla's in-house Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA) and Certified Primitive Reflex Clinical Specialists. They have been working with children for over 6 years in outpatient settings. They specialize in creating easy-to-digest, actionable content that families can use to help their child's progress at home. Jessica and Rachel are the in-house experts, content creators, and podcast hosts at Harkla! To learn more about Jessica and Rachel, visit the Harkla About Us Page. Make sure to listen to their weekly podcast, All Things Sensory by Harkla for actionable, fun advice on child development.


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