In this post, learn how to make an individualized Sensory Box to help your child support their sensory needs throughout remote learning, hybrid school, virtual classes, or in-person school.
Using sensory boxes gives kids the natural break they need as they work through their school day. They can easily and quickly become a calming diversion that is safe, clean, and fun!
What is a Sensory Box?
A sensory box is a container filled with interesting sensory toys that appeal to and stimulate the five senses: gustation (taste), olfactory (smell), tactile (touch), sight (visual), and auditory (hear). Typically they are used for sensory breaks, play, learning, relaxation, stimulation, exploration, and meditation.
How to Make a Sensory Box
Making a sensory box is easy and fun! I put this blue box together for my autistic son to use at home and school. Due to COVID-19, I wanted him to be able to access his own fidgets and sensory materials without having to worry about spreading germs through shared materials. He always focuses better when he’s holding a quiet fidget in his hand!
This year I’m going to try rotating sensory box themes based on holidays and seasons! A fall-themed sensory box could include a mini harvest sensory bin, cinnamon-scented pine cones, apple stress balls, and autumn playdough!
After you’ve created a sensory box, sit back and watch. Allow your child to explore and play! Some kids will narrate their play, so listen to what they are saying. What items do they enjoy? Are they relaxed and engaged?
By watching and listening, you can better connect with your child. You can see how they process information and learn, which will help with both schooling and parenting.
Tip: Always check with your child’s teacher before sending a sensory box to school!
Materials for Sensory Kit
Directions for DIY Sensory Box
1. Purchase a plastic supply caddy. You can find these at most stores, especially during the back-to-school season! We found our blue caddy at Lakeshore Learning, but have also seen them at Target (check the Dollar Spot), in craft stores, and on Amazon.
2. Fill one small section of the box with tactile sensory materials. My son prefers materials that give him proprioceptive feedback such as:
- TheraPutty – My son likes to put pony beads in his putty to pull out.
- Modeling clay
- Play Floam
- Play-Doh Slime – It’s stretchy and slimy, but doesn’t stick to skin!
3. Add a variety of fidgets to another small section of the box. I typically avoid fidgets that make distracting sounds, but that is just our family’s preference. Some of our favorites include:
- Mini Wooden Fidget Puzzle
- Liquid Hourglass – These are so calming!
- Koosh ball, stress ball, or puffer ball
4. Place a miniature activity tray and more playful sensory materials in the large section. My son loves to build and dig during sensory breaks, so we alternate between:
- MadMattr – It comes in resealable packaging!
- Bricks, such as LEGO
- Kinetic Sand
- Snap Cubes
- Mini Sensory Bins
Mini Sensory Bins are simply portable, smaller versions of your child’s favorite sensory bin! We saw them over at The OT Toolbox first, but Pocket of Preschool, Fun Learning for Kids, and The Speech Bubble SLP have very cute ideas too!
Use a clear, locking box to make mini versions of:
- Garden Sensory Bin
- Bug Sensory Bin
- Dinosaur Sensory Bin
- Pom Pom Sensory Bin
- Bird Sensory Bin
- Harvest Sensory Bin
- Halloween Sensory Bin
- Butterfly Life Cycle Sensory Bin
Why Are Sensory Boxes Important?
Sensory boxes are beneficial for a vast number of reasons. First, they provide low-stress play opportunities in a contained space. Second, these boxes offer hands-on learning with fun and engaging materials. Additional individual benefits include:
- Hands-on learning
- Child-led exploration
- Explore with hands and senses
- Social skills
- Decision making
- Play skills
- Language skills
- Fine motor skills
- Hand-eye coordination
- Motor development
- Language development
How to Clean Sensory Boxes
First, wash your child’s sensory toys and box with soap and water to reduce germs and dirt. Next, sanitize the toys and box in a bleach solution consisting of 1/3 cup of unscented bleach and 1 gallon of water. Materials such as Play-Doh and kinetic sand should be discarded if they cannot be cleaned.
I always remind my kids to wash their hands with soap and water before playing with sensory materials—it’s a good habit to get into and will help prolong the life of materials that can’t be cleaned. This school year, I tucked a small bottle of hand sanitizer in the sensory box for my child to use before play.
Visit this site for more details on cleaning and sanitizing toys, and always follow along with guidelines from your local health department.
More Helpful Back to School Tips
- How to Set Up a Remote Learning Station/Homework Station
- Make a Portable Homework Station
- Helping Your Child Thrive in a New School
- Easy First Day of School Sign
- 10 Easy Nut-Free School Lunch Ideas
- 5 Simple Ways to Foster Your Child’s Love for Reading
- Supply caddy
- Miniature trays
- Sensory materials, such as TheraPutty, fidgets, and MadMattr
- Purchase a plastic supply caddy. You can find these at most stores, especially during the back-to-school season!
- Fill one small section of the box with tactile sensory materials.
- Add a variety of fidgets to another small section of the box.
- Place a miniature activity tray and more playful sensory materials in the large section.
- Your sensory box is complete!
Clean and rotate the items as needed.
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12 Pieces Mini Fidget Puzzles Wooden Flexible Puzzles Stretchable Fidget Puzzle Wood Twist and Lock Blocks for Fidget or Party Favors
CanDo TheraPutty Plus Antimicrobial, 6 Piece Set, 2 oz
Storex Classroom Caddy, 9.25 x 9.25 x 5.25 Inches, Assorted Colors, Color Assortment Will Vary, Case of 6 (00940U06C), Small Caddy