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Visual timetable example

Sensory Circuit Organising Card Set

Sensory Circuit Calming Card Set

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Example Now and Then Board Template

Example First and Then Board Template

Example visual timetable PM

Example Simple visual timetable AM

Sensory tents and cooldown spaces

What is a sensory tent

A sensory tent is a dedicated space in your home that is calming and provides a safe space for your child when they are overstimulated or upset. This space does no have to be a physical ‘tent’, and may be referred to as a cooldown space, break area, chill out or relaxation zone.

Sensory tents provide a calm space for a child to spend time on their own, and it can help them learn to self-regulate their behaviours.

How should I use a sensory tent or cooldown space

  1. It is not a place for time-out, and should never be used for discipline.
  2. You may encourage your child to use the space, but they should never be forced.
  3. Let you child set their own rules within the cooldown space. Ensure they understand this is a space for them, and they’re in control of the boundaries they set – for example, they can choose whether or not they want an adult to join them in the space.

How can I make a sensory tent or cooldown space

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Choose a location

Ideally choose a quiet space in your home. For example, in the corner of a living room or bedroom, rather than in a central, busy space like the kitchen or hall. If it’s difficult to find a quiet space, you could consider having ear defenders in the tent.

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Decide on a structure

You can purchase sensory tents or repurpose a children’s outdoor tent. However, if you don’t have a tent this space can be created in alternate ways. Our suggestions would be to use a large cardboard box, the space between the wall and a sofa, or hanging a bed sheet or canopy to make a den.

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Make the area feel cosy and suit your child’s sensory needs

Add blankets, pillows, cushions and different tactile materials e.g. fur and fleece to create a cosy area. Think about the textures that your child finds comforting and consider any textures they don’t like.

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Add the extras

What you choose to include in the space will be unique to your child and their sensory needs. Consider objects, sensations and movements that encourage them to self-regulate, avoid objects they may find overstimulating. Try keeping most resources consistent so your child feels familiar and assured within the space. Ideas of things to include:

  • Chewy Toys
  • Bubbles
  • Fairy lights
  • Torches
  • Lava Lamps
  • Bubble tubes
  • Light up toys and fibreoptics
  • Vibrating toys
  • Taggies and sensory blankets
  • Sensory/spiky balls
  • Sand timers
  • Fidget toys

Our SEND Toy and Resource Library offers a variety of sensory toys and equipment that are ideal for self-regulation and make great additions to a sensory tent or cooldown space.

Sensory stories

Sensory stories use storybooks, traditional tales or nursery rhymes alongside a range of items designed to stimulate the senses – touch, smell, sounds, taste and visual stimuli. These stimuli generally correspond with a feature of the text – for example, the use of a spray bottle with the word ‘rain’.

Why share sensory stories with your child?

Sensory stories are a lovely way to bring a story to life. Children will be more engaged with storytelling and will be developing their listening and responding skills.

Some other children may find themselves overloaded by sensory stimuli and others may not pick up on sensory stimuli as much or find them confusing and distressing. A sensory story can provide a safe environment where a child can begin to feel comfortable with new sensory stimuli – building their confidence and reducing anxiety.

For children who experience sensory processing difficulties, exploring senses in this way can help support them in learning to regulate their reactions to new sensory stimuli.

How to plan and tell a sensory story

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Choose a story

Choose a book, story or theme that you and your child will enjoy – remember you don’t need a book to tell a story! Don’t feel intimidated by the prospect of writing your own story – short sensory stories can be incredibly effective, and it’s recommended that the ideal length is around 10 sentences. The benefit of writing you own story is that you can tailor the senses you explore specifically to your child’s development. For example, if you’re working on reducing anxiety on a trip to the park, each sentence in your sensory story could involve exploring things you may encounter in this environment such as the feeling of grass, the noise of a dog barking, the sensation of rain on skin.

You can download our sensory story templates of classic stories below, or explore our video content for follow-along resources.

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Find props

Look around your home for props to bring your sensory story to life. Props can be anything from using the space behind a sofa as a dark cave, or using coffee grains from the kitchen as mucky dirt. (Please bear in mind that not all props are allergy-free/safe for children to use without your supervision).

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Make some noise!

You can use sounds, songs, clapping and actions to create a truly sensory story experience. Encourage your child to join in or make their own sounds and movements.

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Use your imagination

Don’t feel that everything has to be literal. Rain could be the noise of your fingers pattering on the table, a water spray, waggling your fingertips to indicate raindrops falling to the ground or a combination of these things. The more clues you give your child to help them understand a word the better.

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Repeat, repeat, repeat!

Be ready to tell the same story several times. Repetition is very important in building familiarity and helping young children to learn.

Sensory story videos

Watch our sensory story videos:

Sensory story packs

Our sensory story packs focus on a single story and include a guide on how to use the pack, a story script, and activity ideas.

3 Little Pigs Sensory Story Pack

This Sensory Story Pack uses the story of the 3 Little Pigs alongside a range of items designed to stimulate the senses – touch, smell, sounds, taste and visual stimuli.

The pack includes:

  • a guide on how to use the sensory story pack,
  • ideas for resources to use,
  • a story script and suggested activities, and
  • tips on how to make a sensory tray.
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