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Sensory tents and cooldown spaces

  • By Zoe Limbert
  • 22nd September 2023

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.

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