When I have visitors or observers in my room I sometimes get asked where my sensory area is. I don’t have a specific sensory area on purpose and for several reasons. One – I don’t really have enough room. My classroom is not massive and every inch is utilized. Two – I think sensory breaks should be embedded throughout the day as needed. Sensory stimulation shouldn’t be only used in this one specific center or area. Three – for our students, sensory time is break time. So our break area incorporates sensory play.
When you think about sensory breaks – basically our students are engaging in activities that for some reason (due to their heightened or weakened senses) feels internally good. This activity is automatically reinforcing. No other person needs to be a part of it and there is no social aspect. When our students are playing with squishy balls, slinkies, or play dough – that is sensory play and that is also a break. We take sensory breaks too. While typing, I stop to crack my knuckles or take a quick pace around the room while talking on the phone. So my break area is my sensory area. We store our sensory toys there – therapy balls, movement toys, etc.
There are a few exceptions to this theory – the messy stuff. You think I would let moon sand be out and open at all times? Yea right. That stuff is craaaaazy messy! Moon sand is available at all times – but in a more controlled way. I have mini sensory bins that I keep in our closet. These bins are used as reinforcers – we have a picture of them on choice boards – and for break time – there are also pictures in PECS books. This has worked super well to still allow my students a range of sensory experiences without having my custodians sweeping rice kernels each night.
I store the manipulatives they play with right in the bin! Everything in one nice and tidy place! 🙂