The senses

he senses are very important – they allow us to make the most of the environment around us and experience a wide range of different foods, sights, sounds and sensations.

What is a sensory room?

A sensory room is a specially designed room, which stimulates the five senses: a sensory room is equipped with special toys, features and fittings, which help to encourage people to explore their senses and experience new environments, sights and sounds.

Sensory rooms are beneficial for everyone but research has suggested that sensory rooms are particularly beneficial for people with disabilities and conditions which affect their physical or mental health. Many hospitals, nurseries, schools and care centres now have sensory rooms.

Sensory rooms are multi-functional and can be adapted to provide people with a comforting, relaxing environment. The setting can change from an assault on the senses to an oasis of calm by dimming the lights, putting on some relaxing music and encouraging users to lie down on comfy cushions, beanbags or soft mats. The relaxing ambience can be very useful for calming hyperactive children or children with behavioural disorders.

A sensory room is a room which is specifically designed to give users a sensory experience. The room can be as big or small as you like and will be filled with equipment, toys, materials and technology which provides stimulation for the senses.

What do you usually find in a sensory room?

A sensory room is tailored to fit the individuals who use the space and may be filled with a variety of equipment, which is designed specifically to provide a sensory experience. Examples of things you might find in a sensory room include:

  • Lights: this may include plastic tube lighting, fibre optic lights, different coloured lights, dimmer lights, mirror balls.
  • Noises: most sensory rooms have CD players, tape players or iPod docks so that people can listen to different types of music. Music is usually used to calm people down. Other auditory equipment and items may also be used, including wind chimes and sound machines.
  • Touch: sensory rooms usually contain a range of different materials, which enables the individual to touch and feel different textures. The sensory room may contain cushions, bean bags, soft play mats. The sensory room may also have equipment such as tactile walls, foam books, sponges and tactile puzzles.

What are the benefits of a sensory room?

Sensory rooms can have benefits for everyone but may be particularly beneficial for children and adults with special needs, behavioural disorders, sensory processing disorders and disabilities. Sensory rooms are multi-functional and can help to stimulate the senses, as well as relaxing and calming people down. Senses can be stimulated by following flashing, colourful lights, pressing buttons, hearing noises and sounds and feeling different textured materials, but the sensory room can also have a calming influence. The exciting flurry of lights and sounds can quickly be adapted to create a calming, relaxing environment, where people can lie back and be soothed by dim, slow lighting, pleasant, soothing smells and calming music.

The sensory room can be beneficial for many different people. For people with disorders or conditions that affect their senses, the sensory room can help to stimulate their senses and help them to gain a sensory experience, develop new skills and explore their senses. For children with behavioural disorders, a sensory room can help them to take time out and calm down when they are getting anxious and unsettled.

Who can benefit from a sensory room?

Anyone can benefit from a sensory room but they are usually found in children’s nurseries and health centres, clinics and facilities which cater for both adults and children with disabilities, special needs and sensory processing disorders.

What is a sensory garden?

A sensory garden is a specially designed garden, which is designed to stimulate peoples’ senses. Sensory gardens are often relaxing, peaceful places where users can take time out, experience new sights, sensations and noises and enjoy the sensory experience.

In a sensory garden you may find special outdoor lighting, bubble tubes, edible plants, water features and sound machines, which may project sounds including flowing water, nature sounds and relaxing music.

Why are the senses so important?

The senses are very important: they allow us to carry out a range of activities, including communicating with other people, hearing sounds and noises, playing games, pursuing interests and hobbies, such as cooking, reading, watching films and exercising. The senses also allow us to gain an understanding and an appreciation for the environment around us.

The senses are also very important for protecting the body. For example, if we smell something dangerous, like smoke or hear a siren, we can take action and get away from the area. We use our senses constantly and they play an extremely important role in our everyday lives.

How can sensory toys help children with special needs?

Sensory toys are beneficial for all children but they may be particularly advantageous for children with special needs. Sensory toys are specially designed to stimulate different senses, allow children to develop their senses and understanding of the world and develop skills, such as communication. Sensory toys also encourage imaginative play, the formation of relationships with other children and adults and provide a means of communication.

There is a large variety of sensory equipment available today, ranging from lights and music players, to special sensory toys and textured materials.

What is sensory equipment for?

Sensory equipment is designed to stimulate the senses and allow people to explore their senses and develop an understanding of the difference senses. The equipment is specially designed to provide users with a sensory experience.

Nowadays, technology is advancing and evolving all the time and new sensory products are coming onto the market all the time. Many use new technology and are fun and appealing to both young and old.

Who uses sensory equipment?

Sensory equipment is beneficial for both children and adults and can have advantages for people in good health, as well as those with disabilities or health conditions.

Many nurseries, schools, hospitals, day care centres, rehabilitation centres and special care units use sensory equipment. Sensory equipment is multi-functional and can be used to stimulate the senses, as well as to calm people down and help them to feel relaxed.

Examples of sensory equipment

There are many different types of sensory equipment, including:

  • Lights – including mirror balls, fibre optic lights, lava lamps, pastel and different coloured bulbs, mood light panels, bubble tubes (tubes of plastic which contain bubbles and lights- the bubbles rise up the tune and then float down), tube lighting.
  • Soothing music, relaxation CDs, sound machines, wind chimes
  • Soft play equipment
  • Sensory toys
  • Sensory aromatherapy
  • Textured wall panels, textured material walls and carpets
  • Outdoor equipment, including outdoor bubble tubes, interactive sound posts

Where can I buy sensory equipment?

Many high street stores, garden centres, electrical centres and department stores sell a range of sensory equipment, including lights, CD players and CDs, garden equipment and toys, but for specialist items, you may need to contact a specialist sensory equipment retailer. You can easily find these retailers by searching online using a search engine and flowing the links. Most retailers have websites, so you can browse the products, read about them and then order them online if you want to.