Setting up your classroom Part Two - creating a sensory smart classroom

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The layout of your environment will affect how children play and learn. Small spaces allow for quiet, small group play and individual play. Large, open spaces encourage large muscle, loud play.

With Sensory/Arousal in mind:

  1. Try to plan activities that incorporate as many sensory components as possible. For example, finger paint on textured surfaces. Consider having a “treasure box” with a variety of sensory toys. You can send a child to pick a sensory toy that helps them calm and become centred/organised. For example, fill the box with stress balls, fidget toys, chewies, body brush, etc…
  2. For children who need to calm, use deep pressure such as pressure with your hands to his/her shoulders. Another great way to calm is to give a child heavy resistive work to do, for example, carry heavy books to the table, push/pull a heavy cart. Make a “bean bag snake” using a long sports sock and dried beans. The over-aroused child can put it on his shoulders or lap to help calm during circle time or at a table.
  3. For children who need increased arousal, have them do a few jumping jacks, wall push ups etc… or use light touch from your finger tips or a feather to awaken their senses. 
  4. For children who touch other peers during circle time, consider sitting them against a wall or bookshelf for extra grounding and trunk support or give them a fidget toy to hold. Touching others can be an indication that the child needs tactile input to his hands. You can brush the child’s hands, have the child play with playdough/other resistive mediums, play hand clapping games, crawling or wheelbarrow walking.
  5. You can begin all table activities with a little “chair exercise” program that allows all the children to get their state of arousal at the same level. For example, prior to commencing a maths task. Sing a song with the children that wakes up the arms, legs, stretches etc…
  6. Outdoor activities are an all around wonderful sensory experience.

Here’s a few more tips:

Classroom Organisation:

  • Set up your classroom in learning centres and make sure you have a quiet area where kids can calm and regroup if needed when class get too loud. Make sure the quiet area has lots of book, heavy blankets, pillows. Bean bags, earphones.
  • Provide fidget toys such as tactile balls, “stress” balls. During circle time. Keep the children that have a harder time keeping still next to you or make sure you give them something to hold like a puppet. Or give them a fidget toy to hold on to or even a weighted lap pad.
  • Use visual schedules at the beginning of the day that “maps” out the children’s routine. This helps children transition more easily from one activity to the next and can keep them more organised. Make sure your schedule allows for movement breaks as well as table activities.
  • For a child who has difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next, allow him/her to hold on to an object that they like (aka.  A transitioning object) This helps them “keep it together” during the transition. You can also assign a task to the child such as “helper” (for example, he/she holds the cards you will be using and brings them to circle time). Use songs to help children transition such as “Clean up…clean up…”

Where can I find sensory resources?

Providing sensory experiences in a comfortable, accommodating environment can offer infants and toddlers lots of new, exciting, and beneficial opportunities. Taking into consideration children’s individual needs can really make them feel at ease and allow them to follow their interests!