Multi-sensory rooms have been around for almost half a century, but some parents are only just discovering their amazing benefits. If you want to know about spaces dedicated to helping children develop their cognition, creativity and social cooperation – read on!
You might recognise these sensory rooms once we dive into the details!
What Are Multi-Sensory Rooms?
A multi-sensory room is a space used by young children and some adults to promote the engagement of their senses and/or to obtain therapeutic benefits.
They are also referred to as sensory rooms and can be of significant benefit to children with sensory disorders and motor skill limitations, such as Dyspraxia. Scientific research has found that these spaces can even help adults with dementia and improve their quality of life.
The multi-sensory room is filled with sensory play items and other sensory equipment to create a relaxing environment that engages the different senses. The senses of touch, sight and audio are the predominant senses which will be engaged by the play equipment, but you can find some sensory room equipment that will engage the sense of smell and taste too.
Where Did the Idea Come From?
The concept of a multi-sensory room was born in The Netherlands back in the 1970s. Psychologists discovered that these rooms could assist early childhood development with excellent results. The Dutch called them Snoezelen, which is a coined word merging two other Dutch words that translate to ‘snoozing’ and ‘sniffing’.
They are still very popular in The Netherlands and that popularity has spread around the world today.
Discover Examples of Sensory Play Equipment
To get a greater understanding of what a multi-sensory room will look like, you need to see some of the equipment that goes into one.
Sensory products can be divided into categories based on the sense they primarily target.
For example, there are tactile stimulation play items that introduce different textures to users. And there are visual sensory products that activate the senses of touch and sight (many products encourage the use of more than one sense).
Most sensory rooms are bursting with colour and include lots of UV lighting. They certainly look different from your regular play spaces at home and those in commercial play centres.
We recommend clicking on our sensory play section and searching through the different categories of sensory items to see what’s available for yourself.
What Are Some Benefits of Multi-Sensory Rooms?
We’ve mentioned the benefits briefly, but what are the common benefits of sensory play?
A multi-sensory room provides different types of benefits to different users, which is why it is crucial to choose the right multi-sensory room equipment for the users’ needs.
Some of the common benefits of using multi-sensory rooms include:
- Confidence to engage with the senses
- Stress relief and calming effects
- Cognitive development and problem-solving
- Teamwork and social cooperation (when used with others)
- Creativity and imagination
- Safety to perform fine motor skills with increased confidence
Multi-Sensory Room Benefits to Children with ASD
One of the primary groups that sue multi-sensory rooms are children who suffer from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). These rooms have been proven to have a calming and therapeutic effect on these children, while also providing the essential benefits of child play.
Moreover, it is not uncommon for children with ASD to also have related sensory disorders. Some noises and textures can cause stress or even extreme discomfort. The multi-sensory room enables the child to explore these senses with increased confidence in a calming environment.
These positive experiences can then be transferred outside the room and mitigate the effects of their sensory disorder on daily life.
Other Names for Multi-Sensory Rooms
We feel obliged to clear up some confusion about the names given to multi-sensory rooms.
A multi-sensory room sometimes goes by other names. As mentioned earlier, many people choose to just call them sensory rooms. But there are even more names given to them…
What Is a Sensory Rich Environment?
A sensory rich environment is an environment that encourages activation of the senses. Some people call their sensory room a sensory rich environment.
A sensory rich environment could also be a term used to describe other environments that activate the senses, such as a flowery garden that activates our smell, or a mirror maze that primarily activates our sense of sight.
You could argue that all multi-sensory rooms are sensory rich environments, but not all sensory rich environments are multi-sensory rooms.
What Is a Multisensory Environment?
It is even more common for schools, nurseries, care facilities and alike to call their multi-sensory room a multisensory environment. The two are used interchangeably quite often.
But just like a ‘sensory rich environment’ this term could be used to describe other environments that activate a lot of the senses.
Where Can I Find Multi-Sensory Rooms?
The most common places to find sensory rooms are in schools, nurseries and care facilities (including aged care for dementia sufferers).
If you and your child don’t have access to any of these but still want to use them, you might be able to find commercial play venues that include a sensory environment or sensory room.
If your child has ASD or a sensory disability, it may be worth speaking to your local GP about gaining access to a sensory room in your area.
Can I Buy Sensory Play Equipment?
Absolutely – we at House of Play make and sell our own bespoke sensory play equipment.
We usually design and install sensory rooms for schools and commercial premises, but everybody is welcome to browse our sensory products and create their own sensory space at home!