In 2012, I was introduced to the idea of making DIY sensory boards and in the past several years I have learned so much about the sensory systems and how important they are for our children.
A local mom was moving across the country and put out a freebie if anyone was interested in her homemade board.
I snatched it up so fast that I drove to her house that day and was adding to it within an hour.
At the time I had a 7 month old and she was literally starting to take things apart around our home.
Little did I know that she thrives with tactile learning and even her younger sister is now taking apart and re-assembling our radiator and other parts of our home at under 18 months old!
This awesomely crazy photo is from our first child all those years ago with the original sensory board. It’s been our longest lasting toy. However, we gave it away when we moved as well to pay it forward and have started making more.
But now for all sensory systems.
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What tools and supplies you need to make a DIY Sensory board for kids
Regardless of if you’re making one all-in-one sensory board or if you’re trying to make one for each of the senses, you have to have a board. You can get a pre-cut piece of wood at your local hardware store. In fact, many have scrap wood that was cut incorrectly (cull lumber) for even about $0.50.
The MUST HAVE items to complete any sort of sensory board include:
- A basic wooden board
- Cable clips for harder to attach items like chains.
- Self-drilling screws to cut down on your workload
- Approximately 20 minutes of your time.
The original busy board had the following:
- three different chains made out of heavy metal, plastic, and lighter metal
- a slide lock
- a chain lock
- a push light
- a mirror
- something reflective
- carpet sample scraps
- a door stop (this is a favorite since it “boings”)
We are currently in the process of making multiple types of boards. Our latest is a Homemade Latch Board for tactile input and working on fine motor skills. Soon we will have more for sight, sound, and more.
We also made the latch board in order to fulfill a need of being a great play toy for our 2 year old, but a mechanism for learning and critical thinking for our now school-aged child.
What Should you Consider Adding to a basic DIY Busy Board?
a plastic buckle from something like an old sleeping-bag that was ruined.
- I used a silky ribbon from a destroyed gift bag to fasten it to the board stapled with an upholstery staple gun
- To do this staple one side, make sure the buckle is fastened, pull taut but not too tight, and staple the other side.
- A battery operated Doorbellor even a light switch with a real light if you were to make the board into a table.
- Some sliding tighteners from old backpacks and bags (that have seen better days)
- Again, I stapled it down using a piece of cloth ribbon from some packaging I did not throw away
- I had a carabiner of my own that I decided not to use anymore
- A simple Sliding Door Latch
- A travel lock. I used gift bag rope to staple the keys on the board too.
- A silky gift bag rope with a clothes pin (clothes pins are a big hit for us)
- old binder rings (Like the ones used for holding note cards together)
- A travel velcro wallet (it will be stapled to the board as well.)
- A Crescent Lock to flip and spin
- A piece of furry cloth (think of troll hair for those 80s and 90s kids out there or the fur on a santa hat)
- An old belt can be cut so that they can learn to thread and latch it cut the buckle off and the very end with holes and staple both sides to the board
- A Surface Mount Draw Latch like what you would find on a chest.
- Shoe laces
- Yarn scraps
- A crank handle
- A pully with a small rope.
- Twist and lever door knobs! (that is, if you want them getting into rooms at an early age 😉 )
How to mount an activity board for your children
The sky is the limit in terms of options and only you know what is best for your family. Just choose something that is safe and age appropriate.
We have found that it can function well laying down or standing up. In fact, flat on the floor seems best for the littlest of kids or when it’s first introduced/something is added.
You can also mount it to the wall, put it up on an easel, use it to block a floor lamp or electric outlet, or even add a frame to it on the wall to help it match decor.
Modifying your sensory board or latch board
Our board is in a constant state of evolution. While many items stay, more and more get added or changed as the months and years go by. This not only helps it stay interesting,but it tends to grow with the kids.
Some of the most important and drastic changes have been made with our oldest growing in understanding.
Ideas for making or modifying a sensory board for older kids
Carefully plan out a latch board that only certain clips and latches stretch or fit certain rings. I did this and even labeled with thin electrical tape where each one could go (Example below). It started out unlabeled, but the labeling helps facilitate conversation as well.
“Well, why doesn’t it fit there?”
“WOW, can you believe that it stretches that far?!”
“That’s not a traditional clip point, but does is it ok that it can function as one?”
Use the board to open up discussions about “simple tools” like the wheel and axel, pulley, screw, etc..
Add a string that spans the board and use metal key tags to work on adding letters and/or numbers in alphabetical and numerical order. As they get even older, you can do this is more complex math equations.
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!