Sensory Playroom Garage Transformation

Before I even moved my belongings into my new home, I knew that I would never be parking my car in the garage. It was the perfect place to put together a sensory-friendly playroom for my sensory seeker, and inspiration hit as soon as I saw the space.

However deluxe my ideas were, I was on a budget and needed to figure out how I could turn the concrete shell into a place that my daughter would benefit from, playing safely in the space while having her sensory needs met.

My first concern was the concrete floor. I knew I needed a soft impact attenuating surface. An online search turned up a great product that was both affordable and easy to install. I installed 190 square feet of the foam flooring, covering approximately ⅔ of the entire floor. I was able to do this on my own within an hour. The pieces locked together easily and have stayed together without any problems. I even had to fold the floor up once to put my car in during a hurricane, and it easily went back down without breaking apart.

Clevr Foam Floor

$79.99/96 sq. ft.

Once the flooring was laid, the equipment came next.

For anyone needing proprioceptive input like my daughter, the trampoline is a ‘must-have’. She can jump for hours at a time and it was a perfect fit for her and the space. The trampoline required assembly. Stretching the safety net was the hardest part and definitely required more than two hands. I hired someone to help me build the trampoline.

My First Trampoline (with enclosure)

$139.47 (without installation)

If you order this on Amazon, you can even opt for an expert to install it along with delivery for an additional fee. This trampoline is the perfect size for children and can hold a lot of weight – we have had 4 kids jumping at the same time and even I have gone inside to jump with my daughter (video evidence not provided).

6-foot play tunnel

$14.98

This fun tunnel gets your sensory seeker crawling on all fours, which helps with balance and coordination. Obstacle courses are helpful when you’re teaching your little one how to follow directions, and the tunnel is the perfect addition to any course.

If your child is unsure about crawling through, you can always place something she likes such as beaded necklaces or balls from the ball pit throughout the tunnel and ask her to collect them on her way through for motivation.

Soft plastic fun balls

$8.21 (100 pieces)

Ball pit

$11.99

The ball pit is an easy and exciting addition to any sensory playroom. It’s light enough that it can be moved around to the exit of the trampoline for some additional fun. The colorful balls provide an enjoyable way for your child to practice naming colors. We’ve found that babies love the ball pit too, so this is the perfect spot for any infants you have in your life to enjoy the sensory room, too.

Sock ‘em Boppers

$9.99/pair (colors vary)

Pool noodle

$2.19/each

The boppers and noodles are great for games, and the options are endless for incorporating these into obstacle courses or just fun free play. (Make sure you’ve got quick reflexes or you might get a wallop…I know from personal experience!)

The pool noodles are excellent for rolling on, jumping over, and pretending you have go-go Gadget arms.

The boppers are an entertaining, gentle (we hope!) way for your sensory seeker to get proprioceptive input.

Sidewalk Chalk (24 ct.)

$2.47

Every play space should encourage creativity, and chalk art is a positive way to explore colors while developing eye-hand integration skills as well as motor skills like grip. I left ⅓ of the concrete floor uncovered for a chalk art surface. The chalk dust gets on the foam floor at times, but it wipes up easily.

The decor is of course up to you. I chose Frozen posters (yeah, I know…) but the possibilities are endless!

I Knew Something Was Different

At the age of four months my daughter was adopted and I became the mom of a beautiful girl. Like most new moms, I had no clue what I was doing, and my daughter’s constant discomfort was making me feel increasingly unsure of myself. She was stiff, disinterested in cuddling, had terrible reflux, and was already missing milestones. I started reading, sure that all the changes she had gone through were the culprit to her unhappiness. I was sure that if I could figure out ways to help her through the transition she would warm up to me and get on track with development.

As we bonded, she continued growing and eventually hitting milestones 4-6 months behind schedule. Her pediatrician was not concerned and reassured me that all babies develop differently. I wasn’t so sure. My interactions with my baby were not like the ones I saw on social media or at daycare. Was I doing something wrong? She was stiff to hold. She wasn’t interested in food and still wouldn’t hold her own bottle. She seemed like she was in a fog. Her differences were minor, but together, they were adding up and weighing on me. I kept reading anything and everything about delayed milestones with a feeling of uncertainty.

One day I dropped her off at daycare and I turned back to watch. Our daycare drop-offs were always easy. She didn’t cling to me like the other babies did to their mommies. I watched through the door as they placed her at the table with the other almost 1-year old babies who were feeding themselves cheerios and babbling with each other. They moved her to a seat with the wall behind her and my heart dropped, because I knew why. Almost as soon as she was seated she began rocking hard in her chair, staring at the table in front of her. She made no effort to reach for a cheerio. She had no interest in babbling or even looking at her peers. She rocked harder and harder until one of the teachers had to go stand near her and place her hand behind her head. It was in that moment that I knew: my kid was different.

My heart sunk deeper as I walked to my car and cried a big ugly cry. I felt alone, lost and overwhelmingly sad in that moment. The tears fell heavy and hard. After I dried my eyes, I called a friend who had gone through a similar situation, and she told me what to do. I called the pediatrician and demanded a referral to the early intervention program. I took my daughter for a hearing test and an electroencephalogram (eeg) and scheduled an evaluation.

She was immediately approved for speech therapy, followed by occupational therapy, behavior therapy, and eventually physical therapy. She was testing as high-risk for autism on the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT), but her neurologist wasn’t convinced that she had autism. Her Occupational Therapist then told me about a sensory diet. If you’re wondering if you are the only one who thought that a sensory diet had something to do with food, you aren’t. I had previously never heard of sensory diets and sensory seekers/avoiders, vestibular input and proprioceptive input. These were all new concepts to me and my head was spinning.

I spent nights lying awake and digging through the Internet to find information about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). I struggled to wrap my head around what this meant and how it would affect my daughter The information I found was scattered and not always accurate. My daughter is now 3.5 years old, and I continue to learn and research ways to help her. There is no cure for SPD, but there are resources and support available. I have found success with a new sensory play game and support in the words written by other bloggers. I have laughed and cried alongside strangers in Facebook groups because I can relate so deeply to what they share. Similarly, I have celebrated achievements and late milestones of those I have never met, because I know how good it feels to see something happen that you were once told may not be a possibility. Our experiences may be different, but we can all find common ground in our journey for knowledge and understanding of Sensory Processing Disorder.