For many children learning while sitting still is a challenge, and they often become distracted or uninterested in the task.

Sensory maps are a great way to get children to interact with the learning material by allowing them to move around and engage in an educational activity. Here’s all you need to know about sensory maps and why they are an excellent addition to your school environment.

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What is a sensory path?

Sensory paths are a great way to help children succeed in school by moving while exploring new activities. They are a visual representation of your child’s sensory challenges created by observing how they respond to different stimuli in different parts of the school environment.

Children must follow the path marked on the ground or walls to help them develop motor skills while also engaging several other body parts. They can be used indoors and outdoors (depending on the weather) and can be enjoyed by children of all ages.

Overall, they are an easy activity for teachers to set up at school so that it’s available whenever the class wishes to use them.

How to create a sensory path

Sensory paths often consist of various activities and learning concepts to help engage different aspects of the mind and body. They can be adapted to the available space that a teacher has, so they can span multiple rooms/areas or be scaled to fit into one area of a classroom/outdoor space.

This can include hopscotch, counting, reciting the alphabet, and wall pushes. All activities are often displayed with bright colors to make them physically appealing and mentally stimulating, and they must withstand people constantly stepping on them. When creating a sensory map, you must create an environment that provides children with various sensory experiences. Think about what types of activities you want to include in the space and where you want to place them.

Here are a few factors to consider before creating your own:

Outdoor sensory map

When adding a sensory map to a school, you should consider putting one in the playground as an outdoor activity. This is especially beneficial if the school does not have a lot of outdoor equipment, as a sensory map is an excellent way for kids to compete with one another in various engaging challenges.

However, if you create a sensory map outside, it must withstand all weather conditions and be safe to use throughout the school year.

Use sensory path decals

Sensory path decals are a fun way for children to organize their space and stay focused. Large stickers are placed on the floor specifically designed to help form sensory paths in various themes. Path decals can be used as a physical activity for children who have difficulty processing information in the environment around them, allowing them to move their bodies with improved focus.

Often decals are designed for indoor sensory paths, but some may be able to withstand the outdoors too.

Portable sensory paths

While some sensory paths are drawn permanently into the ground, you can create a portable path. This type of sensory path is excellent as it can be moved throughout the school from classroom to classroom so everyone can benefit from its learning properties. For example, you could add sensory path decals to a simple gym mat to create a sensory exercise that can be folded up when not in use.

The art of duct tape

Often a misconception of sensory paths is that they need to be highly detailed with expensive decals and different colored paint to be effective. Sensory maps can easily be made from duct tape by simply taping lines across the floor or wall to create an educational activity. This option is much more cost-effective, meaning that all schools can benefit from the sensory map experience without worrying about the expense.

Use the material you have

Often people overthink sensory maps believing they are much more complicated to create than they are. Many teachers are faced with budget cuts, meaning they have to use fewer resources than they may have in previous years.

The good news is that anyone can create a sensory map with limited tools simply by using the objects in their environment. For example, in a school playground, you can use objects such as poles or drains as obstructions that the children have to make their way around, over, or under. It’s that simple!

Essential sensory path creation tips

Now that you know the different options available to begin creating a sensory path, here are a few tips on how to make it as engaging and practical as possible:

  • Ensure the sensory path is safe and clear of any obstructions
  • Use soft surfaces such as rubber or grass
  • Don’t make your sensory path too long. It can get boring rather than stimulating for the children
  • Don’t make the sensory path too short. It won’t give children enough time to explore all the sensory items
  • Make sure to provide different types of stimuli along the path to keep children engaged

The benefits of a sensory path

Sensory paths are beneficial for both students and teachers to help provide opportunities for collaboration using different learning styles. Engaging in sensory activities can also help children struggling with motor planning difficulties or general sensory processing.  For example, children with Asperger’s or ADHD can benefit from engaging their brains and using skills that they may usually struggle with

Sensory paths also act as an exercise for children, encouraging them to hop, skip, and jump along the trail while remaining focused on the task. An active mind can lead to better retention of information, allowing children to develop new skills and abilities using a fun, new learning approach. Actively engaging in learning activities can also encourage children to interact with others they may not have before and develop communication skills during tasks requiring group collaboration.

Create your own calm, collected classroom

Although sensory paths require a lot of activity and engagement from those taking part, their main goal is to encourage focus.

Allowing children to put all their energy into a simple activity, such as a sensory map, can be a great way to relax the mind and practice mindfulness after a long day of learning. For example, you may wish to walk children around a sensory map and ask them at different points of the map what they can hear, see and feel. Including different fabrics and textures along your map may be beneficial to encourage this, as this helps inspire mindful thinking.

Many schools recognize the benefits of sensory maps as an effective way to help children manage their sensory processing and create a calm, collected classroom. Don’t miss out by creating your own today!