Homemade Sensory Boards for Residents

Monday, July 6, 2020 - 5:45pm to Tuesday, July 6, 2021 - 5:45pm

With COVID changing the way we all interact with the world, we’ve had to adjust our routines, implement coping mechanisms, and find new strategies to connect with our loved ones. CRi residents have had to do the same, but many don’t understand why. They can no longer go to their day-programs, see friends from other homes, or venture into the community for a fun outing. Sensory boards can help individuals with mental health needs and developmental disabilities work on directing their focus and practicing their motor skills. Sensory boards present multiple stimuli that are great outlets for residents and provide tools to staff to encourage continued development while homebound.

How can you help? Find items in your house that you can add to the board that can be a tactile stimulant (smooth, rough, soft, hard – tile, fabric, carpet, old plastic toy), make a noise (bike bell, old computer mouse or keyboard, Velcro), or be manipulated (light switch, door knob, chair wheels, old calculator, chain locks). This is a great activity to complete with the kids and a great way to up-cycle some of the items around the house. Check out this website for ideas and inspiration: https://www.weareteachers.com/diy-sensory-board-for-classroom/


  • Base board - You can use plywood or MDF. Home Depot and Lowes might have some small scrap pieces you can purchase at a discount. Plywood is better than plastic as it’s sturdier and easier to glue stuff to.
  • Sand paper – 100 – 200 grit.
  • Glue – STRONG glue. Ideally something like Gorilla glue that can be used for multiple surfaces.
  • Paint and paintbrushes – Optional! Make sure to use something like Behr Paint and Primer In-One or you can use stain to keep some of that natural wood finish. Adding a touch of color will help provide a smooth and colorful background for your sensory board.
  • Drill, drill bits, and screws (Optional)
    • Something soft (Feathers? Felt?)
    • Something rough (Lego pieces? Velcro?)
    • Something that makes a noise (Old computer mouse, old key board, metal chain, plastic belt?)
    • Something interactive (Old remote control, zipper, door knobs, fidget spinner?)

How to Get Started

1) Find a good piece of wood for your base board.

2) Sand down the edges and surfaces of the board. Say no to splinters!

3) If you would like to add color to your base board, do it now to let the board dry.

4) While you wait, and this is the fun part, grab the family and start collecting the items for your board! They can be anything around the house and a great way to upcycle some old items. When identifying objects for your board think about how they will need to be secured to the wood (Screws? Glue? Tile adhesive? etc) and that they are explorer friendly (no sharp edges, no small, loose edible pieces, and each piece has been cleaned and sanitized). Suggestion – if using items that require batteries, make sure not to glue the access to the batteries to the board so they can be exchanged.

  • Look for variety:
    • Something soft (Ex: Piece of felt, piece of velvet)
    • Something textured (Ex: Lego pieces, Velcro, piece of carpet)
    • Something that makes a noise (Ex: Old computer mouse, old key board, metal chain, plastic clicky belt)
    • Something interactive (Ex: Old remote control, zipper, door knobs, fidget spinner)

5) Once you have collected all your items. Plan on how you would like them placed on your board. Make sure there is enough space on the board to interact with each item.

6) Depending on the items you would like to use, you will need different tools (glue, drill and screws, etc) to adhere them to the base board. This is an adults only step. Be cognizant of the fumes if using super glue.

Tip: Check out your local Habitat Restore for the base board and fun items to add to your collection like tile, chair wheels, or coiled door stops that go “Boing”.

7) Let dry.

8) Test run! Make sure you test out all the components:

  • Is everything securely attached to the board?
  • There are no small pieces that can fall/be broken off?
  • Are there sharp corners or edges?
  • If it’s fun to touch or fiddle with, you’ve done good work!

9) Sanitize before donating!


Chantilly HQ - 14160 Newbrook Dr, Chantilly, VA 20151

  • Accepting donations Monday - Sunday from 10am to 2pm
  • Donation boxes are located in the lobby beyond the double glass doors

Arlington/Falls Church Maintenance Office - 7297A Lee Hwy, Falls Church, VA 22042

  • Accepting donations Monday - Sunday from 10am to 2pm
  • Donation boxes are located in the lobby just inside the front door

Richmond - 808 Moorefield Park Dr., Ste. 120, Richmond, VA 23235

  • Accepting donations Monday - Friday from 8am to 3:30pm