Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sensory Playroom: DIY Ball Pit

Ah, a ball pit.  I have fond childhood memories of ball pits.  Fond, fuzzy memories.  I don't remember a whole lot, just that I thought they were fun and that I should be allowed to go in them much more often.  So, of course, my children need to have a ball pit in their sensory room.  Not only are they fun, but they also provide multi-sensory input that can calm or awaken the senses, depending on the child.

Ball pits are also not inexpensive.  Well, you can buy an inflatable one for $20-30 at a discount retailer like Target or Walmart, but those are small, and...shall we say...not very durable.  And, hello?  Only 20 balls?  What?!

If you have small children, you can use a pack-n-play for a ball pit.  Just dump in some balls and deposit child.

If you have older children, like me, look for a small rigid plastic wading pool at a garage sale or on clearance at the end of the season.  Mine is 5' in diameter, and I picked it up for $5.  You could definitely use an inflatable pool, but depending on how jumpy your kids are, you might end up with holes in the pool.  I'm thinking of putting it outside and adding water to the pool during the summer, but not sure if that will happen.

A word about ball pit balls: you will need a lot of them!  Way more than you would think.  In this ball pit, I've got about 500 balls, and I feel like we need more.  As you can see, I've also added some other soft balls, so you can definitely add things other than official ball pit balls to your pit.  Nerf balls or even playground balls would work.  Or add something entirely different, like packing peanuts or nerf gun bullets (can you imagine how many nerf gun bullets you would need to fill up the pool?!) 

You can order balls online--here are some choices from Amazon.  You can also buy them at discount retailers like Target or Walmart, and in fact, right now (January) you might find them on clearance.  You could also check garage sales (you might get lucky) or try Craigslist.  I think mine cost a total of around $30.

One more thing--I'm sure some of you are thinking, "no way am I doing that in my home.  Too messy.  We would have balls everywhere." 

It's true, the balls do end up everywhere, but to me, the mess is worth it.  First of all, the kids are responsible for picking up the balls when they're done.  So what do I care how big a mess they make if they're putting everything back the way it was?  Bonus: they're getting gross motor input (which is calming to my sensory child) as they scramble to pick up the most balls at clean-up time.  Second, having the balls has opened the door to hours and hours of fun, and not just in the ball pit.  My boys love to have ball fights (less painful than snowballs, let me tell you), shoot baskets, and...well, and other things.

Like stuffing their sweatshirts full of balls so they look like the Michelin man and then lumbering toward each other like Sumo wrestlers.

And I could have sworn I took pictures, but darned if I can find them now.  Bummer.

This post from my Sensory Playroom series--I'm putting together a sensory room for my boys on the cheap (read: homemade) and decided to share with you all :) To see all the sensory playroom posts, click here.

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