Practical Solutions: Creating sensory toys overseas - EmbraceAbility
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Practical Solutions: Creating sensory toys overseas

Practical Solutions: Creating sensory toys overseas

Working overseas in a developing country is always challenging whether you are haggling for resources to build a centre to stay on budget for a project or the car breaking down in the middle of nowhere –  you have to learn to think on your feet.

Whilst working in Cambodia and Vietnam I spent a vast amount of time trying to find ways of making and adapting equipment which we would be able to find so easily in the developed world. Whether I was trying to fix wheelchairs, improve the level of care the children received or attempting to make toys to help with therapy sessions, everyday was a struggle. 

This month, I wanted to share some of my ideas, solutions, books, websites and resources to help aid workers, families and therapists from across the world. In this article, I’m going to talk focus on making toys and sensory boxes for sensory therapy. 


Sensory bottles 

Pinterest has been my go to place for making sensory bottles for the last two years. Although it has been filled with endless experiments of making sensory bottles in a classroom in Cambodia, the office in Vietnam and many other places! I have finally found the winning solution.


What will you will need? 

Water bottle


Glitter glue (or PVC glitter and glitter)


Jewels/Sequins/Buttons etc 

Super glue


How to make it: 

Fill the water water bottle up to roughly ⅔ 

Add a bottle of glitter glue and some extra glitter

Add the jewels, sequins, buttons etc

Finally superglue the top so it doesn’t go everywhere!

Sensory dens 

Ideally every centre will have a sensory room where the children can receive therapy or a place for them to relax. Sadly not every centre has enough space or resources to build a sensory room. In some centres we created ‘sensory dens’ which was a makeshift version! Here are some ideas which we used.


What will you need?



Fairy lights


Paint/colouring pencils/felt tips

Art and crafts materials – glitter, sequins, material etc 


How to make it: 

Drape the material to make a tent like shape.

Decorate the tent to the children’s need i.e including fairy lights, mobiles and sensory boxes to include for the session.

Sensory boxes 

Each box can be designed to each child’s or adult’s need whether the box can be used to improve fine motor skills, autism or dementia there are lots of possibilities. 


What will you need?

Box – plastic or cardboard.


Art and crafts materials – glitter, sequins, buttons, material etc 


Toys to help with therapy sessions 


Autism Space sensory box:

You can adjust each box to the individual need whether you need a box based around a sense, learning tool each box can be changed!


Black beans or grey sand 



Planets made from bouncy balls or cut out circles from cardboard 

Stars (glow in the dark if you can source them)


Touchy feely dementia sensory box:


Bowl of cold porridge

Ball of cotton wool 


Polystyrene balls




With this box you can make a hole in each of the boxes, place the objects in the box and pass the box to the patient to put their hand in and try to guess what the objects are. 


Fine motor skill box: 

Four small boxes 

Paint (green, yellow, red,blue)

Buttons (green, yellow, red,blue)


Paint the boxes the four colours and ask the individual to match the buttons to the box.

These boxes and bottles can be adapted for each person’s need but they are cheap and easy to make. There are so many markets across the developing world where you can buy arts and craft materials and are so much fun to make. Enjoy! 


By Jodie Le Marrec