I've been really wanting a dark den or sensory room to work with a little lad in my class who has very limited vision. The classroom is visually busy and I would live to be able to explore what he responded to visually in a less distracting space with more pronounced contrasts.
I have some constraints around the classroom we use. It is a shared space with other groups and there isn't room for a large den. We have to pack up before and after each half day session, often with people waiting for the room, so don't have time to be fiddling around with complex structures and tent poles. I also need it to be big enough for an adult to get into comfortably, probably while carrying their child, and to hold and support a child in there. Nothing I found in the catalogues seemed to meet our criteria so I got exploring on Pinterest. There were a number of hanging tents being used as play spaces that would make a good, easily removable den, so I decided to make my own as a dark den.
I bought a hula hoop, and a few metres of black fabric. (6, I think) This was a bit of a compromise as the really dark, light-stop fabric seemed a bit too stiff and heavy. I went for a more flowing close weave black fabric that made it quite dark inside. Curtain lining was cheap and would make it dark enough, I think, to provide a contrast with light up toys.
For anyone who wants a rough idea how to make one, I cut out a circle, larger than the hoop, cut the circle into quarters so that I could overlap it to make the pointed top. I attached ties that would hold the hoop in place, and then cut the remaining fabric into lengths, allowing for it to hang from the ceiling and touch the ground. I joined the pieces together and gathered them onto the top part.
It worked, but looked a bit dark and scary hanging there so I decorated it with sparkly bunting type shapes around the top, silver fabric to overlap at the entrance and other shapes. The ribbon at the top allows me to get it to the right height of my classroom.
This is the finished project. The lights are really bright inside. I have some very cheap battery powered coloured lights on a string bought from Primark at Christmas, and it is really dark enough for them to stand out.
I added a few loops and cords inside so that I can attach toys, or a white dare to project lights onto. I'm looking forward to trying it out next week.
Lights inside it against the black, showing great contrast for encouraging a child with limited sight to reach out and touch.
The same lights against reflective foil.
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