July 30, 2012

How To Make A Sensory Tent For Small Spaces

For the past couple of years, I had a big, roomy classroom with plenty of space for everything. Because our school is growing so quickly, I knew that it was only a matter of time until I lost my big classroom and would be moved to a smaller space. I really did not want to end up having to share a room with a bunch of other teachers (been there...done that...doesn't work so well for my students!). I decided to offer to preemptively move into a small therapy area with the hope that it will be the last move for a while and that I will only share space with my Paraprofessional.  I knew it was going to be a big adjustment and that I would have to be very deliberate in what I chose to put in the space.

Sadly, I realized that my favorite tent was going to take up too much floor space. I took an inspiration picture from Pinterest (of course!) and decided to tweak it to meet my needs. Here's the inspiration photo from Sew Liberated.

Drum roll please..... Here's my new Sensory Tent!

It takes up much less space than the old square tent. The only addition I have left to do is add a piece of Velcro from the inside so the kids can keep the flap closed if they wish. Inside the tent I put one of my beanbag chairs and I'm on the hunt for a square rug to anchor the space. I also have a weighted teddy bear that the kids can take in the tent with them as well as a blanket.

 Here's the tutorial to make an inexpensive Sensory Tent!

1.    Gather your supplies: I chose to use an old bent hula hoop from my gross motor equiment. It is a child's size (about 30" diameter). You could go even smaller if you got one that is a 24" diameter.  Using a 50% off coupon, I bought 3 yards of 45" wide cotton fabric (the blue and white stars) and 3 yards of 90" wide bleached cotton muslin.

2.   Cut the hula hoop in one spot. I used my handy dandy PVC cutter that I bought for the therapy ball rack project and pvc screens. Check those out here. If you don't have one, just use a hand saw. Your hula hoop will probably be too hard to use scissors.

3.  Next, I cut my blue & white fabric into two sections (2 pieces - 1 1/2 yards each) and sewed them together using one 1/2" seam to make a long rectangle (1 1/2 yards x 90" finished). You can see the seam in the picture above of the hula hoop.

4.  I knew that the circumfrence of my 30" hoop would be about 96", so I was going to be a little short if I wanted the tent to be able to close. I decided it was important for the kids to be able to visually block out as much stimulation as possible, so I cut two 4" x 1 1/2 yard strips from the muslin and stitched one onto each side of the rectangle to now have the rectangle measure approximately 1 1/2 yards x 98". Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of that step!

5. I ironed in a 1/2" hem along the two exposed white edges and stitched.

6.  Next, I ironed in the bottom hem and stitched. I think I only did a 1/2" hem because I was trying to preserve as much length as possible.

7. Then I ironed in and sewed a rod pocket along the top. You will need to make sure you allow enough fabric to account for the diameter of your hoop plus a little for wiggle room. I made a 6" pocket which was more than enough. I probably only needed a 3-4" pocket. So, play with your fabric and see how much you really need.

8. Then I slid the cut end of the hoop through the rod pocket.

9. I taped the two cut ends together with duct tape. After taping, I rotated it around so that it would never be seen in the opening between the panels.

10.  After making sure the tent was evenly distributed around the hoop, I cut 4 evenly spaced SMALL holes in the rod pocket and ran a long piece of hemp twine through each one, knotting around the hoop. I already had the twine. If you don't, just make use of what you have (regular twine, heavy yarn, fishing line, etc.).

11. I decided how tall I wanted the "peak" to be and tied off all 4 cords into a tight knot. You can't really see it in the above picture, but it is underneath the white fabric.

12. Next, I took the remaining white muslin and cut a 90" square. I made a small cut in the very center that was just big enough to go over the knot in the twine. Once the fabric was over the knot in the twine, I ran the excess hemp twine through a 2" loose-leaf notebook ring and knotted again.

13.  Finally, I tied clear fishing line (a big thank you to my boys for letting me cut some off their fishing poles!) to the ring and ran it up to the cross joint in the ceiling tying it so that the tent fabric just skims the floor.

Once I had it hung, the untrimmed white square looked like this...

I used a ruler and a pencil and lightly drew a line about 9" below the edge of the hoop. Then I shortened the white topper with pinking shears to get a zig-zag edge. If you don't have pinkers, just use scissors.

I'm looking forward to hearing the kids' opinions of the new tent vs the old tent. I have my fingers crossed that they will approve!

Cost breakdown:
hula hoop   -   free
blue & white fabric (using 50% off coupon) - $9
muslin (using 50% off coupon)  -  $9
hemp twine, ring, fishing line, pvc cutter -already owned

In case you don't know, you can easily get JoAnn Fabrics coupons by signing up for text alerts, by mail, or by downloading the JoAnn app for iPhone. I NEVER pay full price for anything. I also watch RetailMeNot for free shipping codes if it is something I need to order.

If you have any questions about this tutorial, please email me. I'm happy to help. We would love for you to follow our blog or join me on Pinterest!

Now.... I'm off to start packing for our family vacation. We are heading to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. Yes, I'll be the one on the lounge chair under the palm tree with a little umbrella drink in my hand and my nose in a book! Here's to summer vacation!   ~ Kelley


  1. Just found you via The Speech Ladies...love your site and your ideas! Have a wonderful vacation and enjoy getting out of the Texas heat for a while!! (I'm not jealous. Really. ;)

  2. Hey! I just stumbled upon your blog through the wonderful world of Pinterest and I instantly became a follower. I teach K-2 mild-moderate special ed. Many of my students are on the autistic spectrum and I just love all of your sensory ideas on this blog!

    The Lower Elementary Cottage

  3. Hi!
    I'm your newest follower! I really like your ideas! Thanks for sharing :)

  4. Thank-you so much for posting this idea! I will refer people to it from my blog (Aiden's Hereos).


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