How to Make and Use “Sensory Bags or Rings” made from Socks, Sweaters or Pants

Sensory bags and sensory rings are super easy to make and a versatile therapeutic tool. It is also quite rewarding to upcycle old clothing such as shirts, sweaters, pants or socks.  The following activities involve filling sleeves, pants legs or the body of a sweater with sensory materials and then sewing the ends to create rings. Besides saving money and common availability of materials- here are just a few benefits to making sensory bags or rings:

  1. They are easy to hold and won't roll away when tossing and catching. This is especially important when playing catch while sitting on a horse!
  2. You can decide the size, shape and texture of the materials to individualize the activity. For example, the client shown below avoids holding larger, heavier objects with both hands, but will carry the small, heavy socks filled with sand across the room to insert into a container. The sand molds to the shape of his hands, making them easier to grasp.

3. Socks or tights filled with materials such as foam, marbles, pennies, super balls, plastic bags, crinkly paper or other objects are fun to feel while inserting into a container (see photo below). This also promotes bilateral hand skills and motor planning. The individual shown in the photo below tends to avoid touch to his palms and this simple, insertion activity is helping him to tolerate touch during manipulation tasks....

4. The bags or socks may be filled with sand (or sand in plastic bags to avoid leakage) to add proprioception sensory stimulation. The individual pictured below typically shapes his body into a pretzel with hands in his mouth causing poor circulation and skin breakdown. The weighted shoulder and lap pads help him to tolerate short periods of time with hands more relaxed.

5. Other sensory materials that might motivate individuals to engage in hand activities include placing a music switch inside the bags or socks. The therapist or the individual will need to use tactile skills to find and activate the music. Button switches are inexpensive, although they do no last long. These are sold in arts and crafts stores.

Vibrating tools may be enclosed inside the  bag or ring. The individuals shown below enjoys grasping the motorized toothbrush which is sewn onto a cat bed, along with socks filled with sand. He loves both the weight and vibration.

6.Many clients attend better when provided proprioceptive sensory input.  The client shown below is sitting on a sweatshirt with a dynamic cushion inserted in the body. The sleeves are filled with bags of sand to provide additional weight on her lap. This motivated her to slow down her eating pace, as well as increasing focus on other tabletop activities.

7. If you crave deep pressure on your back as I do, you might appreciate filling a bag with small, hard, but not sharp objects.

In addition, filling a bag or sock with all the lost little beads, pegs, blocks and bottle caps that accumulate is a great way to clean up any environment....

Turning Sensory Socks into Sensory Rings

8. Simply sew the ends of sensory socks together and you will have yourself a sensory ring! These are great for simulating the motions required to put arms into sleeves and feet into pant legs.

9. These rings have button, cord or snaps on the ends that must be closed before the rings can be used in activities. Links to more information on how to make these are provided at the end of this post....

10. My clients enjoyed using these on ring stacks....

Sometimes I used long tights or sewed socks together to make extra heavy rings to use in ring stack activities. This promoted motor skills as individuals reached above their heads to feel for the top of the pole.  It was fun to put different sensory materials in the white and red socks shown below to increase sensory awareness.

Of course, rings go over a pony on a stick inserted into a pole! Some young clients learned how to do this while in quadruped, kneeling and even standing on top of the horse.

Hygiene Issues

Some fabric rings can be thrown right into the clothes washer. Sometimes I used a second layer of sock that I could remove and wash, leaving the inner sock clean and dry.   I have also inserted the entire activity inside a plastic bag that I threw away when finished.

More Fine-Motor Activities 

The geriatric client seated above had poor balance and enjoyed the weight of the socks piled up on his lap. I placed a large bucket in the center of the group so that individuals could toss or walk over and place the objects in a container. However, I brought the bucket next to this client so that he could remove one item from his lap to insert into the bucket on his turn.

In the above video you see a young man who is blind. He enjoys having the heavy socks thrown onto his lap as he tries to catch them. I taught a couple of other clients to throw them toward his lap and give a verbal cue that it is about to be thrown. This was great for promoting a social exchange and communication skills. The other client or I were able to keep this up for a good 10 to 15 minutes as we kept taking the socks back out of the box and throwing them into his lap again and again. Great fun for all....

The last video demonstrates sensory rings in action- in my living room, clinic and on the  hippotherapy farm. One client with speech delays but excellent motor planning skills was able to put the ring over her head, pull it down her body to her feet and step out of it- all while standing on a horse!

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