Last Updated on February 9, 2023

Our senses are a key part of learning, whether you are working on numerical skills, reading comprehension, or science experiments. Having a good sensory board can help your children and students learn in exciting ways and make learning more engaging. They have also been shown to increase motivation and retention, leading to better student results.

Sensory boards provide support for the entire learning process as kids work to decipher what each object does and how it will affect them. This blog will explore the benefits of having one in the home or classroom.

What Is The Purpose Of a Sensory Board?

Also known as a busy board, the purpose of a sensory board is to create an active learning environment that is engaging, exciting and impactful. Several studies have shown that children demonstrated better retention when working on a sensory board compared to other environments. Sensory boards allow students to integrate their senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell)–something every student must be able to do to reach their maximum potential in school.

A sensory or special needs board can help students recognize the importance of an object, its purpose, and how it will affect them. Also, at school, it can be a brilliant way to differentiate within a classroom because it provides activities for all types of learners.

Boy playing busy-board
Boy playing on a busy-board

What Goes On a Sensory Board?

Sensory boards can be customized to fit your classroom needs, so there are multiple ideas for what you can include on your board. You can ask students to collect objects from home or around the classroom to make the board.

As an example, students may be able to create a picture of how to eat cereal or a picture of how to go swimming. By including objects from daily life (like money or toys), your sensory board will also be helpful for home learning. Students can write on their sensory board about things that are happening at home, such as new pets or new house additions.

By including varied content, your student, son, or daughter will be able to reach their learning goals and finish at a faster rate. Depending on your teaching style, you may need to include multiple boards with different materials and objects. For example, you may want to have a board with things that can be touched or lifted but one that does not allow for manipulation.

Then you can display the following examples:

  • Clip Art/landscape art projects that include objects from nature (e.g., leaves, pinecones)
  • Things relating to culture (e.g. objects from other countries)
  • Objects that had an impact on a person (e.g., objects that make your room look organized)
  • Objects that can be manipulated (e.g., objects that students can eat, drink, or use as a tool to make an object)
  • Items relating to personal identity (i.e., objects that have special meaning to the student)
  • Objects relating to emotions (i.e., objects used in therapy such as oils or crystals)
  • Objects relating to feelings (i.e., objects that help students express feelings or creativity)
  • Objects symbolising quality of sleep (i.e., objects that help students calm down at bedtime)
  • Objects relating to creative skills (e.g., objects used for journaling or improvising a song)
  • Items concerning to self-care/emotional development (i.e., objects used to sign empathy or meditation)
Baby playing with a busy board at home

Sensory Board In an Educational Setting

Many teachers have individualized boards with pictures relating to their area of speciality. For example, a teacher of young kids may have a picture of a child excited about learning new words. A teacher who deals with older kids may have pictures related to puberty, such as changes in emotions during this stage of development.

Sensory boards are used in educational settings in several different ways. They can be used for:

  • Learning about sensory integration
  • Learning about objects and pictures for children who have autism spectrum disorder or other special needs
  • Creating individualized learning skills
  • Help students become more aware of their body parts and manipulability, which are important cues for understanding how they can take control of themselves
  • Letting students express and communicate their emotions (thoughts, feelings, needs).

Teachers can have students create boards for their use without worrying about making a large or open display. They can also utilize the sensory board in many ways to help students understand what is happening in the classroom.

Colourful busy board made of wood with a lot of different things

What Age Is a Sensory Board For?

Sensory boards are for all ages and can be used by young children, adolescents and adults.

For example, if a student is studying butterflies in the classroom, students could take pictures of butterflies near the school and put them on their sensory board. The student could look at all the different attributes of a butterfly (i.e., wingspan, colouring, body shape) to better understand what makes a butterfly unique from other insects. This all relates to the student’s understanding of themselves in relation to others.

Another example would be for older students who are learning about decision-making skills. A teacher could use a sensory board with pictures to show that a person may have multiple options to choose from, but only two distinct options will lead the person toward success.

Sensory busy boards can also be used for adult students trying to learn English. These can be used for pre-reading activities such as learning letters or learning about feelings or emotions.

It is important to understand the student’s development stages to ensure they will be able to use and understand the board. Students with delayed or delayed fine motor skills may not be interested in a sensory board or be unable to use it effectively.

Are Sensory Boards Good For Babies?

A busy board is a great tool for helping babies and toddlers to understand their surroundings. An abstract, physical toy that provides information about the world around them can help focus their attention and develop their thinking skills. Your baby or toddler will be able to:

  • Learn about what makes things move
  • Explore different materials
  • Learn about safety
  • Learn more about different textures and colours while they play
  • Interact with family members at the same time, which helps with bonding
DIY busy board
Handmade DIY sensory children’s toy


Sensory boards are a powerful tool to help children gain sensory integration skills. Still, it is important to have a clear plan for how you will use them and to introduce them gradually so as not to overwhelm or frustrate your child with these new experiences.

We recommend using your sensory board together with many other tools such as an iPad or tablet that can also provide visual interaction, toys such as touch puppets (which provide auditory cues), sandboxes and climbing structures. In this way, you can address your student’s needs holistically and maintain a strong focus on their social skills.

Sources and References

  1. Touch, See and Hear: Students Build Sensory Boards For Children With Autism –
  2. What Is A Busy Board, And Why Does My Baby Need One? –

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