Monday 8 February 2016

Makeshift Birthday ball pit is a sensory success

Ball pit

Birthdays can be a real mission in our home. It's hardly surprising when two of your kids have Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) so have difficulty with social/communications skills and you are also trying to feed and limit their senses according to their needs. 

Anthony our eldest with ASD is verbal and tells us straight, "I don't like birthday parties." However, we know that's its to do with the people, the noise, the spectacle and the unfamiliar. Most birthday's are therefore at home, and this year, David's fifth birthday was no different.
The key element of David's birthday was a home created ball pit. Our ball pit was able to cope with three kids (aged seven, five and nearly three, all somewhere in the photo below) and I think shows you don't need to go out to a playgym for this kind of fun.

Making the ball pit

If like us you have a corner sofa in a corner of a room then making a ball pit at home is super easy and super fun.  If not you could use a two seater and single seater chair but you'll need to find way to hold them in place. We used:
  • A 2:1 seat corner sofa
  • 1200 ball pit balls (We got 12 bags of 100 balls but you can also buy bags of 1000 from Amazon)
  • Cushions or pillows to plug up holes
  • A two step, step ladder
Firstly turn your corner sofa round so if you sat in it you'd be looking at the corner of your room and push it up against the wall.  This works really well, as the kids use the seats as platforms to jump and slide into the pit. Also having high walls on the sides means the balls (generally) stay in the pit.

Next you need something soft on the floor.  Our junior mattresses fitted pretty well into the space on the ground.   We used a second one against the wall to protect against bumping heads.  Then we filled in any gaps with folded cushions or pillows. If you are going to use pillows to cover the floor then put something like a fitted sheet over them all to prevent little feet going through gaps and hitting the hard floor. If your sofas are high don't forget to plug the gaps underneath or all your balls will come back out.

Then fill the pit with balls. This was the only thing we had to actually buy to make our ball pit.  I'd recommend buying at least half as much again as you think you'd need. 100 balls really don't go very far. 

Finally, we pulled the little step ladder from the kitchen and put in against the back of the sofa so the kids could climb in and slide down the sofa into the pit.

If your kids enjoy visual stimulus you could add a rainbow light into the room so the kids could watch it from in the pit.  You could add music too.  This would have overloaded our kids though - we had a blast just with the pit.

Best fun in the pit
  • Anthony really liked wrestling with the other kids in the pit.
  • Jane's favourite part was jumping into the pit from the sofa seats.
  • David liked to run from the other side of the room up the step and then slide down the sofa and go head first into the pit.  Hence the mattress on the floor.  This was great, all you could see was his feet sticking out .
  • The kids played in it on and off all day.  My favourite bit was probably when it was calmer later on and the birthday boy would be in the pit by himself.  He'd bury his body and then just lie still, loving the feeling of his body on and in the balls.  He may be mostly non verbal but there was no denying the joy and peace on his partially visible face.
One of the small issues with this plan is you have to stand looking at your kids having fun because they've used up a lot of the seats in the room. But this was well worth it. It even prompted Jane to say, "I love David's birthday!".  So cute!  Have you got any similar great ideas?  I'd love to hear them for our next birthday at home - it's Jane's and it's only two months away.


External links
NAS - Sensory


  1. Great Idea I bet they had such fun! Thanks for sharing on #ToddlerApprovedTuesday

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  3. Aw what a lovely idea for them to get all the fun without the other stuff that would give them sensory overload. Xx

    1. Yay, they really didn't need anything else. We put a pop up tent at the other end of the room and they each took a turn at just sitting in it to chill out which was good too.

  4. What a fabulous idea and I'm not surprised Jane loved the party! I have seen these balls used in paddling pools or indoor kids tents but never like this. Great fun. TY for linking up with #FamilyFun 🌸

    1. Really did work a treat. Thanks for hosting!

  5. That is such a great idea....I think if I made that in my house it would be a permanent fixture. My girls would never let it be put away...hehehe

    1. We had to take the mattresses out at bathtime so put back on their beds. So it was packed away once they were in bed. Though it was tempting to play in it myself.

  6. That is brilliant and looks SO much fun!!

    1. They could barely contain themselves! Thanks for stopping by.

  7. This is a brilliant idea! I've only got 100 balls though, and you're right, they don't go very far. I bet they had so much fun x

  8. My kids love ball pits! Great idea to make one at home this way! Never thought of that, though we do have loads of the balls. Glad everyone had fun! #familyfun

  9. I am looking for pet friendly venue NYC for my private birthday party. I searched a lot on internet but didn’t get any venue which allow pets and fits in my budget. Hoping my search ends soon with a great venue.


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