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The value of dark dens as sensory pop up spaces

Sensory spaces are so important in early years settings and schools, both for stimulating children’s senses and for providing a calming rest area for children to have some time to themselves. But it is not always easy to provide such a space without compromising a whole room or children’s need for uninterrupted space.

Posted on Wednesday 02nd September 2020

Sensory rooms or sensory spaces?

In early years settings and schools, it can be difficult to find room for both a stimulating sensory space and a calming area where children can take uninterrupted time to themselves. Sensory spaces require the correct lighting to stimulate children and make the most of what the light up resources can offer. This often requires a separate room specifically fitted with black or darkened walls and dark flooring. What is also important is darkened blinds for doors and windows to ensure the space is concealed from light and can be as effective as possible.

Portable Bubble Tube Sensory Unit                                                                       Light Up Dark Den Sensory Kit

Here is an example of a sensory room we have created, this required the use of a whole room. This is a great option if space allows in your school or setting.

What if space is limited?

Creating a whole sensory room can be very costly for not only money and time, but the all-important space.

Giving up a whole room as a sensory space can also prove to be not as effective as expected due to the limitations of use. If there is only one sensory room in a school or setting, this needs to be shared between all children, and all ages. This makes it difficult to kit out the room appropriately for different ages and specific development groups. The room may therefore not always be appropriately kitted out for the particular groups or individual children when they need to use it.

Creating a sensory space can be difficult

The solution would be to provide several small sensory spaces across a setting or school. This can include sensory spaces in classrooms. This, however, does also come with difficulties:

  • Firstly, a sensory space needs to be dark to be fit for purpose. The lighting needs to be darkened, if not almost blacked out and softly lit with resources, to bring either a sense of calm or stimulation and curiosity. This cannot be achieved in a classroom without inconveniencing all other classroom routines by turning off the lights!
  • Secondly, the space needs to be well enclosed. It is important for children to have some private and uninterrupted time when they need this. Whether it be for providing concentration and focus through stimulating light up resources or feeling a sense of calm and relaxation by taking a rest, practising breathing and reading a book.

This is why we at TTS have worked with many different schools and early years settings to understand the needs of sensory spaces and the difficulties in providing these. In collaboration with teachers and education specialists, we have designed a range of dark dens.

Dark dens as pop up sensory spaces

These dens can act as pop up sensory spaces providing all of the benefits of a sensory room, without compromising space and limiting use due to sharing across a whole school or setting.

Space-saving solutions

Dark dens are incredibly space-saving and practical, so they can act as fit for purpose sensory spaces

A variety of light up resources are perfect to use inside dark dens to stimulate children’s senses, spark curiosity and ignite engagement.

Here is an example of the Pop-Up Sensory Space in action:

Create a calming reading and rest area

A cosy darkened space with warm lighting and soft sensory resources can create the perfect rest and reading area. Children can share a story with each other, or enjoy some quiet time on their own.

Pop-up Sensory Space White

Use for 1:1 sessions or independent time

Dark dens can act as a safe haven for children that need some time for themselves. Different sized dens also allow enough space for an adult or older child to stand up in as well as allowing for wheelchair access.


Giant Dark Den

Pop-Up Sensory Space Black

It is vital to allow children time and space to themselves. Some children may feel particularly overwhelmed by dealing with changes and getting used to new routines.

View our full range of dark dens View our full sensory rooms range


With thanks to Angelica Celinska for writing this blog. Angelica has 10 years of experience working in the Early Years and Primary sector with a Masters in Early Years Education from the Institute of Education, University College London (UCL).