Snoezelen: A Magical Place at Camp

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Lights twinkle, seemingly suspended in air; constellations twirl on the ceiling; transparent tubes of swirling, multicolored bubbles softly gurgle. A string of feathers gently brushes your face, and the aroma of a flower-filled meadow fills the air as soft music echoes. You thought you were just stepping into a storage room. Instead, you've entered a magical place called a Snoezelen (Snüz-c-lin) room.

What is Snoezelen?


Snoezelen is a multi-sensory stimulating environment specifically designed for individuals with severe sensory impairment, autism, or multiple disabilities. Built to promote learning, play, or relaxation, one side of the room is designated for relaxation, the other for activity. A myriad of lighting effects, shapes, textures, aromas, soft music, and colors are strategically placed in the room to stimulate the senses.


Snoezelen rooms are popping up in hospital burn units, special schools for children with learning disabilities, centers for children with epilepsy, and homes for the elderly as a means for therapeutic recovery, and camps are using them as a place of leisure and relaxation for campers with disabilities.

Making Magic at Camp

Camp Jened, a camp for adults with severe physical and mental disabilities in Rock Hill, New York, is one camp that is employing the Snoezelen concept. The idea for creating a Snoezelen room at the camp stemmed from the international staff visiting from England.


According to Katherine Mace, camp director of Camp Jened, the Snoezelen is like a calm oasis that is free from the normal hubbub of camp. It creates a stress-free environment for the counselor and camper, allowing trust to build. Mace also notes that the activity improves tolerance in campers who are touch defensive, a behavior common among people with severe physical and intellectual disabilities who are extremely dependent.


Mace says, "The Snoezelen is a place to engage people, interest them, and help focus their attention. It's unique, calming . . . a little magic goes on during this activity."



Creating a Snoezelen at Your Camp

At Camp Jened, four energetic staff members converted a 20-foot-by-20-foot storage room located on the periphery of the camp into a soothing, colorful Snoezelen room for their guests. "There is always a nook and cranny at camp; the Snoezelen doesn't require much space," notes Mace.Using Camp Jened's Snoezelen as a prototype, you can easily create a similar facility at your camp. Once you've determined the location for your room, Samantha White, sensory activity leader for Camp Jened, recommends that you begin by dividing the room in half by hanging black shower curtains down the middle of the room. One side will be used as the relaxation room and the other as the activity room. Encourage campers to choose which side of the Snoezelen they prefer.

{mospagebreak}The relaxation room

White recommends that you paint the walls in this side of the room in a dark color such as black from ceiling to floor. In addition, White suggests that you:


  • Cover the floor with anything soft and comfortable (e.g., exercise mats, carpet remnants, pillows, or beanbags).
  • String Christmas tree lights around the room or use light-producing objects like bubble lamps, black fluorescent lights, bendable light tubes, color-wheel spotlights, and a projector with effect wheels to make colors glow.
  • Use fluorescent paint to paint constellations on the ceiling.
  • Assist campers in making decorations such as colorful mobiles, wind chimes, or sensory sticks, large sticks that campers decorate with crepe paper, streamers, and feathers in vivid colors.
  • Invest in aromatherapy fans (small fans with cartridges that can be scented with aromatic oils).
  • Play relaxing or cheerful music (e.g., Disney CD's, dolphin music, rainforest sounds).

Campers who visit the relaxation side of the room can simply sit and enjoy the music and color displays. A counselor can accompany the camper into the room and massage the camper's hands or feet with scented oils.


The activity side

The activity side of the room should be brightly lit and filled with brightly colored objects and decorations. The room should also contain a work table for participating in simple, highly sensory activities such as making limeade, blowing bubbles, finger painting, or making shapes with play dough.


Designate a portion of a wall as a touch wall, and decorate the wall with items you and your campers find around camp that have a defined texture. For example, use cotton balls to make fluffy clouds or attach small rubber balls cut in half, bubble wrap, fine sandpaper, or feathers for a unique tactile experience. Keep in mind all items placed on the wall should be at a height that is easily accessible from a wheelchair. You can also place a blanket on the floor for campers to sit on and reach the touch wall.


Positive Experiences

Research has shown that children seem happier while visiting the room, vocalize more, and tend to stay on task in the Snoezelen environment as opposed to their regular environment. Also, very active children or adults with self-injurious or autistic behaviors become less agitated in a Snoezelen relaxation activity.


The Snoezelen is a quiet place in the midst of the busy camp atmosphere that even staff can benefit from. For them, it is a place to get away and slow down.


Providing a unique sensory experience for all who enter, Snoezelen rooms are truly a magical place at camp.

Click here to visit the original webpage of American Camping Association

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