This 'snoezel' construction is custom made for Bart, a deeply mentally disabled person. To stimulate his senses, his carers wanted a structure on which they can hang sensory elements, such as bells, plastic ribbons and other colourful objects. They wanted the structure to be very stable, easy to store, easy to move and easy to mount.

The result of this project is a tent that can be folded to store. In the ceiling of the tent, there are button holes. With buttons, different objects can be attached. The tent can be adapted to match every 'snoezel-er' his or her needs, this by adding different sensory objects to the ceiling.

Constructions like this are used to stimulate the senses by sensory therapy. By giving sensory stimuli, a person can become more self conscious and can have more contact with the outside world. Different stimuli can be given by varying the ways they are offered to the person or by varying the sensory materials. This therapy is mainly given to people with a severe mental disability.

Most sensory stimulating attributes are very expensive and not customizable. This tent is cheap (less than 50 euros) and lets you be creative to invent new sensory elements to hang on the ceiling. With multiple tents, you can build a sensory tunnel.

In this Instructable the production of the frame and ceiling is described. In this Instructable (https://www.instructables.com/id/Sensory-elements/) you can find ideas to make some sensory elements.

Step 1: What You Will Need:

  • Materials:
    • 13.6 meters of square steel tubes (we used 2cmx2cm tubes with a thickness of 2 mm)
      ( the exact measurements are given in the drawing)
    • 2m x 2m tarpaulin (used on trucks)
    • 6 hinges (the ones we used were custom made for this project, it is composed of 2 pieces, explained in the drawing. You can use other hinges as long as you can mount it on the tubes and it is possible to detach both halves of the hinge. So door hinges are also suited)
    • 24 Self-tapping 6-point screw to attach the hinges
    • 10 bolts and nuts (we used M5 as our hinges have holes of 5mm, if you use door hinges, you'll not need this)
    • 2 long bolts (to put in the hinge that has to be detachable. Again, if you use door hinges, you'll not need this)
    • 6 floor protectors that fit in the 2x2 cm tubes

    • Paint to give the frame a nice colour
  • Tools:
    • Drilling machine
    • Welding station
    • Metal saw
    • Ruler
    • Scissors
    • Sewing machine
    • Buttonhole foot for the sewing machine
    • Sewing thread

Step 2: Cutting the Tubes to Length

For the tent we'll need three equal arches. In our design, the arches are 1.9 meters high. We choose this height so that our client can sit underneath it with his wheelchair and so that it can also be used for other people walking under it. Do not make the structure higher, as you still have to be able to attach the sensory elements to the ceiling. If you make this tent for children, you can shorten the legs of the arches.

Each arch is 1.2 m wide, this is more than enough for our client to fit underneath the tent.

In total, the ground surface of the tent will be a triangle with three legs of 1.2 m.

For each arch you need:
(all mentioned dimensions are for 2cm x 2 cm tubes with a thickness of 2 mm)

  • 2 tubes of 1.5 m, with one end cut to 65°
  • 2 tubes of 0.565 m with both ends cut to 65°
  • 1 tube of 0.4 m with both ends cut to 65°

Step 3: Welding the Frame

Now that you've cut the tubes to the right lengths, it is time to weld the arches. Next, you sand the welds.
After this step, you should have 3 arches as shown in the picture.

Step 4: Attaching the Hinges

Before drilling holes in the tubes, you have to pair up the hinges (one of each half combined) and attach them to each other with 2 bolts and nuts. If you work with door hinges, they are normally already paired.

Next, you take one of the arches. You place the hinge on the side of the arc, on the leg, 15 cm from the weld. There you drill the first hinge to the arch. You repeat this for the other side of the arch.
Then, you attach the bottom hinges at 15 cm from the ground on each side of the arc. Make sure that you choose the same parts of the hinge for all 4 hinges attached to this arc (either the smaller or wider parts of the hinge)

After attaching the 4 hinges to the first arch, you take a second arch and place it next to the first one. You can now drill the holes to attach the hinges of the first arc to this arc, but first: make sure the hinge is also placed at 15 cm from the top weld!

Now do the same for the third arc: attach the hinges of the first arc to this third arc. Now you should have attached the three arches to each other and the construction should be able to stand alone.
The hinges that you've attached so far, are the hinges that always will be attached. Now you're going to mount the hinges that you can take apart to fold the tent together to store it.

On one of the legs without hinges, you place a hinge on 22 cm from the top weld and drill the holes. On the bottom of the leg, the hinge should be placed at 22 cm from the bottom. Now you can attach the hinges to the last leg.

Step 5: Painting the Frame

Now that the frame is done, you can paint the frame in any colour you want. We choose white because the elements hanging down from the ceiling are already colourful and stimulating. In this way we do not offer too much stimuli at the same time to our client.

Our frame was powder coated, but you can do a perfectly fine job with spray cans.

Step 6: Making the Tarpaulin Ceiling

This is a bit of a tricky part! In the pictures you see a template to make the tarpaulin, but you should just use this to control the shape you made. We made the ceiling by putting the welded arc structure opside down on the tarpaulin and step by step we marked the outlines of the ceiling.

First, you put the structure up side down on the middle of the tarpaulin (with the top bars of 40 cm on the tarpaulin). Now you can mark the three sides. On each of this sides you can now mark a flap, that will be around the tubes. This flaps should have the same width of the sides and have a height of approximately 20 cm.

Once you have marked the flaps for each of the three sides that rest on the tarpaulin, you can cut out the three flaps. Next, tape the flaps around the tubes resting on the tarpaulin (this is not final, it just makes it easier to measure the ceiling correctly).

Then tilt the structure as shown on the picture (so that it rests with the 56 cm bars on the tarpaulin). Now you can mark these two sides. Do not mark them all the way to the point where the to arcs meet, but cut them straight about 5 cm before that point, this will look nicer. Do this for all three sides (so tilt the structure three times in an other direction).

At last, you can mark the flaps for this sides. Make sure that they are also 20 cm and that the flaps are perpendicularly marked to the suface of the ceiling.

You can remove the tape from the first flaps and remove the structure from the tarpaulin. Now the marked surface should look like the template. Next step is cutting out the pattern you created.

After cutting the template, it is time to sew the flaps of the ceiling definitively. To make the sewing easier, we first attached the 6 flaps of 2 sides with superglue. Don't do this for the remaining three flaps, as they have to be detachable to fold the tent! Make the loops of the flaps as big as possible, this will make it easier to assemble the frame. (If you want to test if the loops are big enough, you can put one of the legs of the arches through one of the loops, this should go easy) Make sure the edges of the flaps are in a straight line before you start sewing. Then, sew the six flaps to the surface of the ceiling.

Last step to make the ceiling is to sew the velcro to the remaining three flaps and the corresponding areas on the surface of the ceiling (again: make sure the loops are big enough).

If you plan on opening and folding the tent a lot, it can be useful to glue a coloured ribbon to the flaps with velcro. Then it is easy to determine which flaps you can open and which are permanently around the structure.

Step 7: Make Button Holes in the Ceiling

We choose to make button holes in the ceiling of the tent. This way, the carers of our client can easily attach sensory elements to the ceiling and they can vary the elements as much as they want to give our client a variety of stimuli.

Depending of the frequency of use, the environment of use,... you can opt for other connections for the sensory elements, such as: velcro, press buttons, magnets,...

To make the button holes, you'll need: a sewing machine, sewing thread (normal and a thicker type to form the core of the button hole), scissors and a button hole foot for the sewing machine, a ruler and a pen.

First, you lightly mark the desired pattern and amount of button holes with a pen on the tarpaulin. We chose a star pattern, but you can place the button holes in circles, at random, .... as well.

As the exact settings to make buttonholes will be different for every brand of sewing machines, only the major steps are described.

1. attach the button hole foot to your sewing machine

2. install the core thread in the foot (see picture)

3. sew the first side of the button hole

4. sew the second side

5. cut the threads

6. pull the core thread until it is tight

7. cut the button hole open with a pair of scissors.

Step 8: Attach the Ceiling to the Welded Structure

For this step, you will have to detach two of the 'fixed' hinges. Make sure that the two detachable hinges (the ones that you will open to fold the tent together) are closed.

Now, take the to sides of the ceiling with the fixed loops (not the ones with velcro) and slide these two sides carefully over the arches. Then reattach the hinges. Now you can attach the remaining loops with the velcro over the tubes.

SO, the tent itself is ready! Now you can make sensory elements to make the tent more 'sensory'. An instructable on the sensory elements we made for our tent, you can find on: https://www.instructables.com/id/Sensory-elements/

You can find a movie about our tent on vimeo (it is in Dutch): http://vimeo.com/97453111

<p>Nicely documented instructable! And the final product looks great! I've always wanted to learn how to weld... </p>

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