Every child can benefit from sensory-rich experiences and environments; however, not all suggestions and strategies are appropriate and individualized for your child. Some children are sensitive to sensations while others are sensory seeking. Here are some tips of what to look for in your child:
Active children tend to be sensory seekers and are always on the go. They might crave intense forms of sensory experiences and engage in movement activities such as jumping, falling, crashing, and pushing.
Sensitive, fearful, or defensive children tend to be sensory avoidant and have a difficult time participating in every day routines. They might be fearful of falling, state that a tag on their shirt is painful, avoid certain textures or smells of foods, or walks on their tip toes.
Here are some sensory strategies for children who are seeking sensory input through experiences including touch, taste/smell, movement, sounds, and light.
Steam roller: roll a large ball over a child’s back while he’s lying on the floor face down.
Massage: gently squeeze the child’s limbs, the top of his head, and shoulders; and or provide grading firm hugs.
Burrito game: roll your child in a blanket or foam mat while applying grading pressure.
Use firm touch for grooming activities; have your child help with dressing, brushing, and drying her body with a towel.
Monitor messy play with finger paints, shaving cream, water and sand, or anything that provides textures.
Play with child-friendly modeling materials including Model Magic, PlayDoh, and Kinetic Sand.
Provide sensory bins (i.e., bins filled with various materials) for your child to run her fingers through to look for toys
Walk barefoot on different surfaces
Climb on play structures, run on various surfaces, jump on a trampoline, and walk like different animals
Provide heavy chewing foods such as baguettes, licorice, and taffy; and crunchy foods such as banana chips, apples, and rice crackers.
Use vibrating toothbrushes to enhance their teeth-brushing experience.
Consider chew toys or objects that meet the oral seeking need.
Offer various methods to drink/eat fluid consistencies (e.g., suck smoothies from a bottle, drink applesauce or yogurt through a fun straw, etc.).
Provide mineral water or flavored bubbly water to experience bubbles in his mouth
Offer extreme flavored (e.g., very sweet, sour, or salty) foods.
If your child is old enough, allow her to chew gum.
Allow movement breaks between activities
Jump on trampolines
Create obstacle courses to jump over, crawl under, roll under, and squeeze between objects
Swing on playground swings
Rock on a horse
Spin on a chair
Go outdoors and listen to the waves crash, the birds chirp in the forest, or the thunder roar
Play games and have your child identify different environmental sounds
Encourage play with musical instruments (e.g., piano, drums, harmonica, etc.)
Fill empty water bottles halfway with different objects (e.g., rocks, sticks, sand, beans, etc.) and let your child explore the sounds
For children that need visual input
Fill empty water bottles halfway with different objects (e.g., colored water and oil with a floating surfer figurine or water and jelly crystals) for a visual experience
Provide visual scavenger hunts in pictures or the environment
Offer large, bright, and colored pictures during activities
Use visual boards or stickers to keep your child motivated
Use learning toys that light up
For children that are overstimulated by visuals and have a hard time calming down, here are some activities
Provide a dimly-lit area with calming music.
Reduce stimulation by dimming the light, providing solid colored clothing or environmental furniture, and use muted colors
[Untitled photograph of children finger painting]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.megfaure.com/sensory-defensiveness/