Parents can make use of these simple sensory integration activities and exercises to complement occupational therapy sessions that their child may be receiving.
The activity suggestions on this page are aimed primarily at children with sensory modulation difficulties. These children may be
If these terms are new to you, pop over and read my information page on sensory processing disorder to get a better understanding.
If your child is receiving occupational therapy, please ensure you check the suitability of the activities with your child's therapist!
Sensory integration activities can prompt the brain to process sensory information more effectively, helping the child respond more appropriately to the environment.
Here are a few simple ideas to help you get started:
A “sensory corner” can provide stimulation to the under-responsive child, sensory input for the sensory seeking child, and a safe retreat for the sensory defensive child.
Make a "Sensory Corner" by blocking off a corner of the room and using soft furnishings with a variety of textures. A big comfy beanbag provides wonderful deep pressure and a snuggly effect which can be very calming.
Some children find a lava lamp or fish aquarium soothing to look at, and others appreciate having headphones with which they can listen to soft soothing music.
A sensory box in the corner filled with objects that have different textures and weights can be useful for your child.
In the beginning, offer a variety of objects eg smooth wood, velvet, squishy textures and stretchy objects, until your child discovers a favorite object or two. Fiddling with or touching these objects could be soothing for an overstimulated child, or calming for a child who is wound up and sensory seeking.
Information from the muscles and joints is called proprioception.
Proprioceptive activities can be passive, where deep pressure is given to the child, or active, where the child actively takes part in a heavy work activity.
Proprioceptive activities are excellent sensory integration activities for kids who are always craving movement and crashing into things. They can also help stimulate a lethargic child.
Let your child lie on a mat or folded blanket and pack pillows on top to make him into a pizza or sandwich. Very Important: Never cover your child's face!!
Weighted vests, weighted blankets and lap blankets are also effective ways to give passive proprioceptive input. You can view some of these at PFOT. (This is an affiliate link)
Your child may also enjoy being wrapped in a blanket or snuggling in a beanbag for some proprioceptive stimulation.
Heavy work activities help your child to really “feel” their muscles and joints. Let your child carry groceries, sweep the yard, dig in the garden, or any other activity that lets their muscles work hard.
Jumping on a trampoline and climbing on playground equipment also gives good proprioceptive input.
If your child struggles to sit still to listen to a lesson, then try a stress ball to squeeze, chewing gum, or a special chew toy to give proprioception input.
Go To For OT has some excellent heavy work activity ideas on this page: ”What Are Heavy Work Activities?” (opens in a new tab/window)
Most movement activities will stimulate the vestibular system in the inner ear, which helps the body to know how it is moving and how fast it is moving. Depending on their intensity, vestibular activities can be stimulating for an under-responsive child, or calming for a sensory seeking or over-responsive child.
Trampolines, rocking horses, swings, roundabouts or slides are all good vestibular activities. Here are a few vestibular exercises you can try in the classroom, as well!
A child who is gravitationally insecure may fear movement and avoid escalators, elevators and playground apparatus. They need to experience very gentle, safe movement.
It will be less
scary for them to move while sitting or lying down, rather than while
standing up, or to try a gentle activity while being held by a parent.
Try gentle bouncing on a trampoline while lying or sitting, swinging on a
very low swing, and rocking on a rocking horse.
Be careful not to force a fearful child to take part in an activity – be guided by your child's reactions.
Some children chew excessively on clothing, pencils and other inappropriate objects. They are usually seeking tactile and proprioceptive input through their mouths, perhaps to help themselves concentrate or to reduce anxiety.
Blowing bubbles in a bowl of water with a straw, drinking thick milkshake/yogurt through a straw and blowing on harmonicas are activities that can help meet a child's oral-motor needs.Some kids benefit from chewing gum, while others need something more durable.
I review a variety of books on sensory processing over here.
There are books for children and preteens as well as for parents, teachers and therapists!
Weighted blankets, sensory toys, and lots more to help kids with SPD!
View the full range of products at PFOT. (Honesty point: I receive a small commission to support my site when you buy items through this link!)
For a range of sensory integration activities and tips that you can use to help children with sensory processing disorder, I really recommend this book No Longer A Secret (the link takes you to my brief review of the book). It is full of practical, easy-to-implement ideas that be can used at home and at school.
Max and Me is a book on sensory processing disorder written especially for kids and includes many helpful tips and activities to help when kids feel overwhelmed or in need of stimulation, specially illustrated for kids. Read my indepth review of Max and Me here.
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