Wow, what a time to be a parent! But also, what a time to be a parent of a child with sensory differences! If I, as an adult with a multitude of healthy coping strategies, am having a challenging time with these changes, then children with sensory differences must be so much more.
Below you can find some information, tips and activities that can be easily implemented in the home environment to help support a child in regulating their sensory system.
- Know your child’s specific sensory system, what they seek out, what they shy away from and what that means for how to support them. A person’s sensory system is a sort of fingerprint individual to them and their needs. Speak with your child’s occupational therapist for more information.
- Make a plan, for how long, how often, and be intentional on what the purpose is: to help them alert or calm. Consider what activities your child is engaging in that will tax their regulatory capabilities. Try to be strategic in offering sensory activities before or after screen time, homework, and morning or nighttime routines.
- Know what supplies you have to utilize: blankets, sheets, pillows, cushions, boxes, crafting supplies, junk drawer materials, etc.
- Play, play, play! Keep it fun and easy, engage with your child whenever possible, because adults/parents have unique and consistent sensory needs too!
Proprioceptive input: provides the brain with information received through muscles and joints. This is important for developing a sense of where the body is in space and contributes to body awareness, motor planning, pressure modulation, and safety awareness.
- Push and pull heavy items or siblings around in a cardboard box
- Push and pull blankets for strollers weighted down with items.
- Climb out from under blankets and pillows
- Jumping between pillows and/or cushions
- Wringing out sponges and washcloths
- Cleaning tasks: wiping tables, cleaning windows, vacuuming, carrying laundry baskets!
Vestibular input: provides information about movement from receptors located in the inner ear which respond to gravity and motion when there is a change in direction or head position. This affects balance, equilibrium responses, muscle tone, eye coordination, and bilateral coordination.
- Rolling down a hill or out of a rolled up blanket
- Spinning and tipping on an office chair (with supervision)
- Rolling and crawling over an exercise ball
- Create a hammock by tying a queen or king size sheet around a sturdy table top and climb into the hammock below
- Cartwheel and/or summersault contest
- Animal walks: crab, bear, inchworm, frog, kangaroo, create your own with your child based on favorite animals!
Tactile input: provides information from skin receptors about how something feels.
- Playing with food! Set aside some pudding cups to explore in the bath.
- Texture bins: A plastic container with a lid where you can store materials like: rice, sand, outdoor materials (leaves, grass, twigs, pinecones, etc.), salt, dry beans, etc. Pro tip: keep a towel under the bucket to limit mess.
- Homemade fidgets: ribbon, clicker pens, rubberbands, pipe cleaners and folded paper. See this blog post for some more complex ideas: https://www.weareteachers.com/diy-fidgets/
- Cooking together, let your kiddo crack the eggs, spoon the flour, serve up plates of spaghetti. Cooking will also target many other skill areas along with being a heavy tactile input activity.
- Taping up toys and pretending to rescue them from the “spiderweb”
- Dress up, a makeover, nail painting, try new hairstyles.
Choose your own adventure, and realize that regulatory sensory input can be easily accessible and established in your home!
By: Sydnie Waschbisch, COTA/L