By Romy Kruger
I was recently asked to share some sensory activities that can be done in the home environment. Truthfully, the list could be endless as almost any activity we do engages one or more of our senses. The types of activities you choose to do will come down to your child’s preferences and what resources are available to you.
Here are just a few ideas for each of the sensory systems which have been discussed in previous articles.
The Visual System:
- Playing games like “where wally”
- Memory games like looking at a few objects on a tray and then removing one to see if your child can identify the missing object
- Copying, drawing and colouring in
The Auditory System:
- Listening to music
- Making animal sounds and asking your child to guess what animal it is
- Making chain stories together where you each take a turn to say a sentence of an imaginative story
The Proprioceptive System:
- This is where you can introduce all your rough and tumble play, lots of crashing, jumping, climbing and being thrown around
- Jumping on the bed or off the couch onto cushions below (if allowed)
- Being rolled up tightly in a blanket like a sausage
- Tug of war games
- Cutting play dough or other thick textures
- Kneading flour in baking activities
- Chewing crunchy foods or chewing gum
Proprioceptive activities are usually quite calming and are good to intersperse into a child’s day. Many children who start their day off with proprioceptive input are set up to have a more successful day at school.
The Vestibular System:
- Hanging upside down off the couch
- Bouncing around on a big yoga ball
- Cart wheels
The Tactile (touch) System:
Activities you choose to do to target this system will very much depend on your child’s preferences and how much mess you are willing to make at home. Kids who are tactile seeking generally can’t get enough input; yet your tactile defensive kids are often very hesitant to even consider messy play. Never force your child to do something he is not comfortable with. Instead, introduce it slowly and give him an alternative to using his hands, such as a paint brush, gloves or let him guide your hand through new textures until he becomes more comfortable. Starting with dry textures is a good idea for the more sensitive child.
- Hiding toys in lentils or rice and using only your hands to find them
- Gelli baff which can be bought at the shops creates a fun gooey texture to go in the bath or an outdoor mini pool
- Shaving cream activities on glass doors or in the bath
- Play dough, clay, finger painting
- For the more sensitive child, you can put paint into a Ziploc, stick it onto a glass door or window and let the child experiment with swishing the paint around without having to actually get his hands dirty
- Playing in the mud or sand
- Water play
- Hiding objects in water beads
- Drawing shapes or letters on your child’s back and encouraging them to guess what it is
The Taste and Smell Systems:
These two systems generally go hand in hand.
- Blind folded taste tests
- Put food essence or aromatherapy oils into different containers. Make two of each and see if your child can identify or match the smells with each other
- Use strong flavours such as mint or spicy foods as a calming technique (if your child likes these flavours)
- Add different flavoured food essence to play dough
- Add different flavoured food essence to the dry rice or lentils for the tactile activity above
- You can buy scented pens or stickers
- Strong mint chewing gum can often work to calm an upset or angry child down. It not only targets the oral system but also the proprioceptive system by creating resistance through the jaws in chewing
These are simply some suggestions of sensory activities which do not require too many resources and can easily be done in the home environment. Your child is your greatest guide as to which activities will work best for them. Follow your child’s lead and most importantly, have fun with him!