As promised, this week I am giving some more tips for children who need sensory stimulation. Most of these activities require a little bit of prep, but are still fairly easy. Let’s start with items to keep in the house for when children just need a little calming. Good things to keep around include a smooth stone to hold, and a combination lock and/or old keys to manipulate. These items can be held and played with to give children that sensory experience. Other good calming techniques are brushing and pressure. One trick that always works with my son is taking a brush and lightly brushing it over his arms, legs, back, and belly. Our other favorite game is pancake. I take a pillow and put my weight over him on the pillow to “flatten” the pancake. The pressure calms him. Other tricks that work at home for pressure are making weighted bags or fanny packs and weighted stuffed animals. You can slice open a stuffed animal and add weights like nuts and bolts to the animal before closing it. This is a great tool to put on a child’s lap for when they are reading or doing homework assignments.
Let’s move on to sensory bins and variations of them. Sensory bins are an absolute lifesaver for parents and provide hours of entertainment for children. They are, by definition, any type of container that holds items that can stimulate any of the five senses. Many people prefer to use under the bed storage containers because they are fairly shallow and transparent. Pro tip – if you are making a sensory bin indoors, put down towels, a tarp, newspaper, or something that can contain whatever messes are going to be made. Use things around the house with which children can manipulate sensory materials—measuring cups, sifters, beach toys like shovels and pails, wooden spoons, etc. So what do you put inside your sensory bin? Popular sensory bin materials include rice (many people like to dye it with food coloring), dried beans, sand, shaving cream, cotton balls, pom poms, beads, salt, flour, dirt/mud, snow (if season allows), water beads, grass, birdseed, shredded paper, oatmeal, soapy water, feathers, buttons, etc. The possibilities are endless! For outdoor fun, we took a water table we purchased for my son when he was a baby and transformed it into a sensory table. Totally not necessary, but we had it, so we repurposed it. Don’t forget that sensory bins are not just for the hands. Encourage your child(ren) to use their feet in them as well. My son used to go nowhere near sand—with practice in the sensory bin, he can now handle dry sand on his hands and feet, and wet sand on his hands. We are still working on wet sand on his feet. Maybe the beach will soon be in our future.
We can take some of our sensory bin materials and move them to other places where they work wonders. Bubbles are like magic for little children. Those children who have trouble with sticky and/or slimy materials are often alright with the slimy nature of the bubbles when they are floating in the air. It helps that their hands are not immersed in the bubbles like in a sensory bin. I love having my son play with shaving cream, but I am terribly afraid of the mess it makes in a sensory bin. The best place to play with shaving cream is to have the child finger paint with it in the shower or tub. Super fun and easy clean up! Also good for the tub are pom poms and/or sponges that absorb water and the children can squeeze them. Also, no clogged pipes!
Don’t forget to check out next week’s post where I will put together some more sensory play ideas. These will require quite a bit more prep but are totally fun!