Sensory Seeking Activities
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a neurological condition that the affects how a person experiences and perceives the world around them. Like autism, Sensory Processing Disorder is some what like a spectrum, ranging from mild to severe. Depending on the individual it can affect one or all of a person’s senses. While SPD is common in those with autism, a person can have a sensory dysfunction and NOT be not the spectrum.
Generally speaking, SPD can be divided into two major categories: under responsive and over responsive.
Being sensitive to various stimuli can make certain every day actives painful, or unpleasant. This is why you sometimes see people wearing noise canceling headphones, or sun glasses to shield their eyes and ears, for what for the them can feel intense and uncomfortable. This also can affect a person sense of touch, making certain clothes or textures painful. When a person is under responsive to certain stimuli, they actually crave sensory input. A person will usually display ‘sensory seeking behaviors' and might have a low sense of body awareness. Things like jumping, tip toe walking, rocking, spinning ones self, pushing up against things (or people) are common signs sensory seeking behaviors. Problems distinguishing between textures, and weight are common as well. These behaviors in excess can make it difficult for a child to be alert and engaged.
A proper sensory diet can help reduce anxiety, limit discomfort, and minimize sensory seeking behaviors, in those who are hypo sensitive or ‘sensory seekers’.
While most kids benefit from a mental break and regular exercise, for some it's the difference between having a good day and a bad one. Introducing your child to a proper sensory diet or sensory activities can help your child organize their nervous systems and give them the sensory input they are craving. There's a lot of activities you can provide for your loved one who seems to crave vestibular, tactile, and proprioceptive input. Activities like swimming, playing freeze tag, deep presusure massages, blowing bubbles, chewing gum, finger painting, swinging, and jump rope are all good safe ways a person can receive the needed sensory input. Everyone's needs are different and unique, and should be treated as such. Decompressing after or between activities is a good way to not overwhelm your child or avoid a sensory overload. Here are some activities I've found to be fun, useful, and work for us.
Playdough is a fun and versatile tool you can use to help improve your child's motor planning, muscle strength, fine motor skills, and also help provide the sensory input your child craves. Certain tasks like learning to write, buttoning a shirt, and using scissors, all require a certain level of fine motor skills. Allowing your child to practice rolling, squishing, twisting, and cutting playdough are great ways to work on building strength in their hands, and help improve hand dexterity, used to complete certian fine motor tasks. Playdough also can be used as a sensory tool for your child. Letting you child freely squish, smell, flatten their play dough can help calm and restore balance by fulfilling the sensory input they desire. Play time with playdough is a simple way to provide proprioceptive and tactile input.
A quick and fun activity, you and your child can enjoy together is making your own playdough. We used diynatural.com 's recipe and had great results. The recipe only uses three simple ingredients; water, salt, and flour. The playdough only takes about ten minutes to make, and easy enough for your child to lend a helping hand. For storage, a dry and cool place works best. We keep ours in a mason jar, a ziplock bag works just fine too. Playdough is not recommended for children under 2 because it poses threat as a choking hazzard.
Playing at the park offers so much more than just time for your child to run around outside. For some it's a key part to a successful sensory diet. A sensory diet is a set of activities done regularly in order to help regulate, smooth out, regroup, or prevent a sensory overload. You can work with an Occupational Therapist and develop a sensory diet that meets your child's needs. An OT can introduce new activities, create goals, and offer helpful tips for your child's specific needs. A child with sensory seeking behaviors require a lot of sensory input. For children who are under responsive to stimuli, a the park can provide a safe place for your child to run, jump, spin, be in constant motion, and help build body awareness. A person who is hypo sensitive to their environment may 'seek' in various ways and be particularly interested in lights, sounds, smells, movement, taste, and colors. Other seeking behaviors such as licking, smelling, touching, pushing, spinning, splashing, gazing, aggressive play, and struggling to sit still. We go to the park regularly, every day if we can. At the park Olive is free to hang upside down, roll down hills, swing, skip, and jump. At times she'll rotate through these activities over and over again, unless she's on the hunt for a new friend.
Realistically you can't always go to the park, and you're not always going to have the necessary supplies for arts and crafts, which is why we love our koala crate. Koala crates are one of the many boxes you can subscribe to receive monthly from Kiwici.com. Each crate promotes hands on learning while focusing on STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, art, and math.) and offer age appropriate crafts for your little one. The ages range from 0-3 months, 0-36 months, 4-5 years old, 5-8 years old, 6-11 years old, and 9-16+. Each crate includes 2-3 creative activities, the necessary materials, a parent guide, a copy of that month's IMAGINE! magazine, and other DIY ideas for the whole family.
Each activity is a learning experience that will entertain and engage your child.
Yesterday we created two different crafts from the month's koala crate, themed 'glowing nature'. It included 3 crafts, a mushroom lantern, a glowing bug, and a glowing jelly fish game. All of the materials are great quality and the crafts are simple enough that my children can do a majority of the work on their own. I highly recommend these crates for a gift or just something you and your child can do together.