WHAT IS SENSORY?
"Sensory" refers to all of our senses. I'm sure you already know our five "main" senses, such as sight (vision), smell (olfactory), hearing (auditory), taste (gustatory), and touch (tactile). But did you know we also have three more? They are proprioception (kinesthesia), vestibular and interoception. Proprioception refers to the body's ability to recognize its place in space. Vestibular refers to the parts of the inner ear that relate to controlling balance and eye movements. Interoception refers to the body's ability to understand and feel what's going on inside your body such as hunger, thirst, pain, body temperature, nausea, etc.
Believe it or not.. we ALL have sensory quirks. For example, one of my sensory quirks is that I am sensitive to proprioceptive input. I do not like the grocery store on Sundays because I don't do well in crowds. I avoid things like weighted blankets and super tight clothing because it makes me feel agitated. I don't like hard, crunchy foods like sourdough pretzels because they irritate my jaw joints.
Now that I've shared my sensory quirks, does this mean that I need sensory intervention, or that I have a sensory disorder? Of course not! The fine line refers to whether or not sensory needs are able to be met, or if they interfere with the ability to function in every day life.
Now that I know these sensory quirks about myself, I can do things to help support my sensory needs. I can arrange to go to the food store when I know that it isn't going to be as crowded or overwhelming. Or, if I have to go into the food store on a busy Sunday afternoon, I can wear headphones with my favorite music to help calm that uneasy feeling that I have. This is just one example of how to adjust to my own sensory needs.
My goal with everyone I interact with is to help them identify what sensory quirks they have and how to best address their needs in order to function successfully.
Here is a list of 23 Sensory Play Activities that you can create right at home!
*SHOUT OUT to HELPING HANDS OT for creating a TON of sensory activities for home!*
For more info, please visit their website www.helpinghandsot.com or their Instagram page @helpinghandsot
Make homemade playdough – There are TONS of recipes online (shout out to Pinterest) to make your own playdough. If your child puts inedible things in their mouth frequently or has specific allergies, find a recipe that safe and non-toxic for them.
Sidewalk Chalk – Draw a picture, color a rainbow, practice letters/numbers/shapes, or play hopscotch!
Paint Outside – Imagine the sensory experiences of not only painting with your hands, but doing it outdoors to get sensory input from all areas. If your child is resistant to painting with hands, this can be modified to using paint brushes, spray bottles, etc.
Cars and Painters Tape – Make “roads” with painters tape and incorporate obstacles (i.e. shaving cream pile ups, water downpours, paint explosions, etc. Just imagine the possibilities of sensory play!
Food Dye Art – Add food dye to spray bottles or medicine droppers and have fun mixing colors! You can change the color of ice cubes, napkins, paper, water cups, etc.
Lego Bath – First of all, legos are already one of the coolest fine motor activities out there. How to step it up a notch? Throw the legos in the bathtub! (*Be sure to allow time for the legos to fully dry after use to prevent the build up of mold or other yucky things.)
Fake Snow Sensory Play – Add ice to a high speed blender and blend until you have ice shavings that imitate “snow.” Pour into a waterproof container and throw in your favorite action figures, snow mobiles and princess for some “snow” play. (*Again, be sure to let all supplies dry completely after use.)
Jello and Cars – This one takes a little more time to prepare, but did you LOVE the feeling of touching jello as a kid? Imagine PLAYING in it! That’s right. Throw those hot wheels in the jello to amp up the tactile input.
Rice and Bean Sensory Play – It is SO easy to make a sensory bin. Take any kind of dried foods you have like rice, beans, lentils, etc. Throw in some scoopers and cups and you have an activity any child is sure to love!
Couch Cushion Hop – Line up the couch cushions and create the ultimate jump zone and obstacle course! What a great way to incorporate proprioceptive AND vestibular input!
Scavenger Hunt – Grab a basket, container, bag, etc. and go on a nature hunt! Look for specific items, colors, etc. to make it fun and exciting! Here is a link to an Outdoor and Indoor scavenger hunt!
Playdough Letters – Adding sensory aspects to everyday learning is the BEST! Roll playdough into “snakes” to form letters for added practice!
Bean Math – Pour dry kidney beans into white rice or sand. Roll a dice and pinch and pull out that many dry kidney beans. Make it into an imaginative play game (“Save all of the red ants!”)
Spray Bottle Art – This is SO fun! Add paint and water to a spray bottle and spray onto paper towels, paper or the sidewalk!
Matching Socks – Don’t you love the feeling of warm clothes right out of the dryer? What a great sensory idea! Have your child sort socks right out of the dryer. Not only does it create a calming sensory experience, it’s such a great way to work on self-help skills!
Water pouring – This is so easy to create and is such a great sensory task. Create water pouring stations in the bathtub, in the sink, outside, etc. Incorporate all kinds of toys/manipulatives that are motivating for your child to play with.
Window Markers – Color pictures or work on letters/numbers/shapes with window markers. Where’s the sensory aspect in that, you ask? When they’re done, let them wash their creativity away with a wet cloth or rag. This is GREAT for fine motor coordination, strengthening, tactile input and proprioceptive input!
Obstacle Course – There’s nothing better than a homemade obstacle course. Use anything you can think of! Water bottles to weave in and out of. Pillows to jump over. Scarves to pick up along the way. Be creative!
Build A Fort – Create a homemade fort with blankets, pillows, chairs, etc. For added sensory input, put battery operated lights inside with your child’s favorite books and light up toys.
Baby Doll Wash – It’s so important to clean your children’s toys frequently, as they can contain SO many germs that build up over time. Why not let your kiddos help? Let them wash their baby dolls (or any other toys) in a water sensory bin or bathtub!
Lego Color Sort – Hide legos in sand, shaving cream, cereal, etc. Encourage your child to dig their hands in and find the legos. Once they find them, they can sort them by color! Want to make it even more challenging? Have them pick up the legos with tongs!
Gardening – Involve your kiddos in tasks like gardening! It’s a great sensory experience. For kiddos that have a harder time touching dirt, allow them to wear gloves. Encourage digging, planting, sorting, watering.. All kinds of fun stuff!
Folding Towels – Folding towels straight out of the dryer is another way to incorporate sensory input in everyday tasks. Learning how to fold is a great life skill and also promote sequencing skills! Want to make it easier for your kiddo? Start with smaller towels like dishtowels and wash cloths. Apply stickers to corners to help match up corners for folding!