Favorite Things Sensory Edition
As a pediatric occupational therapist, I am often asked to recommend equipment or activities that are the most beneficial for children. Because every child is so unique and different, there’s not a “one size fits all” approach to sensory tools. You may even find that a tool which worked for your child yesterday isn’t working today. So, the best approach is to load your “sensory toolbox” up with lots of different ideas to help calm, alert, or focus your child. I’ve put together my Favorite Things Sensory Edition, with the best sensory products and ideas to stuff your toolbox full of useful strategies!
Favorite Things, Sensory Calming Tools
1.Weighted Blankets- Weighted blankets are excellent to use for a better night’s sleep. They can also be used in the classroom or at home during stressful situations such as taking tests or changing routines. The weighted blankets work because they provide deep pressure input to the body which elicits a calming response and decreases anxiety.
2. Swings- Swings provide excellent vestibular stimulation which is vital for balance, spatial orientation, body rhythm, and sense of bodily security. Swings help to calm us if we feel anxious (usually by rocking back and forth slowly) or can alert us if we are sleepy (usually by swinging faster and in circles). Variations of swings can now fit into tight indoor spaces, and are much less expensive.
3. Body Sock- Body socks are great space savers that can be used virtually anywhere. They help individuals feel safe and secure, similar to being in the womb as a baby. The tightness and resistance that these body socks provide give proprioceptive feedback that elicits a calming response.
4. Therapy Balls- There are TONS of great sensory activities you can do with these therapy balls. Try these prone exercises over the ball, sit on them during work time, or try this calming cookie dough activity with them. They provide a host of benefits and are very versatile!
5. Sensory Tents- Sensory tents are tranquil spaces that help you “get away” from the stressors of your regular environment. The spaces create a break from a visually overwhelming environment and replace it with a more calming, relaxing environment. Add in some fluffy pillows, soft lighting, and comfy blankets to really make it a peaceful retreat.
Favorite Things: Sensory Tricks on the Go
1.Joint Compressions- Joint compressions are a great sensory trick to give kids some deep pressure input which helps to elicit a calming response. These can be done in a matter of seconds and can be done virtually anywhere without any equipment! Find out how to do it here
2. Headphones- Headphones are an excellent sensory tool for individuals who are sensitive to loud noises or are easily distracted by sounds. Noise cancelling headphones or headphones with music can both be very effective calming or alerting strategies. Plus, wearing headphones out in public is more mainstreamed than ever, so it doesn’t make an individual look “different”.
3. Oral Fidgets- Biting on your fingernails, chewing gum, or grazing on snacks can all be signs that you are expelling nervous energy through your mouth. Oral fidgets work by occupying your mouth to get rid of that nervous energy but in a healthier way than eating all day or destroying your fingernails.
4. Calming Clothing- For some individuals, having the sensation of snugly fitting clothing can be reassuring and calming as the skin receptors are constantly being activated to remind the body of where its at in space. This improved body awareness and sensory rich experience is great for those with ADHD, Anxiety, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Autism.
Favorite Things: Handheld Sensory Fidgets
1. Fidget Cubes– These fidget cubes are great because they are small enough to carry around without anyone noticing and also quiet so that they won’t be a distraction to others. There’s a different texture on each side so there’s something for everyone.
2. Fidget Twists- These fidget twists are like the never ending puzzle. They twist and turn in all sorts of ways for endless fidgeting. They are also quiet and can fit easily into a pocket or purse for easy transportation.
3. Fidget Spinners- These are extremely popular right now so using them doesn’t make you feel “different”. They help to expel nervous energy and can give perceived control to a person who feels they are in an “out of control” situation. They may not be for everyone though so find out if you are a good candidate to use these spinners here.
Thanks for checking out my Favorite Things Sensory Edition What’s your favorite sensory “go-to” tool? Leave a comment below to stock pile our sensory toolboxes! And stay tuned for more “Favorite Things” editions to come!