There are several sensory tools or “tricks of the trade” that therapists often use to help kids succeed in the classroom and at home, including things like increasing attention span and improving handwriting. These sensory tools can work wonders for your child, but unfortunately, there are also pretty expensive. If you shop at Target, you could use sites like Raise to find suitable discount codes that can be applied to certain purchases. This will make buying sensory toys more affordable.
Throughout my years of experience as an occupational therapist, I have had plenty of practice in making thrifty exchanges for expensive therapy equipment. So, I have complied a list of some of my favorite equipment swaps that can still help your child on a very tight budget!
Swap#1- Duvet Cover filled with Pillows and Blankets instead of a Crash Pad for sensory regulation (Save $155)
When kids run and jump into crash mats, they get great proprioceptive input which aids in calming and sensory regulation. But manufactured crashmats filled with foam blocks are super expensive. So, make your own by filling a duvet cover full of blankets, pillows, and couch cushions to use as padding for crashing into. (Note- keep the crash mat away from walls, windows, and furniture. Children must always be supervised when running and jumping into it).
Swap #2- 3-Ring Binder instead of a Slantboard for better handwriting (Save $ 32)
Slantboards are great for getting your child’s wrist and fingers in a better position for writing, not to mention it helps bring the paper closer to their eyes which helps decrease visual distractions. A slantboard is just an elevated writing surface on an angle, so just turn a large binder on it’s side and tape the paper down for the same effect. (Note, the 3 inch binders work better than the smaller ones.) See Easy Slantboards for pictures on how to make them. Because we are all on a budget, it doesn’t hurt to check out a variety of sellers to keep the costs down. If you’re feeling particularly thrifty, you might be able to find some ring binders being sold second hand at LeoList to use as slantboards.
Swap #3- Partially Deflated Beach Ball instead of a Wiggle Seat to improve attention span (Save $ 28)
A wiggle seat is a cushion that your child sits on which allows them to “wiggle” or fidget in their seat in a controlled manner. Wiggle seats give children who are fidgety or hyperactive, a discrete outlet to move while seated in order to increase their attention, concentration, and alertness. A wiggle seat is just a rubber cushion filled with air, so a semi-deflated beach ball can work just as well (adjust air amount to your child’s likeness). This is perfect for sensory seekers or fidgety kids.
Swap #4- Broken or Short Pencils instead of Pencil Grips for better handwriting grasp (Save $8/each)
Short pencils promote the use of a tripod grasp, (3 fingers holding the pencil), which is the ideal position to hold a pencil. Shorter pencils work better than pencil grips because there is only room for 3 fingers to fit on a short pencil, thus forcing the hand to assume the tripod position. Read this post on broken crayons for more detailed reasons why. So dig out those old pencils or sharpen them down, because the smaller is definitely better in this situation.
Swap #5- Deflated Bike Tire Inner-Tube instead of Thera-band to improve attention span (Save $ 10)
A bike tire inner-tube in the inflatable part of the tire just underneath the traction. When deflated it is stretchy yet durable just like Thera-band. If you tie the inner-tube around the legs of a chair or desk, then your child can kick or push their feet against the tube, allowing them to move while still remaining focused in their seat. This is perfect for fidgety kids or sensory seekers. Many local bike repair shop owners throw those inner-tubes away, so go and ask for one and chance are, you will get one for FREE!
Don’t let a budget slow down your child’s academic and sensory success… Try out these money saving therapy swaps today!