“All the sensory activities I see look great, but how do I get my kid to actually do them? He always fights me when I try”
I have read that statement a couple of times from friends this past week when discussing sensory activities. If that rings true for you as well, here are some things to try.
The timing of sensory activities is very important. If a child is in “meltdown mode,” it’s too late for anything to work, the child needs time to calm down on his own and regroup. The perfect time to introduce sensory activities is before the meltdown occurs….WAY before it occurs. Ideally, sensory activities will happen throughout the day and will become a natural part of the routine (remember how important routines are for avoiding meltdowns?) to help prevent meltdowns before they occur.
Set up a routine of different things you know your child enjoys. Go outside to play, have quiet reading time, explore textures in a designated play area, etc. Whatever your child likes, give opportunities for it throughout the day to help PREVENT meltdowns as much as possible.
Set up a Schedule
Build a routine around sensory activities. If being outside is the best for your child, create “outside time” as part of the daily routine. If its too cold or rainy outside, build a play place inside with pillows or couch cushions or something that will encourage jumping, spinning, and creativity. If brushing is something your child needs, build it into the routine so he know when to expect it. Adding it into the schedule is important, but don’t forget to make it fun!
The Value of Play
As a child development major I REALLY believe in the power of play. The more play is integrated into sensory activities, the more likely a child will be to take part in it willingly. If “brushing” is something you feel is necessary for your child, think of a song or a nursery rhyme to go along with it to make it fun and not feel as much like work.
If your child’s sensory needs are not being met through his/her daily play routines, introduce new sensory ideas as part of play time. Things like digging for dinosaurs in a rice bin (tactile stimulation), playing with a cup of flour while you are baking cookies (tactile stimulation), allowing your child to stir the cookie doh (heavy work), taking an exploration walk in nature (could meet many sensory needs), jumping on bubble wrap (vestibular, proprioceptive, and auditory) are all things that could be great sensory activities (depending on the needs/aversions of your child). Go to my pinterest page for more ideas of sensory play activities. The possibilities are limitless!
Talk about It
I personally have found the more I talk to my son about the way his body feels (I don’t talk to him during meltdowns…that is when I allow him some space to deal with his emotions) at different times. We talk about how different activities help him feel. He is to the point now where he will tell me “my body needs to swing.” It may just be an excuse for him to go into the garage and have some quiet time on the swing (yes, we have one in the garage because the weather in Oregon doesn’t allow for constant access to outside swings), BUT he initiates most of his sensory activities according to how he feels. It is empowering to him to know what his body needs and doesn’t need for sensory stimulation.
It is important to note that when discussing sensory differences with a child, it can be very effective to say words like “your body needs…” or “how does your body like …. (insert sensory activity)” or “what does your body feel when…(insert any kind of stimulation like showering, touching grass, chewing soft food, etc.).” This makes the situation more about “the body” rather than a direct reflection of your child and who he/she is. By directing comments and questions at the body it can help the situation be a little less threatening.
These are just a few ways I have personally found it helpful to add sensory activities into our days. What about you? What other tips could you offer?