As adults, we all use sensory activities to regulate our level of arousal every day. If we are having a hard time focusing, we might get up to pour ourselves another cup of coffee. If we are drowsy while driving, we might crank up the volume on the radio and crack a window to let some cold air in. For many kids, learning modulating strategies such as these comes naturally. Other kids need some guidance. If you have a child who needs help modulating, here are some simple sensory activities to try.
Calming Sensory Strategies
1. Sensory activities that provide deep pressure to the whole body are calming to the nervous system. Try rolling a large ball over your child while applying as much pressure as they desire. Don’t have a large ball? Pillows or couch cushions work too.
2. Help your child to set up a cozy corner behind a couch, under a table, or in the corner of his or her room. It should include pillows or a beanbag, a favorite blanket, a couple of books ,or a quiet toy to fidget with. Encourage your child to go to the cozy corner when he or she needs to calm down. The cozy corner shouldn’t be a punishment, like time-out, rather it should be used before negative behavior occurs but when you can see it coming. This is an independent sensory activity that will help the child learn to self-calm.
Alerting Sensory Strategies
3. Jumping is a sensory strategy that tends to rev us up. Encourage this type of activity when your child is doing more daydreaming than anything else during homework time or in the mornings if he or she struggles to get ready for school on time.
4. The Coffee Grinder is a fun, alerting sensory activity that doesn’t require any equipment. Have your child push up on one arm, if able, and walk their body around that arm. Once the child can do this easily, ask him or her to see how many times they can go around in 20 seconds. Switch arms and try again.
Just Right Sensory Strategies
5. Just Right sensory activities offer a lot of proprioceptive input, which is almost always helpful in getting us to the appropriate level of arousal. Crashing play can be accomplished in the home by allowing the child to jump from a small stool or child’s chair into couch cushions or a beanbag. This provides whole-body sensory input, which is organizing to the nervous system.
6. Cuddling is a sensory activity that has big emotional benefits as well! It is important to remember that not everyone enjoys cuddling the same way. Some kids like to be held firmly with deep pressure; others like a little space and might enjoy light back-scratching. Find what seems to be most beneficial for your child and offer this form of input when reading or talking at the end of the day.