Your At Home Sensory Diet Routine

Many children in the community have sensory needs. Though not every need is sufficient enough to warrant an Occupational Therapist to take on that child. Some challenging times during the day to get sensory seeking children to cooperate are during their morning and night routines as well as when you would like them to focus, like during mealtimes or during downtime where you would like them to read or complete a tabletop activity.

What is a sensory diet for your child?

Tabletop activities can be anything from coloring in a coloring book to competing Lego structures. Children with sensory needs usually require a sensory diet. A sensory diet is a group of activities that are unique to your child and the time of day they are completed. A sensory diet can assist children with attention, sensory arousal, responses, and calming techniques. A sensory diet utilized sight, hearing, touch, food textures, vestibular, and proprioception (vestibular addresses motions like spinning and jumping and proprioception address pressure given in the joints like stomping their feet). These will be different with each child because everyone may have a different reaction to certain textures, smells, tastes, sounds, etc.

Many children may also fall behind on their fine motor development especially since they aren’t participating in those daily activities they would during normal school hours. Again, this can be addressed without a therapist.

Here are some ways to help your child stay alert, calm, or work on fine motor weaknesses during these times of social distancing and isolation:

Some children have difficulty waking up in the morning because of the long night. To alert your child for the day you can utilize some or most of the items listed below, but be sure to not over-stimulate your child in the morning:

  • Listen to upbeat music with a strong beat to initiate dancing
  • Use vibration on the arms, hands, or back
  • Complete outside games or activities for around 20 minutes
  • Controlled spinning
  • Bouncing
  • Light touch
  • Crunchy breakfast
  • Cold beverage
  • Brighter lights/contrasting colors

*you should always complete some type of calming activity after alerting activities

Getting children to bed may be one of the harder tasks, especially when they don’t have a consistent schedule to follow. To calm your child and prep them for bedtime, use some of the techniques below:

  • Rocking
  • Low lit lights
  • Use a weighted blanket
  • Soft, slow music
  • Stress ball squeezes
  • Light/deep touch – depends on what the child finds relaxing
  • Hand fidgets
  • Sensory bins
  • Sound machine
  • Steam Rolling
    • Using a large rollable object and rolling it overtop your child while they are lying on their stomach. Use pressure that your child finds relaxing
  • Essential oils – depends on what the child find relaxing

Fine motor strengthening is a major part of a child’s education. They are constantly writing, cutting, manipulating, and forming many things in the classroom. Here are some exercises you can complete at home to continue your child’s progress at home:

  • Theraputty play or exercises
    • Can use play-doh, bread dough, modeling foam or clay, kinetic sand, etc
  • Interlocking construction blocks/toys
    • Mega blocks or Legos
    • K’nex
    • Pop beads
    • Linking chains
  • Clothespin games
    • Color the clothespins certain colors and place in a certain order
    • Place clothespins on increasing or decreasing width objects
    • Picking up small objects with a clothespin
  • Hole Puncher
    • Punch holes alongside a strip of paper a certain distance away from each other
    • Increase the thickness of paper
    • Use hole punch clippings to make a project
  • Squeeze toys/objects
  • Pinch Strengthening
    • Tongs, tweezers, chopsticks
    • Pick up beads, marbles, beans, pompoms, etc

These are only a few ideas on how to alter and/or calm your child and work on their fine motor skills at home. You can find many other ideas on Pinterest and Occupational Therapy related websites. Completing a sensory diet at home can greatly improve your child’s sensory coping skills and fine motor development. I hope you all can find some use out of this information to further help your child develop during this time of quarantine and social distancing.

Brianna Arens, Occupational Therapy Assistant Student of Lake Area Technical Institute

You can contact me at my Facebook profile: Brianna Arens or my email address bri12are@hotmail.com.

Kelly Jaderborg