The Best Activities to Help with Sensory Processing

sensory processing disorder

Depending on which sensory system your child has difficulty regulating, they can demonstrate different types of symptoms.

Children with sensory seeking symptoms have sensory systems that crave input. In order for them to feel internally settled, they engage in actions that will provide a great deal of input to their systems. 

  • May engage in rough play, such as kicking, rolling, hitting objects, etc. 
  • May appear hyperactive and have difficulty sitting in one position 
  • May appear to have a lack of body awareness 
  • Chews on objects or clothing 
  • May enjoy spinning in circles
  • Can appear clumsy, might often bump into walls or other people 
  • Enjoys loud music and noises
  • Likes to use hands and wants to constantly touch objects in environment 

Children with sensory avoiding tendencies are oversensitive to certain sensory stimuli within their environment. These stimuli become overwhelming and so they will find ways to avoid it. 

  • May dislike certain clothing fabrics, textures, or tags 
  • Avoids loud music or loud noises  
  • Is bothered by certain textures on hands 
  • Is bothered by certain tastes or food textures 
  • Doesn’t like to engage in movement, may withdraw from physical activities 
  • May exhibit poor fine motor skills (writing, fastening buttons and zippers, tying shoelaces, etc.)

The term registration refers to how a person registers or takes in the stimuli around them. If a child has difficulty with registration, this means they are having difficulty noticing or being aware of the sensory occurrences around them. Basically, their brain and body are not processing the number of stimuli from the environment that it should be. 

  • May appear aloof or as if they are unaware of their surroundings 
  • May take a while to respond to their name or respond to directions
  • May not notice errors in school work
  • Might have difficulty maintaining correct posture and may use excessive force when giving hugs, writing, throwing balls, etc. 
  • Exhibits poor body awareness or appears clumsy 

WHAT ARE TREATMENT OPTIONS TO ADDRESS SPD SYMPTOMS?

If a child is exhibiting any of the symptoms discussed above, it is important to seek out a formalized evaluation in order to receive a diagnosis. An occupational therapist (OT) is specifically trained to evaluate sensory processing concerns and can work individually with each child and family to implement treatment options.  

There are several different treatment options an Occupational Therapist might recommend, and this will be dependent upon many factors including the child’s unique sensory processing tendencies, family involvement, availability of equipment or tools, etc. The bottom line is that it is critical to have a child evaluated in order to determine the best treatment approach. Some treatment options might include: 

  • Working one-on-one with an Occupational Therapist in a sensory gym. An Occupational Therapist will assist your child by engaging in sensory-rich experiences so that their brain and body are receiving the needed input.
  • Establishing a sensory diet (prescribed routine of activities) in order to satisfy sensory needs throughout the day. 
  • Making accommodations to established routines in order to better serve sensory needs. For example, incorporating a five-minute movement break in the classroom before a seated activity. 
  • Incorporating sensory equipment into the child’s daily routine as a way to meet sensory needs. For example, using a weighted blanket or weighted lap pad during specific times of the day. 

Now that you know the different types of symptoms children could have with sensory processing disorder let’s take a look at different toys and activities you can do to help your child regulate their sensory system depending on which sensory system they are having difficulty regulating.

Tactile Sensory Activities:

  • Brushing – Brushing on body parts like hand or legs with crayons or chalk and then erasing with various textures.
  • Massage – body massage with lotions.
  • Sensory bins – which may include beans, oatmeal, water, sand, different types of textured items, etc.
  • Treasure Hunt – hide small objects in play Doh or to the tactile box to find with fingers.
  • Painting- outdoor with water, paint roller in bathtub, soap crayons.
  • Shaving Cream – to draw or blow
  • Face and body paints, temporary tattoos or stickers.
  • Blindfold games- pin the tail on the donkey.
  • Toys hidden in the sensory play materials.
  • “High fives” throughout the day.
  • Drawing in sand or salt.
  • Therapy tubing, therapy putty, balloons or rubber gloves filled with things like corn, flour, rice, etc.
  • Wheelbarrow walking over various surfaces.
  • Water beads
  • Instant fake snow
  • shaving cream finger painting
  • trace letters, shapes or numbers in salt
  • playdough
  • kinetic sand
  • cloud dough
  • fidgets
  • jump in a pile of leaves in the Fall
  • sculpt out of clay
  • make slime
  • water beads
  • play in the mud
  • finger paint with pudding 
  • bubble bath

Auditory Sensory Activities:

  • use noise reduction headphones
  • use a sound machine or white noise such as a fan or fountain
  • simplify language when giving verbal instruction
  • play clapping games (you can find great ones on YouTube)
  • read books with rhyming or repetitive patterns
  • snap, clap or stomp
  • play a sound discrimination game (near, far, loud, soft, high, low)
  • blindfold child and call out directions for them to find a treasure
  • audiobooks
  • play a game where you quietly sit and listen to find as many sounds as you can
  • listen to music
  • have your child learn to play an instrument
  • go for a walk and listen to sounds in nature
  • make instruments out of household items and have a marching parade around the house
  • teach your child to anticipate noises that may occur such as the sound a balloon will make when it pops
  • make a rainfall rattle together or rainfall sensory bottle
  • egg shakers can be held in the palm of the hand and provide a calming sound for some kids
  • use microphones or voice changers
  • play games such as “Simon Says” that involve following directions
  • pop bubble wrap
  • the steady tick of a metronome can be calming
  • add jingle bells, whistles, harmonicas, or plastic eggs filled with rice or popcorn seeds to sensory bins 
  • have them close their eyes and guess the sound (ripping paper, grinding coffee beans, popping popcorn)
  • play the telephone game where you whisper something and see if the message changes
  • drum patterns on the table with your hands and have your child copy the pattern
  • Neighborhood Listening Scavenger Hunt- Notice the sounds in the neighborhood.  Ask your child to locate or name the origin of the sounds as they walk around the neighborhood.  If the sound is too far away, ask them to name the origin.  During this activity, they need to discriminate between sounds.
  • Auditory Hide and Seek- Play a game of hide and seek with sounds.  The child that is searching for kids can make a call and each hider responds with their own sound.  The person who is looking for others can determine who is making the sounds they hear and locate each child one at a time.
  • Listening Tag- Play a game of tag in the backyard as children race to tag one another.  When the person who is “it” comes near another person, they can tag a person unless the runner sits on the ground and makes a noise.  When the child sits, they are on “base” and safe from being tagged. They can stand up again when the child who is “it” makes the same noise.  

Oral (taste) sensory activities:

  • blow bubbles (lavender bubbles are extra calming)
  • chew bubble gum
  • bubble painting
  • keep a feather in the air across the room
  • drink a thick milkshake or smoothie through a straw
  • whistle
  • learn to play on a recorder
  • play a harmonica
  • party blower
  • “suck it up” (pick up small objects by sucking through a straw)
  • drink through a curly straw
  • wear chewlry
  • try crunchy foods (carrot sticks, apples…)
  • try chewy foods (marshmallows, gummy bears…)
  • make an edible necklace with cheerios and string liquorice 
  • suck on hard candies (not safe for young kids)
  • try candy that is fizzy, spicy, tangy, sweet, or sour
  • blow up a balloon
  • blow out candles
  • use a vibrating toothbrush
  • whistle or hum
  • lick cold ice cream
  • drink through a sports bottle
  • blow a pinwheel
  • use a firm toothbrush to brush teeth, gums, roof of mouth

 Visual Sensory Activities:

  • use visual schedules 
  • I-Spy books or pages
  • Sensory bottles
  • Sensory bags
  • reducing clutter
  • using toy rotation
  • mazes
  • sensory bins
  • I-Spy bottles or bags
  • making shadow puppets on the wall
  • shape matching games or activities
  • photo scavenger hunt
  • color mixing activities
  • road trip bingo
  • color matching activities
  • glow sticks
  • lava lamp
  • puzzles
  • prism
  • kaleidoscope
  • spraying a target with a water gun
  • exploring with a magnifying glass
  • drawing or painting or crafting
  • light table or light box play
  • find or copy patterns

 Olfactory Sensory Activities:

  • smelling different types of food
  • Scented bubbles
  • Scented playdoh
  • Scented sensory bins
  • bath salts
  • scented slime
  • essential oils
  • make cinnamon ornaments
  • use scented rice, beans, or salt in sensory play
  • scented sensory paint
  • Scented cloud dough
  • scratch and sniff stickers
  • smelly markers
  • take a walk and explore the smells in nature
  • scented chalk paint
  • finger painting with pudding or pumpkin pie filling 
  • play a guessing game with scented candles
  • use chapstick with different smells
  • match pictures of foods to their smells
  • use a spice (like cinnamon) to create a writing tray
  • scented fidget toys or chewelry
  • chew scented bubble gum
  • taste and smell different foods
  • strong smells help with alertness (lemon, peppermint, pine)
  • softer smells help with calming (lavender, chamomile)

 Vestibular Sensory Activities (movement and balance):

  • spin or twirl
  • play Ring Around the Rosie 
  • play Duck-Duck Goose
  • cartwheel
  • summersault
  • rock climbing wall
  • parachute play
  • trampoline
  • bike or tricycle riding
  • run in large circles
  • jump rope
  • have a marching parade
  • ride a scooter
  • dancing
  • teeter totter
  • log rolling
  • dancing
  • spinning chair
  • bounce on an exercise ball
  • swinging
  • do handstand
  • obstacle course
  • swing in a hammock
  • climbing and sliding at a playground
  • do the Hokey-Pokey

Proprioception Sensory Activities:

  • jump
  • hang upside down
  • tight hugs
  • push a laundry basket full of books or heavy items
  • crab walk
  • “wheelbarrow” games
  • pretend to be a snake
  • rolling a ball
  • chewing bubble gum
  • chewlry
  • theraband activities
  • chair sit-ups or wall push-ups
  • play Twister
  • hopscotch
  • trampoline games
  • wearing tight fitting clothing
  • yoga stretches
  • put theraband on chairs for swinging legs
  • pillow fights
  • stacking books or wood or bricks
  • wearing a weighted vest or using a weighted lap pad

Below you can find a link to our products that can help with different types of sensory input. Our most popular items including water beads, weighted lap pad, and swing.  

https://sensoryjungle.com/collections/all?page=1

These are just some activities you can do with your child to help regulate their sensory systems. There are so many other fun activities! Now that you have some ideas see what you can come up with together!

sara bryson occupational therapist

The Best Activities to Help with Sensory Processing