Being cooped up at home and having our normal routines disrupted is unsettling for all of us, but it can pose an extra challenge to those of us whose sensory systems require a little extra input to maintain their status quo.
When our sensory needs aren’t being met, it can cause us to feel like we’re bouncing off the walls, as well as making us feel agitated and on edge. Here I have included some stay-at-home friendly activities to help provide your child (or yourself) with the input you need to stay centered while stuck at home.
Implement a sensory routine:
When our typical routines are up-ended and we are at home and surrounded by distractions, it can make it difficult for us to concentrate on completing our school or work assignments. Try completing a visual schedule – either written or picture – with regularly scheduled movement and sensory breaks to help keep your child or yourself on track.
Think about all of our senses:
Think about all of our senses: Although we typically think of ourselves as having only five senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell), we actually have a total of eight.
The less frequently thought of senses are vestibular (the receptors for this sense are located in our inner ear and they detect the motion and position of our head in space), proprioceptive (the receptors are in our joints and muscles and they tell us where our body parts are in space and in relation to our other body parts), and our interoceptive sense (which allows us to recognize internal sensations, like whether we are hungry or full, hot or cold, etc. This sense also plays a role in how we recognize and process our emotions.)
- Light tag– This game requires two or more players, but the only supplies you need are a couple of flashlights. One or more players will shine their flashlight beams at the wall, ceiling, and furniture in a dimmed or darkened room, and whoever is “it” will chase down the beams with their own. Whoever’s flashlight beam gets caught by “it’s” beam is the next “it.”
- I-Spy– I-Spy and Where’s Waldo type hidden picture books are a great game for building a lot of important visual skills. You can also play I-spy in the home or backyard and take turns finding hidden objects.
- Dance parties– Put on some upbeat music and throw an at home dance party! Try listening to music from a different part of the world, or try to learn a new dance move. This not only provides the auditory system with great input, but also increases body awareness!
- Flavor detective game– Without looking, can your child tell what flavor of jelly bean they’re eating, or what kind of vegetable, or what kind of fruit? Have them guess what they think it is. If you have more than one kid, they can compete to see who is the best “flavor detective.”
- Messy play: Put on an apron or some old clothes and get messy! Scrounge around the house for different textures to explore. Some good ones are shaving cream, non toxic washable paints, pudding or applesauce, playground sand, smooth pebbles/decorative stones, water beads, dry rice or beans, etc. Just keep an eye out for the little ones who might be tempted to put these items in their mouth.
- Make slime: Homemade slime is usually a crowd pleaser with elementary school aged kids and older. Here is a link to one of my favorite recipes: https://www.thebestideasforkids.com/fluffy-slime-recipe/
- Pay attention: Take time to notice different smells around us. Stop and get a good whiff of your dinner as it’s cooking, or of a favorite scented lotion. Take an extra long sniff of your morning coffee or tea. Lavender, vanilla, and chamomile are calming scents, and peppermint and citrus scents are alerting and energizing.
- Outside play: Riding bikes, scooters, jumping on a trampoline, bouncing on therapy ball, and doing cartwheels and somersaults are great vestibular activities.
- Calming activities: A calming vestibular activities that can help your child relax is slow rocking in a rocking chair, glider, or on a therapy ball.
- Exercises: Exercises are a great way to give your body proprioceptive input. Try push ups, planks, jumping jacks, cross crawls, burpees, or even going for a jog.
- “Steam Rollers”: Have your child lie on their bellies on the floor and gently roll a therapy ball over their backs, legs, and arms with enough pressure to give them a good “squish.” Alternatives are a “kid taco,” were you wrap you kid tightly in a blanket and give them big bear hugs, or a “kid sandwich,” where they lie between two cushions and you give them firm but gentle squishes.
- Yoga: Yoga can increase our internal awareness of our body, breath, and emotions. There are many good yoga tutorials online for all ages. Cosmic Kids Yoga are fun yoga tutorials for children, and Yoga with Adriene has great tutorials for teens and adults.
- Feelings charades: Feelings charades are a great way to increase your child’s internal and emotional awareness. To play the game, you write down as many emotions (“happy,” “sad,” “frustrated,” “shy,” etc.) and body based feelings (for example, “hungry,” “full,” “sleepy,” “energetic,” “sick,” etc.) and take turns drawing cards and acting them out. It’s a great way to bring awareness to feelings and sensations that slip by unnoticed.
If you need a sensory break and find yourself at home with nowhere else to go, try some of the activities we’ve provided for your child or even just for yourself. As always remember that it is important to think about all of our senses–not just sight and hearing. Our eight senses can help us find peace in what seems to be chaos at times.
We wish you a safe and sensory-friendly social distancing! Lots of love from the CWJR family to your family.