Practical OT Activities for Home – Part 2

Children who struggle with sensory processing may have trouble interpreting sensory information correctly in order to make an appropriate response. They may cry from too much noise in the classroom. Or they may get very irritated by a seam or tag on their clothes. An Occupational Therapist can help with an assessment and recommendations to help with your child’s sensory processing.

This second post in our blog series includes practical ways to improve your child’s sensory processing in the following:

  • Proprioception
  • Vestibular Processing
  • Tactile Processing
  • Oral Sensory Processing

PROPRIOCEPTION

What Is It?
Proprioception is the ability for joints and muscles to know where they are in space in relation to the body and the environment.

Strategies to Help

  • Incorporate proprioceptive activities in your daily routine. Examples could be:
    • Sweeping or vacuuming
    • Wiping tables
    • Packing a backpack
    • Carrying a laundry basket full of clothes
  • Provide opportunities for weight-bearing activities or working against gravity to improve awareness for joints and muscles

Activities to Try

  • Jumping activities:
    • Jumping into a crash pad
    • Jumping in a zigzag pattern
    • Hopscotch
    • Jumping with a ball or balloon between the knees
    • Jumping on a trampoline or on a mattress
  • Animal walks:
    • Crab walk
    • Bear walk
    • Bunny hops
    • Frog jumps
  • Carrying heavy things
  • Crawling
  • Push-ups or wall push-ups
  • Handstands, cartwheels, or somersaults
  • Obstacle courses – crawling under, over, through, inside, or on top of various obstacles
  • Wheelbarrow walk
  • Tug of war
  • Playground:
    • Monkey bars
    • Climbing a ladder or rope
  • Playing with balls – larger, slower, lighter balls to smaller, faster, heavier balls
  • Playing in a garden or sandbox
  • Arm wrestling

VESTIBULAR PROCESSING

What Is It?
Our vestibular sense is our body’s ability to detect the motion and position of our head and body. It is the sense that helps us maintain our balance.

Strategies to Help

  • Changing positions might help with vestibular input, such as changing from lying down to sitting up or standing
  • Help children get used to linear movements (up, down, left, right) before using rotational or circular movements
  • Introduce movements slowly to a child; don’t force them to do something they are uncomfortable with. Definitely stop if they exhibit signs of dizziness or nausea.

Activities to Try

  • Swinging:
    • Hanging upside down on monkey bars
    • Playground swings
    • Hammock
    • Playing games while swinging, such as throwing bean bags or balls at a target
  • Riding a bicycle
  • Play rowing game, rocking back and forth
  • Walking on a balance beam, across a log, or on a line
  • Rolling:
    • Down a hill
    • While wrapped in a blanket
    • Somersaults
    • Cartwheels
    • Over a large ball while laying on top of it
  • Jump rope

TACTILE PROCESSING

What Is It?
Our tactile sense provides us with input about texture and touch through our skin. Children who have trouble with the tactile sense might have tactile defensiveness, in which some touch sensations might cause a behavioral or emotional reaction.

Strategies to Help

  • Encourage playing with various textures and objects in a fun way
  • Make tactile experiences part of your daily routine. Examples could be:
    • Rubbing with a towel to dry off
    • Applying lotion after a bath
  • If your child has tactile defensiveness, introduce sensations gradually
    • Let your child control the amount of sensation they can tolerate
    • Start with less sensitive parts of the body, moving to more sensitive areas such as hands, face, and feet
    • Start with firm pressure, avoiding light touch/tickling at first

Activities to Try

  • Walking barefoot over various textures like sand, grass, gravel, and sidewalk
  • Playing with “messy things”:
    • Sand
    • Shaving cream
    • Finger paint
    • Dry rice or beans
    • Playdough
    • Slime
    • Powder
    • Arts and crafts (using glue)
  • Find hidden objects in a bowl of dry rice or sand
  • Guess objects in a box by feeling them (no looking!)
  • Massage with lotion
  • Drawing letters on your child’s back and letting them guess
  • Playing with pets
  • Playing dress-up with various types of clothes, hats, shoes, and accessories
  • Brushing **check with your Occupational Therapist about how to do this

ORAL SENSORY PROCESSING

What Is It?
Our oral sensory system in our mouth helps us to detect texture (soft, hard, chewy, crunchy), taste (sweet, sour, bitter, salty), and proprioception through our jaw.

Strategies to Help

  • For children who avoid oral sensory activities, start with firm pressure when brushing teeth, gums, and mouth
  • Playing with tactile sensory toys can help with oral sensitivities, too
  • Talk about food textures, smells, and colors without pressure to eat them

Activities to Try

  • Blowing:
    • Blowing bubbles
    • Whistles
    • Blowing up balloons
    • Playing with party blowers
  • Using vibrating toothbrush
  • Trying various types of foods – spicy, salty, sour
  • Drinking carbonated beverages
  • Chewing:
    • Crunchy foods (i.e., apples, carrots, pretzels, popcorn)
    • Gum
    • Chewy toys
    • Chewy foods (i.e., fruit leather, beef jerky, bagels)
  • Sucking/licking:
    • Drinking thick liquids through a straw (i.e., milkshakes)
    • Ice cubes
    • Drinking through a straw
    • Popsicles
    • Hard candies

How can I help you?