My daughter and son both have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). They each have specific needs in terms of the sort of sensory input each of their bodies crave, but both of them need a tremendous amount of vestibular and proprioceptive input. I’m not strong enough to play the rough-and-tumble games that gives them the input they each need, so we invented a few games they can play with their siblings and Dad. The key is to give your child the sensory input he needs in the most comfortable environment possible.
Here are a few of our games:
Daddy Crusher: In this game, Dad takes on a bit of a WWF persona. Dad needs his best wrestler voice on, making sure that the tone is okay with the child. The loudness was too much for my daughter at first. In a situation like this, Dad could say something like, “Nobody can beat the Daddy Crusher. Grrr!” from a bit of a distance, then run over and ‘wrestle’. Get her to push, pull, drag and hang. Dad could even (gently) squash her WWF ‘pin-down’ style. The only warning about this game, aside from the loudness aspect, is if you notice your child is getting too ‘up’, it’s time to stop and play something more calming.
Chair Tug-of-War: Get yourself a heavy rope or skipping rope. Position two chairs facing each other, then have each participant take an end. The goal is to try pulling the other person off of their chair. A warning for this game is to be sure the child has a good grip on the rope. If he has a weaker handgrip, have him wrap the end around his hand. And be sure to do a few practice tugs so he’ll understand to grip harder when the rope is being tugged.
Giddy-up Daddy: If you have a strong back, Dad, this is a fun game. Get down on your hands and knees and pretend to be a horse. Then take your ‘sensational’ kid for a ride around the house. Once he feels safe, you can always do a more
‘Bucking Buckeroo’ type of game. Again, be sure that the child has a strong enough grip to hold on, especially with bucking. If need be, put a belt or rope around your torso for him to hold onto and always do a few practice runs.
Scaling the Daddy Tower: Dad and the child stand facing each other. The child places her hands in yours, your palms facing down, hers up. Then have her walk up your front, flipping her over when she gets to the top. Always be careful that the arms don’t get twisted.
Sports My Way: Take out the basketball, kick the soccer ball, play catch–any of these are great for interaction, eye-hand coordination, muscle strengthening and so much more. They can be played inside or out (which is why we call it “Sports My Way.”)
Pool Noodle Soccer or Baseball: Pool noodles are super cheap and great fun. They are long, floppy and made of foam so they are fun to try maneuvering with and safe if you’re accidentally hit. Get a lighter, soft ball like a beach ball, balloon or Nerf ball then create a goal and try getting the ball into it (for soccer) or hitting it to run a base (for baseball).
Super-Duper-Daddy-Spin: Hold your child in an airplane position (your forearm should be under his torso, legs hanging over and other arm holding securely). Then start the engines of the plane (Brrrrrrrrrummmm), take off (whoosh) then spin! Just be careful that your child is a ‘seeker’ for such activities or she may be scared or, even worse, get sick!
These are just a few of the ‘sensational’ Dad games from our vault. If your child is highly tactile, Dad can adjust some of these games to respect a ‘no touch’ rule. For example, a highly tactile-sensitive child might like putting a blanket or pillow on top of Dad in the horse game before climbing on.
Just remember that many of these kids crave the muscle input, so games where they’re jumping, squeezing, rolling, etc. are great. And don’t forget to have the calm down activities right after. Whether with Dad or Mom, ‘sensational’ kids need that calm down time (eg: Hot Dog Game or Pizza Game. See description below.).
Good luck and have fun, Dads.
SIDEBAR: Hot Dog Game
This is a great ‘calm down’ activity, especially for children who have SPD. Many of these children feel comfort from being squeezed, hugged or massaged deeply.
For the Hot Dog Game, all you need is a blanket or comforter. Have your child lay on one end of the blanket/comforter. Your child is the ‘wiener’ and the blanket is the ‘bun’. Put her favorite ‘condiments’ on. The idea here is to give your child a deep massage so rub, squeeze and squish those muscles while you grate cheese on them, squeeze the condiments on or chop the onions or pickles to go on. After you’ve put on all the ingredients ‘eat’ the hot dog with big squishes.
Point to remember: Give the exact amount of pressure your child needs. Too little pressure can elicit negative feelings in tactile ‘avoiders’ while too much can hurt. Be in tuned with what his body needs. A good sign is if he cringes or moves away from you, the touch/pressure is too light.
Variations of this game can be the Pizza Game or Taco Game. Same tools, same idea, different ‘ingredients’. Use your imagination and have fun.