Many children coping with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) have high sensory issues requiring high, specific and regular sensory input throughout the day. It can be challenging finding activities that not only engage children, but also consider each of their needs, abilities and interests.
Whether a child has sensory issues or not, he still needs his eight senses tapped into from time to time. That’s how most people figure out what they like, what their bodies can do and how certain sensations make them feel. Here are five great activities and games to try:
Shaving Cream Finger Fun: This may be a difficult interactive activity at first for children with a highly sensitive tactile system. But it is a wonderful way to help work on these sensitivities in a fun way. The child can smear it on the balcony or window, on the kitchen table, on an easy-to-clean part of the floor, or even in a designated pan. The child is encouraged to use her imagination by telling stories while she plays, creating little pictures or characters out of the foam or even smearing to the beats of a song.
Tip: This activity can be overwhelming for many coping with SPD, especially if the shaving cream has a strong scent. Start off slowly with a non-scented variety, allowing the child the option of using a tool of some kind to poke it or play with it. Then gradually let her get closer to the cream until she’s shoving her hands right in there. Eventually, you can even try different scents.
Tennis Ball Man: This is a great game for increasing hand/finger strength, eye/hand coordination and fine motor skills. Using a regular tennis ball, slice a mouth, preferably around the area where the brand name is stamped. That’s his ‘moustache’. The child can draws a face on him in permanent marker. Then Tiddly Wink type of chips are used to ‘feed’ the Tennis Ball Man by squeezing the ball with one hand while ‘feeding’ him with the other.
Vibrating Pen Pictures: Many children with sensory issues find vibration comforting. It helps with body awareness and ‘wakes up’ the hand/finger joints for children who need a bit more proprioception and vestibular input. These special pens can be found at many novelty, craft or specialized party stores. They come in many sizes, colors and varieties or even with multi pen tips. Plus, most of them have settings for the intensity of the vibrations.
P.U.: This is a fabulous board game that taps into the olfactory (smell) system. I can be found at most game or toy stores and if it isn’t offered, it is relatively easy to create a personalized version using smelly stickers. Each person chooses a token, rolls the dice, then sees to can get to the end of the maze first. Along the way there are various spots where players pick up scratch and sniff cards with ‘Good’, ‘Bad’, or ‘Mystery’ smells. If a guess is correct, the player gets another turn. There are also times where the person has to name a stinky/yummy/spicy/etc. smell.
Animal Dice: This is a game that is often worked into an occupational therapist’s program. There are sets of these dice already made at specified toy stores, but it is fun to create personalized versions. Cut a piece of cardstock or other heavy paper into a T-shape, having three squares across and four down. Fold the sides of the top of the T up, then fold the bottom of the T around until it makes a dice. A good amount of tape, or staples should work to hold it together. After that, children can choose six animals with interesting moves such as snakes, rabbits or frogs, elephants, horses, crabs, turtles, etc. Find pictures of these animals, then glue them onto the dice. To play the game, each person takes a turn rolling the dice, then everyone does their very best impression of the animal shown. Not only does this game get bodies moving, it taps into every sensory system including coordination, muscle strength, body awareness and balance. Try doing it to music or playing a move and freeze type of version.
A child doesn’t need to have sensory issues or SPD to enjoy these wonderful activities. On top of all the wonderful sensory benefits these games offer, it also gives siblings a chance to bond, connect and play together. And that’s the best bonus there can be.