When my son, Everett, was about 18 months, we started noticing little things. Screaming when we would try to cut his nails, full on meltdowns when we tried to cut his hair. I assumed that these were just phases and normal toddler behavior. Then he started to refuse to wear certain shoes and pants, and would cry if his socks weren’t on just right. He began to jump off of furniture and crashed to the floor, and would run at us and walls at full speed to feel the crash sensation.
By the time he was two, I had to admit that this wasn’t normal behavior and began to seek out interventions else where. His pediatrician agreed that his behavior wasn’t normal and we were set up with a referral at the Witwer Children’s Therapy Center. There, the Occupational Therapist confirmed that my son did indeed have some sensory type issues and we began to implement more things into our home to compensate for them.
We now have an arsenal of toys and items in our home that I feel really helps Everett deal with his sensory issues and with his big feelings. I wanted to share our list with hope that other parents with kiddos with tactile sensitivity or other sensory processing difficulties may get some ideas on things to incorporate in their own homes!
We bought a mini trampoline for Everett’s second birthday and it’s been one of the most well used items in our household. It’s used as a way to get rid of excess energy, it’s danced on, jumped on, and sat on. My son will also use it as a way to work out some of his frustrations and when he’s getting tense. It’s been a great outlet for him. I will also say that this item has helped Everett with his counting skills, as we often will have him jump 10 times when he’s getting mad or tense. You will often catch him on it bouncing happily away counting as he does so.
I made a bunch of these when he was young and they have grown with him. They are kind of heavy, so he likes to carry them around the house. He also likes to shake them and watch the glitter settle. We will often try to hand him one of these when we want him to calm down. It’s usually distracting enough for him to gather his thoughts. We have started to fill up bottles with rice as well and have hidden small items in them. It’s become an “I Spy” type game. He loves to roll the bottle to see what is in there.
This has become a great place for Everett to both play in and hide in when he gets overstimulated. We bought the castle one from Ikea and it’s been well-loved. Now that he is older, he not only will seek it out when he feels as if everything is too much for him, but he as also started to do a lot of pretend play with it. Sometimes he will fill the space with pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals and just lay in there with it all and a book. It’s great.
Our occupational therapist actually set us up with these toys. We have a harmonica and an airplane whose propellers will go when it’s blown. I’ve also seen it called an airplane whistle, but it has no sound (thank heaven). We’ve used these as a way for Everett to use for breathing techniques. It wasn’t enough to just ask him to take a deep breath as he didn’t get the concept yet. These tools allow him to see what a deep breath is. This will help him understand later what a great coping mechanism deep breaths are! I will be the first to admit that I have hidden the harmonica on occasion.
I’ve had a yoga ball in the house since I was in my third trimester with Everett. It has since become a great item to use with him to give him deep pressure. When he asks for squeezes, sometimes we will have him lay down and gently but firmly press the ball on him and roll it up and down. He loves it. We also will help him lay on the ball Superman style and roll him in circles. An additional bonus is that both of my boys like to run up and down the hallway chasing it.
Weighted Lap Mat
At times, Everett can very much be an introvert just like his mama. Yet he also wants pressure and weight. We have found that a weighted lap mat is great to use in these moments. We will often lay it on him when he’s hanging out in his tent and he wants alone time. It has also been used when he gets fidgety and needs to sit still for a short time. The weight is enough to soothe and calm him. This item is also one that Everett seeks out when he wants pressure, but no people interaction.
Sensory Table/Water Table
A water table is really great now that the weather is warm. Both boys will sit and play at ours for hours. They like the way that the water feels and they like all of the cool things that is in the table. This obviously isn’t the easiest to do in the winter. One, it’s super cold, and two, no one wants to mop up tons of water. In the winter, fill up the table with items such as rice or sand. That way your child can still explore with their hands, but the clean up is a wee bit easier. Everett likes to have things hidden in the rice and likes to dig through and find them!
All of these things have made for a happier sensory-seeking kid, for sure. However, I feel like any kiddo would like the items on this list! There are so many other things that we have also incorporated into our home to help with the sensory issues, but these have been our go-to!
What kind of sensory activities does your child like to engage in? What are your must have items?
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