Activities for kids with sensory processing disorder

My son’s ABA therapist let me borrow the book “The Out of Sync Child Has Fun: activities for kids with sensory processing disorder”. I asked on my facebook page if you guys would be interested if I posted some of the activities here and a lot of you said yes, so here they are!

Touch (The tactile sense)

Messing around with un-paint (developmental age range 2 to 7)
What you will need:
1. un-paint (shaving cream, bath foam, hand lotion, damp sand, or luscious mud)
2. Cafeteria tray, cookie sheet, or plastic placemat for each child.
3. Towels and wash up bucket of water.
4. Oilcloth or newspaper to protect table and floor.

What your child can do:
1. Press both palms into the un-paint and smoosh it around on the tray.
2. “Polish” fingernails and toenails with the un-paint, or rub it on arms and legs.
3. Draw or write letters, numbers, or shapes with a finger or several fingers.

Touch pantry (developmental age 2 to elementary schoolers)
What you will need:
1. Coffee cans
2. Turkey roasting pans or cookie sheets
3. Dry foods, such as beans, lentils, split peas, rice, oatmeal, cornmeal, pasta, popcorn, nuts
4. Foam letters and numbers and soft, small toys such as tiny koosh balls, plastic bears, felt finger puppets, or foam jigsaw puzzle pieces (at least 2 of each kind)
5. Tarp or shower curtain
5. Carton for storage

1. Fill cans about half full with dry foods
2. Bury little toys and foam letters in the food
3. Spread tarp on the kitchen floor under the cans, or take the cans outdoors where making a mess is no problem.
4. When your child has finished playing, put the lids on the cans and store them and the tarp in a carton for another day.

What your child can do:
1. Sift his fingers through the dry food, or stir it with a spoon.
2. Grope around with his fingers to find the toys and letters and try to identify them by feel alone (no peeking)
3. Pretend that the animal or people toys are diving, swimming, eating, seeking, and finding one another, and so on.
4. Walk barefoot in the material and pick up objects with his toes.

Benefits of the activity
1. Playing with dry food promotes tactile discrimination and feels good.
2. Playing with dry foods provides mild smell sensations for the over-responsive child.
3. Stirring with a spoon provides auditory and proprioceptive feedback.
4. Pretending the little toys are engaged in various activities strengthens visualization, social awareness, imagination, and playfulness.

Mummy Wrap (Developmental age range 5 to teens)
What you will need:
1. Medium weight, 50 yard length of latex-free, stretchy exercise band.

1. Wrap resistive band around the child like a mummy, from shoulders to ankles. As you wrap, be careful that the band is taut but not too tight. The more evenly you apply the pressure, the better.

What your child can do:
1. Walk and roll around.

Benefits of this activity:
1. Taut pressure from the resistive band organizes the tactile system and is both calming and regulating.

Balance and Movement (The vestibular sense):

T-Stool (Developmental age range 3 to adult)

What you need:
1. Two sections of a wooden 2by4 (For the seat of the stool, a piece about 12 inches long,and for the leg, a piece long enough to let the child sit with her feet square on the floor and her knees at aright angle.)
2. Two long wood screws.

1. Measure twice, cut once!
2. Screw the pieces of wood together to form a T-shape.

What your child can do:
1. Listen to a story– with keen attention!
2. Play rhythmic and musical games.
3. Sing up-and-down and body parts songs such as “clap, clap, clap your hands”, “Eensy weensy spider”, Head and shoulders, knees and toes”, “This old man, he played one”
4. Sit at a play table to eat snacks and to enjoy tabletop activities.

Benefits of this activity:
1. Sitting on a T-stool improves the child’s sense of balance. Balancing may be hard at first. Then, when the child discovers the tripod formula for positioning his body (two feet in front + the stool leg directly underneath), balancing becomes a triumph.
2. T-stool sitting improves body awareness and postural stability. Sitting tall and upright increases the ability to watch, to listen, to focus and attend.
3. Figuring out how to prop up a T-stool and to orient his body to sit on it improves motor planning.

Gentle Roughhousing (Developmental age range infancy to 6)
What you will need:
1. Soft ground surface, such as grass, sand, gym mat, carpet, or crash pad.

Gentle roughhousing activities:
1. Rowboat (Sit facing each other, legs in a “V”. Take each other’s hands. Press your toes or soles of your feet against your child’s. Sing “Row, row, row your boat” while pushing and pulling the “oars” (each other’s hands). “Row” forward and back as far as you can go.

2. Fox and gingerbread man (Kneel on a soft surface and have your child climb aboard your back. Creep forward a little bit. Then tip the child gently off your back. Pretend to take a big bite. “Yum! You are so delicious! I love you SO much!” Hug each other tightly)

3. Wheelbarrow walk (This one is good for proprioception, too. Have your child lie tummy-down, with her palms resting on the ground near her shoulders. If your child is little (age 3 or 4), place your hands under her thighs, just above her knees, and lift her legs-the “wheelbarrow handles”. Kneel or crouch to lower the wheelbarrow handles and keep her body almost horizontal. Increase the challenge for a kindergartner or older child by inching your hands closer to her ankles. As her muscle sense matures, she will be able to support more of her own weight. Hold her securely as she “walks” on her hands.

Benefits of these activities:
1. Changing head postition, defying gravity, maintaining balance, rocking-rhythmically, moving in different directions, and flexing and extending muscles are some of the moves that provide input to the vestibular system.
2. Deep touch pressure and joint pressure organize and calm the tactile and proprioceptive systems.
3. Assuming and holding different positions strengthen body awareness, muscular control, and postural security.

Body Position (Proprioceptive sense):

Crash pad (developmental age range 2 to teens)
What you will need:
1. Four flat sheets
2. Foam scraps from a reupholster or a surplus store, or old bed pillows.
3. For closure- zipper, velcro, or button thread.

1. To make the liner- Sew 2 sheets together on three sides, like a large cloth envelope. Fill the liner with foam scraps or pillows. Sew the fourth sides of the sheets together.
2. To make the cover- Sew the other 2 sheets together on 3 sides. If you can, sew in a zipper or velcro strips for easy removal and washing.
3. Stuff the foam-filled linder into the cover.
4. If you have not installed a zipper, baste the 4th seam with strong thread. When the cover needs a wash, these big stitches are relatively easy to remove.

What your child can do:
1. Leap from couch or bed onto the crash pad.
2. Stretch and roll on it.
3. Nap on it.
4. Lie tummy-down on a carpeted scooter and fall off onto the crash pad.

Benefits of this activity:
1. The jolt of landing on a crash pad provides deep pressure to muscles and joints, which is strong proprioceptive input.
2. Leaping toward the crash pad and rolling around on it provide vestibular input.
3. Rubbing against the fabric provides tactile input.

Plastic Bag Kite (developmental age range 3 and up)
What you will need:
1. Plastic grocery bag
3. Wide, colorful ribbon or crepe paper
4. Scissors
5. Stapler

1. Cut a length of string about 2 or 3 yards long.
2. Attach one end of the string to one or both handles or the plastic bag.
3. Cut ribbon or crepe paper into lengths about 1 yard long for streamers.
4. Staple streamers to bottom or the bag.

What your child can do:
1. Hold the free end of the string and run into the wind. The air will fill the plastic bag and keep it aloft.

Benefits of this activity:
1. Running into the wind is hard work and builds strong gross motor muscles, promotes kinesthesia, and improves bilateral coordination while keeping the runner warm.
2. Sensing when the bag is full or empty promotes proprioceptive awareness.
3. Stretching her arms to keep the bag up and tugging on it just right to keep it aloft improves grading of movement.

Box Sweet Box (for crawlers and up)

What you need:
1. Various cardboard boxes large enough for child to crawl in
2. Packing tape or duct tape
3. Scissors or craft knife (for adult use only)
4. Crayons, markers, paint, and stickers.
5. Optional: Flashlight.

1. Inspect boxes for sharp staples and remove them.
2. Decide what kind of box the child wants and needs:
– To make a cave- place box on its side and open one end. Put blankets, pillows, and books inside for a cozy place away from it all.
-To make a tunnel- open both ends.
-To make a playhouse- Stand a large box upside down and cut out a door and windows.
-To make a castle or maze of passage ways- connect several boxes together with tape, helping younger children if necessary.
3. Cut in extras such as window shutters, storefront awnings and counters, peep holes, escape doors, and openings in the top so the child can poke his head out to look around.

What your child can do:
1. Decorate boxes inside and out with crayons, markers, paint, or stickers.
2. Crawl into the cave for some quiet time.
3. Crawl through the tunnel and proceed to other pieces of equipment.
4. Play make-believe house, grocery store, castle, rocket, school, puppet theater, and so on.
5. Use flashlight to examine pictures drawn inside the big box.

Benefits of the activity:
1. Calculating how her body size relates to the big or small opening of the box helps her learn about body scheme and improve proprioception, motor planning, and kinesthesia.
2. Crawling in and through the boxes improves bilateral coordination.
3. Decorating the box with smelly crayons or markers stimulates the olfactory system.
4. Decorating the cardboard with crayons causes vibrations that stimulate the tactile and auditory senses.
5. Using a flashlight to locate pictures or stickers placed on the inside walls of a very large box strengthens visual discrimination.
6. The opportunity to rest in a small, quiet place calms and soothes the child for whom the environment can overstimulating.

Hold up the Wall (Developmental age range 3 to teens)

What your child can do:
1. Press her hands against the wall with all her strength, for about 15 counts or more.
2. Press other body parts against the wall such as, head and back, hips and shoulders, buttocks, feet.

Benefits of this activity:
1. Deep pressure nourishes the proprioceptive system and has a calming effect.
2. Pressing different body parts strengthens body awareness.
3. The preposterous premise of this activity gives kids the giggles, diffuses tension, and helps them feel in sync with their friends.

Seeing (The visual sense)

Pokin’ O’s (developmental age range 6 and up)

What you will need:
1. Marker
2. Toothpick or pen
3. Newspaper

What your child can do:
1. Using the marker, color all the O’s in a newspaper paragraph or page.
2. Poke a hole through the O’s with a toothpick or pen.

Benefits of the activity:
1. Scamming the printed page for O’s improves visual discrimination.
2. Pokin’ O’s improves eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, and fine motor skills.

Citrus Balls (developmental age range 2 to 6)

What you will need:
1. Several citrus fruits, such as a kumquat, lime, lemon, clementine, tangerine, orange, or grapefruit.
2. Bucket
3. Paper bag

1. Bring out the fruit and give your child the bucket
2. Set the paper bag or box, open side facing your child, on the floor.

What your child can do:
1. Name: Look at and handle the different varieties of citrus “balls” to get a feel for them. Identify them by name, perhaps with your help.
2. Put in Order: Order them by size or group them by color.
3. Count: Put the balls into the bucket. Count the pieces, both before and after playing with them (so none disappears under furniture)
4.Roll: sit on the floor and roll the fruit into the paper bag
5. Toss: Stand facing a partner and toss and citrus ball back and forth.

Benefits of the activities:
1. Naming and counting the fruit promotes visual discrimination, auditory memory, word retrieval, and early math skills.
2. Putting the fruit in order strengthens categorization and sequencing.
3. Aiming, rolling, and tossing the fruit strengthens basic eye-movement skills of focusing and tracking, as well as more complex eye-hand coordination and visual-spatial skills.

Hearing (The auditory sense)

Tapping Tunes (Developmental age range 4 to teens)

What you need:
1. A pencil to tap, hands to clap, or a drum to beat.

What YOU can do:
1. say, “I’m going to tap out the rhythm of a tune you know. Listen and tell me what the song is.”
2. Tap, clap, or drum the rhythm of a song your child knows well, such as “row row row your boat” or “I’ve been working on the railroad”.
3. When the child guesses correctly, tap, clap, or drum, and sing the song together.

What your child can do:
1. Guess the songs
2. Tap, clap, drum, or step to the rhythms.
3. Sing along with you.
4. Think of a tune and tap, clap, drum, or step its rhythmic pattern for you to guess.

Benefits of the activity:
1. Listening to the tapped rhythms improves auditory discrimination and beat awareness.
2. Connecting rhythmic patterns with words promotes auditory memory and association, as well as speech and language skills.
3. Using hands to tap, clap, or beat a drum provides tactile and proprioceptive input and improves bilateral coordination and grading of movement.
4. Matching body movements to rhythmic beats help the child internalize the patterns.

Smelling (the olfactory sense) and Tasting (the gustatory sense)

Smash and Smell (developmental age range 3 and up)
What you will need:
1. Flowers and other plants of different colors and smells:
-Pansies, petunias, violets, wild flowers, and three- or four- leaf clovers.
-Petals from marigolds, mums, geraniums, roses, and dandelions.
-Herb sprigs and mint tea sprigs
2. Tray
3. White construction paper
4. Rubber-tipped mallet
5. Newspaper to cover work surface if done inside.

1. Cover a sturdy table with newspaper, if necessary, or do the activity outside.
2. Together, pick and pluck flowers, preferably from your own pots or garden. Lay them on the tray.

What Your child can do:
1. Take a sheet of white paper and arrange flowers or herbs on it.
2. Place another sheet of paper on top of the flowers and herbs.
3. Gently, but firmly, hit the top paper with the mallet, smashing the flowers and herbs below so that the “juices” stain the papers.
4. Remove top paper and use fingers to push off any smashed petals and stems that may be sticking to it.
5. Smell fingers and paper and look at the pretty designs.
6. Later, use dried papers to wrap presents, make cards, mount in picture frames, share with friends, and send to Grandma.

Benefits of the activity:
1. Smelling the flowers and herbs stimulate the olfactory sense.
2. Touching, picking, and plucking the flowers and herbs promotes tactile discrimination and improves fine motor skills.
3. Arranging flowers improves visual discrimination and eye-hand coordination.
4. Using a mallet with one hand while the other hand stabilizes the paper, or rolling the pin with both hands, improves bilateral integration.
5. Hitting the working surface or pressing the rolling pin provides proprioceptive input and improves grading of movement.
6. Smashing the flowers provides auditory stimulation and releases tension.

Oral-Motor skills

Chewy Necklace (developmental age range 1 1/2 and up to chew and 3 to 7 to make the necklace)

What you need:
1. For a temporary necklace:
– Cheerios, or other “O” shaped cereal, gummy savors, apple and carrot chunks.
– Licorice strings.
2. For a permanent necklace:
– A feet of clear vinyl tubing (often called aquarium tubing) available at hardware stores. Cut into short sections.
– Rat tail cord (used for stringing beads for jewelery, available at craft stores) or dental floss.
3. Plastic tapestry needles, with large eyes and dull tips.
4. Sponge, to use as a pin cushion.

1. Cut cord into lengths of about 30 inches. Thread several needles with cord, because making one chain is often not enough.
2. Poke a prepared needles through a cheerio or tubing piece, and tie it at the end of the cord, like an anchor, to prevent the next pieces from sliding off.

What your child can do:
1. Pick up individual pieces of cereal or tubing with the nondominant hand, poke the needle through them, and pull them to the end of the cord.
2. Stop when about 6 inches of cord are left, to make it easy to knot the ends together.
3. Remove the needle and stick it into the sponge “pin cushion”

Benefits of this activity:
1. Exercising the muscles in the mouth used for speaking
2. Preventing drooling
3. Helping a child “get it together” because the mouth is a great organizer.
4. Calming and relieving anxiety.
5. Selecting, poking, and threading the edible O’s or vinyl pieces improve visual discrimination and eye-hand coordination.
6. Manipulating cheerios with just-right pressure develops tactile discrimination and grading of movement.
7. Manipulating a needle develops fine motor and pincer skills, which are necessary for grasping a pencil successfully.
8.Using both hands to work together improves bilateral coordination.

Motor planning

Shoe Box Path (developmental age range 3 to young teens)
What you need:
1.Shoe boxes (8 or more)
2. textured items, such as buttons, cotton balls, sand, shag carpet, fake fur, yarn, rice, lentils, beans, paper, or foam packaging.

1. Put a different material into each shoe box and line up the boxes for the child to step into, one after the other. Place some boxes very close and some further apart- but not so far apart that the child must step on the floor or crush the edges of the box while attempting to step inside.
2. Have the child be completely barefoot.

Benefits of this activity:
1. Develops motor planning
2. Improves proprioception
3. Moving his body through space improves balance and kinesthesia.
4. Touching a variety of textures improves tactile discrimination.
5. Watching where his feet are going improves visual skills, such as eye-foot coordination, depth perception, and spatial awareness.

There are many many more activities in the book. If you are interested you can get the book at Amazon for $9 new and 50 cents used!