5 Surprising Sensory Activities to Help Picky Eaters Please welcome Alisha Grogan MOT, OTR/L from…
Child Development Needs Sensory Stimulation through Science
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I’m sure we’ve all seen our children through the phase of dropping utensils or toys from their high chair, hollering for it back only to promptly drop it again. Or better yet is the endless why phase. I think why is probably every child’s favorite word at some point. Why is the sun so bright? Why does the car make that noise? Why are my eyes blue when yours are brown? And all those questions are promptly followed by another five rounds of why. But as frustrating as some of these habits are, they are the signs of kids’ true nature. Scientists. Kids are natural scientists.
Everything is a mystery to them in the beginning and they’re desperate to understand how it all works. Hence the testing of gravity and the onslaught of whys that lead you to existential questions you, quite frankly, have no answers for. Regardless, it’s important that we foster that inner scientist, especially in kids with issues such as Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD), who tend to struggle when it comes to the learning front.
Exploring Science through Senses
Luckily for us, this world is filled with fun experiments that can teach principles of science and are great for boosting their sensory sensitive minds. The options are pretty much endless, but here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Water Balloon Toss
In this fun exercise, fill up a few water balloons. Start by standing only a few inches apart and toss the balloon to them. Then take a step back and throw it again. Keep repeating this until you get too far apart and the balloon pops. This teaches a couple fun principles in physics. You can talk about gravity, the increased speed that it takes to move the balloon over farther distances, or compare and contrast why the balloon pops on the sidewalk but not as easily in their hand or on the grass. And while you are busy enjoying the basic points of physics, you’ll also be stimulating their brain’s gross motor skills and exposing them to tactile sensory stimulation.
For this nifty experiment, start with a bowl of water and several different balls of modeling clay or play dough. First, leave each chunk of play dough in balls and drop them in the water and watch them sink. After you’ve established that they are too heavy to float, pull them out and help your child manipulate them into boat-like shapes and drop them back in the water. This is a great way to experiment with the idea of buoyancy and how manipulating shape can change an object’s buoyancy. And playing with the dough is a great way to express fine motor skills and again building their tactile sensory stimulation.
Whistling Water Bottles
For this experiment, collect some glass bottles. Fill them with varying amounts of water which you can dye fun colors for fun visual stimulation if you want. Then have your child blow on the tops of each bottle to explore the varying sounds that come from the different amounts of water. This explores the principles of wind and sound vibrations while exposing them to auditory sensory stimulation. Music is a great tool for sensory sensitive kids and they are usually more comfortable with noises they make themselves over sounds other things are making.
Ocean in a Bottle
This is a fun and easy experiment. It requires a clear bottle of some sort, water, cooking or baby oil and some food coloring. To make it an ocean, it’s good to use glue, but you can really use any color you want. Mix all the ingredients together in your clear bottle and watch as the oil and water swirl around. This gives you and your child a chance to explore the reasons why oil and water don’t mix. This is visually stimulating and can also be a calming activity as they watch the water move and swirl. But it’s always a possibility that these high energy kids will go to town shaking the bottle trying to get the two to mix. It’s a good idea to expect different outcomes from each child; their reactions are all part of the learning experience.
These few experiments don’t even begin to scratch the surface of sensory science possibilities, but they’re a great place to start. So jump in and show those kiddos just how much fun learning can be.
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