5 Surprising Sensory Activities to Help Picky Eaters Please welcome Alisha Grogan MOT, OTR/L from…
Sensory Diet: How to Integrate a Sensory Diet Plan into Your Child’s Routine
This article provides helpful information for creating a sensory diet for your child. Affiliate links are included for your convenience. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.
We all know each child is different, especially when it comes to development stages and learning. No child is exactly alike. They come in all shapes and sizes, they learn at different paces, some share personality traits while others don’t, and most importantly, each child has something unique that they struggle with whether it be confidence, anxiety, a learning challenge or simply has a hard time socializing with their peers.
Whatever the case may be, as parents, we tend to know our children best. Or do we? Sure, we know what they like to eat, what they hate to do, what will make them sad or angry, or even what topics they struggle with or do well in at school. It’s not that parents are neglectful or they don’t love their children, it’s just that they don’t always recognize the warning signs or they know something is off, but they just can’t put their finger on it.
Yes, I help kids who are struggling in school with academics, but what about those kids who are getting straight A’s and tend to have a lot of anxiety or still startle at loud noises, seem anxious or even chew on their pencils till the end falls off? Many kids fidget in the classroom, teeter in their chair at school, or tap their pencils, but they have good grades. Some even say their child is constantly getting sent to the principal’s office for bad behavior or disrupts the class on a regular basis.
Most parents automatically think it may be ADHD or a behavior issue, but what if they physically just can’t control their actions and need an outlet. This is what we call Sensory Processing. Children don’t have to be doing poorly in school to struggle with some of these issues.
What is a Sensory Diet Plan?
Let me tell you what I mean. One or more of their senses is either over stimulated or under stimulated, meaning they need to chew on that pencil, wiggle their feet to stay calm, cut out the tags of their shirt so it doesn’t itch, or sleep with that soft blanket that doesn’t make their skin crawl. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen older children at the playground or in other settings who cry or get upset when a siren goes by only to look at their younger brother or sister who is calmly looking at them thinking “what’s the big deal. It’s just a siren.”
Now if you are a parent who already knows your child has a sensory issue or a Sensory Processing disorder, you are already familiar with this concept and are probably working with the school and with your child to provide them with an environment that helps calm their symptoms. If you aren’t too familiar with the concept or need more ideas to help your child stay calm and less squirmy in the classroom, then we need to give them what they need and put them on a “diet.”
No, not that kind of diet. It’s what we call a “Sensory Diet.” Just like when you try to lose weight by exercising and eating better, we need to give our kids more items in the classroom that provide them with the right outlet to lower their anxiety and keep them from getting in trouble with the teacher or the principal. Like any diet, you don’t want to starve yourself or limit your activity because it is counterproductive.
Same goes for our sensory diet. Just because the teacher or principal says your child is too fidgety in class or is disrupting the other students doesn’t mean that we take away the things their body is craving by telling them to try and keep their legs still or taking privileges away for them getting out of their desk after they’ve been told not to. Oftentimes that is exactly what they need, and we need to “feed” them what their body needs.
First, talk with the teacher and principal to make sure they are onboard with this diet plan. Why is that? You will need their cooperation and understanding because it entails your child moving in class and you will also need to send your child to school with plenty of objects to stay focused or reduce the anxiety.
Here’s 17 amazing ingredients your child needs for their diet plan. Remember, there are many items you can use, not just these items below. Choose the items that fit your child’s diet plan. For instance, if they chew on their pencil, get them more pencils or a sensory bracelet they can chew on during class. Just like when you are losing weight, some “foods” work and some “foods” don’t. You have to find what works best for your child’s body and specific situation.
Oral Sensory Issues
If your child tends to put things in their mouth, sucks on their shirts or chews their pencils and erasers, they need objects to improve their oral sensory issues. Here are some items to try:
Attention and Behavior
If your child is disrupting the other students or is constantly out of their seat at school, they need movement to help regulate their body. Do not let the teacher take recess away as a punishment. They need physical activity to calm their symptoms. Talk with your child’s teacher about some of these movement activities your child can do in class.
- Let them do jumping jacks at their desk
- Let them walk around the room three times and sit back down
- Let them do some stretching exercises (some yoga moves work great)
- Get them Stretchy Bands or Sensory Tunnel
Tactile Sensory Issues
If your child is constantly pulling at tags on their shirts, doesn’t like the feel of certain blankets over them or hates certain textures that make their skin crawl, we need to provide them with objects to improve their tactile at school. Here are some options to try:
Anxiety Sensory Issues
If your child has constant anxiety about their homework, friends at school, or even in general, some of these objects can help:
Sound Sensory Issues
If your child is scared and fearful of loud noises, more so than normal, they are probably more sensitive to sound than a normal child. Try some of these activities to help:
- Have them listen to calming music
- Bring noise-canceling headphones to loud places
- Sing with your child to help calm their fears
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs