Sensory Coping Strategies for Kids | The OT Toolbox

Sensory Coping Strategies for Kids

It can be difficult to cope with stress as a child.  Most of the time, it can be hard to just figure out what is going on with the mood swings, frustration, behaviors, and lack of focus.  Most of these problems can be a result of a multitude of problems!  From sensory processing issues, to executive functioning struggles, to anxiety, communication issues, or cognitive levels--ALL of the resulting behaviors can benefit from coping strategies.

The Sensory Coping strategies for kids ideas listed below can help kids with a multitude of difficulties.  Try using some of these ideas in isolation and use others in combination with one or two others.  The thing about coping strategies is that one thing might help with issues one time, but not another.


Sensory Coping Strategies for Kids 

Another very important thing to consider is that every child is vastly different. What helps one child cope may not help another child in the same class or grade.  Children struggle with issues and need an answer for their troubles for many different reasons.  The underlying issues like auditory processing issues or low frustration tolerance are all part of the extremely complex puzzle.


Sensory Coping Strategy Ideas

Coping strategies can be used based on the needs of the individual child.  Also, there is a lot to consider about the influence of factors that affect the person's ability to cope with areas of difficulty.  Likewise, feedback from precious coping efforts relates to the efficacy of a coping plan. (Gage, 1992).

Coping strategies benefit children and adults!  Every one of us has stress or worries in some manner or another.  Children with sensory processing issues, anxiety, or social emotional struggles know the stress of frustration to situations.  It's no surprise that some of these issues like sensory processing disorder and anxiety are linked.

So, how can we help with stress and frustrations?  One tool is having a set of sensory coping strategies available to use in these situations.


Try these sensory coping strategies to help kids with anxiety, stress, worries, or other issues.


Try these coping strategies that incorporate sensory input:

1. Move- Get up and run in place, jog, do jumping jacks, or hop in place.
2. Talk- Talk about it to a friend, talk to an adult, or talk to a teacher.
3. Snuggle- Grab a big cozy blanket and pile pillows around you to build a fort of comfort!  The pressure from the blanket and pillows provides proprioceptive input.
4. Take a bath or hot shower.
5. Blow bubbles.  The oral sensory input is organizing.
6. Draw with sidewalk chalk. Drawing can relieve stress.
7. Sensory water play.
8. Scream into a pillow.
9. Pound play dough.  Try a heavy work dough like this DIY marshmallow proprioception dough.
10. Take a nap.
11. Exercise.
12. Look at the clouds and find shapes.
13. Deep breathing.
14. Take a walk in nature.
15. Play a game.
16.  Build with LEGOS
17. Listen to the sounds of the ocean.  Try this easy coping strategy that only uses your hands.
18. Count backwards.  Try walking in a circle while counting or other movements such as jumping, skipping, or hopping.
19. Drink a cold drink.
20. Drink a smoothie.
21. Squeeze a stuffed animal.
22. Listen to music.
23. Hum a favorite song.
24. Blow bubbles.
25. Chew gum.
26. Take deep breaths.
27. Tear paper
28. Smash and jump on ice cubes outdoors.  Jumping on ice is a great activity for incorporating prioprioceptive sensory input.
29. Journal.  The Impulse Control Journal is an excellent tool.
30. Guided imagery
31. Think of consequences.
32. Stretch.
33.  Go for a walk.
34.  Write a story and throw it away.
35.  Blow up balloons and then pop them.
36. Take a time out.
37. Animal walks
38. Imagine the best day ever.
39.  Swing on swings.
40.  Name 5 positive things about yourself.

Get the printable version of this list.  It's free!



Printable list of sensory coping strategies for helping kids cope.



Gage, M. (1992). The Appraisal Model of Coping: An Assessment and Intervention Model for Occupational Therapy, American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 46, 353-362. Retrieved from : oi:10.5014/ajot.46.4.353 on 5-24-27.

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