Sensory Diet Vestibular Activities | The OT Toolbox

Sensory Diet Vestibular Activities

The vestibular system is a powerful one! It can be a confusing one when we consider how it impacts our body's ability to regulate. The vestibular system is one of the three systems that impact all of the others and therefore all learning, cognition, and occupational performance. the vestibular system develops early in life and plays a very important role in early development. for these reasons, today we're talking about Sensory Diet Vestibular Activities. These are vestibular activities that can be used in a sensory diet and a sensory lifestyle full of meaningful sensory activities. The vestibular activities listed below are those that impact an individual in many ways.


Use these sensory diet vestibular activities to address sensory needs such as hyperresponsiveness or hyperresponsiveness to vestibular sensory input, creating a functional and meaningful sensory lifestyle for kids.







The Vestibular System


Understanding the vestibular system can help explain how and why we need to incorporate vestibular activities into our daily life.

Here is an explanation of the vestibular system from a neurological focus.

Here are vestibular red flags indicating a problem with the vestibular system and how that looks in a child's day.

Check out those two links above to get a good background on the vestibular system and how it impacts every activity and function that we perform. In fact, the vestibular system plays a huge part in coordination of our head movements with the stimulation in the environment. 

+ We are then able to copy words and phrases from the board in the classroom by shifting our vision from the table surface to the overhead board without losing our place.

+ We are able to watch a moving object like a soccer ball as it travels across a field.

+ We are able to read a speech while looking up at our audience, without losing our place on the cue cards.

+ We are able to hold our body in a specific position such as a downward dog yoga position while concentrating on deep breathing.

+ We are able to maintain our head positioning while cutting with scissors or while riding a bicycle.

The vestibular system plays such a huge part in our daily tasks in a manner that happens naturally and without effort!

It is easy to see how a problem with the vestibular system could result in major issues with functioning!


Sensory Diet Vestibular Activities



The sensory vestibular activities listed below are playful ways to promote performance and tolerance to movement activities. They are also challenges against gravity to help kids with difficulties in equilibrium, balance, self-regulation, and adjusting to typical sensory input. The vestibular system operates through receptors in the inner ear and in conjunction with position in space, input from the eyes, and feedback from muscle and joint receptors, is able to contribute to posture and appropriate response of the visual system to maintain a field of vision. This allows an individual to detect movement and changes in the position of the head and body. Dysfunction in the vestibular system may result in hypersensitivity to movements or hyposensitivity to movements.

When providing vestibular input as an intervention strategy for sensory needs, various movement patterns should be considered. Depending on the individualized needs of the child, activities can be designed to include movements such as:

Prone swinging
Seated swinging
Standing swinging
Linear movements
Vertical movements
Rotary movements
Angular movements
Upside down movements
Horizontal movements
Challenges to balance
Inverted head
Unstable base of support
Starts and stops in motion
Changes in direction
Changes in speed

Vestibular Hyperresponsiveness

Some children may present with vestibular hyperresponsiveness.

This looks like a variety of things in children. As we know, every child is uniquely different. The indicators of sensory hyperresponsiveness listed here are only just a few ways that vestibular hyperresponsiveness may present in kids: 


  • Overly dizzy with motions
  • Resistant to moving activities such as swings, slides, elevators, or escalators
  • Fear of unstable surfaces
  • Unable to tolerate backward motions
  • Unable to tolerate side to side motions
  • Illness in moving vehicles
  • Avoids swings or slides
  • Gets motion sick easily
  • Gravitational insecurity
  • Challenges with unstable surfaces
  • Dislike of moving surfaces 
Try adding some of these vestibular activities into a sensory diet or sensory lifestyle. (These are just a FEW activities that can be used by children. Activities can be modified to include all of the movement planes listed above.)


Sensory Diet Vestibular Activities for Hyperresponsiveness: 

  • Skipping
  • Prone activates with arms supporting the upper body at the shoulders and elbows
  • Slowly adding activities in the quadruped positioning
  • Adding a support for jumping, hopping, balance activities
  • Crawling
  • Walking
  • Sliding
  • Rolling
  • Being pulled on a blanket or sled (indoor works, too!)
  • Throwing bean bags at a target
  • Throwing/catching a ball
  • Movement obstacle courses
  • Wheelbarrow races

Vestibular Hyporesponsiveness

On the flip side, a child can present with hyporesponsiveness of the vestibular system. Hypo-responsiveness of the vestibular sense may present in a child as an under-responsiveness or underreaction to vestibular sensation. This may look like the actions listed below. Remember that every child is different. This list is only a sample of the various ways a child can present when they are impacted by hyporesponsive vestibular system.


Hyporesponsiveness of the vestibular system examples:
  • Constant movement including jumping, spinning, rocking, climbing
  • Craves movement at fast intervals
  • Craves spinning, rocking, or rotary motions
  • Poor balance on uneven surfaces
  • Constantly fidgeting
  • Increased visual attention to spinning objects or overhead fans
  • Bolts or runs away in community or group settings, or when outdoors or in large open areas such as shopping malls
  • Difficulty maintaining sustained attention
  • Impulsive movement
  • Constantly getting up and down from desk in the classroom
  • Walks around when not supposed to (in the classroom, during meals, etc.)
  • Loves to be upside down

Sensory Diet Vestibular Activities for Hyporesponsiveness: 

Children with hyporesponsiveness of vestibular input may benefit from a variety of activities. Below are just a jew of these ideas. Try using these sensory diet vestibular activities when addressing hyporesponsiveness of vestibular sensation: 
  • Therapy ball
  • Fidget tools
  • Cushion or partially deflated beach ball on the floor under feet at a desk or chair. 
  • Tie therapy band (TheraBand) or a resistive cord around the legs of a student’s chair for use as a foot fidget
  • Provide appropriate play-based opportunities for movement needs (sit and spin toy, see saw toy, rocking chair, trampoline)
  • Weave vestibular input throughout the day and prior to fine motor/visual motor activities
  • Ensure the feet touch the ground or have support when seated in a chair or on the toilet

Sensory diets and specific sensory input or sensory challenges are a big part of addressing sensory needs of children who struggle with sensory processing issues. Incorporating a schedule of sensory input (sensory diet) into a lifestyle of naturally occuring and meaningful activities is so very valuable for the child with sensory needs. That's why I've worked to create a book on creating an authentic and meaningful sensory lifestyle that addresses sensory needs. You can watch for more information on this book coming very soon. If you would like to be the first to know more about this book (and want to grab some upcoming freebies related to sensory lifestyles and sensory diet activities, sign up here. You'll be the first to get some awesome tools for addressing sensory needs in motivating and meaningful ways.





The vestibular system is one of the bodys senses and responsible for awareness of our body in space and gravitational insecurity during tasks.  Kids can use balance beams to work on integration of the vestibular sense, perfect for children who seek movement, run into objects, fear certain positions, have trouble visually tracking items in reading and written, and more. Occupational Therapy with a balance beam activities. Try these vestibular sensory activities with the family this Fall Try these sensory integration therapy ideas at the playground for vestibular and proprioceptive sensory input. Indoor Ice Skates proprioception and vestibular sensory play activity





Vestibular sensory play activity for indoor play. This shot put game is a great way to incorporate the vestibular system into play. Super easy and fun Frisbee Vestibular activity for indoor play this winter.  Get the kids moving! Try these backyard vestibular sensory activities for summerMake a wobble balance disc from ice for sensory input and balance training. This helps kids with attention, strengthening, and fidgeting while incorporating sensory needs like proprioception and vestibular integration.




These vestibular activities for a sensory diet are great sensory ideas for addressing hyperresponsiveness or hyporesponsiveness to vestibular input as well as adding vestibular sensory input into a sensory diet or sensory lifestyle.