Development of Bilateral Coordination for Feeding Skills

Below, you will find information on development of bilateral coordination needed for feeding skills in kids who are challenged with using both hands together in a coordinated manner. Development of bilateral coordination skills is necessary for improved self-feeding in toddlers and improves through the childhood years.

When children learn to feed themselves and become more independent with self-feeding tool use with finger foods, utensils, or cups, development of bilateral coordination is one aspect that is necessary. When we think about self-feeding, problems can arise based on a variety of areas. Upper extremity coordination is one of those aspects that are evaluated and addressed when self-feeding difficulties are present. When thinking about development of self-feeding, consider the following issues related to bilateral coordination difficulty and try using some of the bilateral coordination activities based on development of bilateral coordination to improve feeding skills.

Related: For several ideas to support bilateral coordination skills while indoors, try our list of Winter Bilateral Coordination Activities that kids will love!

Discover typical development of bilateral coordination in feeding skills in kids, which are needed for improved independence in self-feeding.

Why is bilateral coordination important?

When bilateral coordination or bilateral integration is intact and progressing appropriately through development, it is an indicator that both sides of the brain are communicating effectively and sharing information during functional tasks. 


Younger toddlers and babies can be observed using both hands in play as they pick up objects in their line of sight. However, they typically will pick up items with the hand that is closest to the object or toy. 


As toddlers progress in development, they will begin to establish a dominant hand and crossing midline. This ability to utilize a dominant hand and a non-dominant hand in activities indicates a maturation of the brain and lateralization in functional tasks, which is very important for motor planning, directionality, and visual motor skills. 

In fact, impaired bilateral coordination skills can lead to difficulty in the classroom.

Development of bilateral coordination in self-feeding depends greatly on the child’s developmental level. The baby who is learning to place dry cereal in their mouth will be vastly different level than the child who is scooping soup or cutting a piece of chicken. Development of fine motor skills and visual motor skills have an impact on coordination of the hands in self-feeding.

What makes up bilateral coordination?

In fact, there are three components of bilateral coordination:
Symmetrical movements
Reciprocal movements
Dominant hand/supporting hand movements

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What does development of bilateral coordination look like in feeding skills?

Development of bilateral coordination occurs at every stage of childhood:

Newborn Self-Feeding

At the newborn stage, reflexes dominate movements. Babies aged 0-3 months will root, suckle, and swallow in feeding activities. This stage progresses as vision and motor control develop.

Development of  Bilateral Coordination in Feeding Skills at 4-6 Months

In this stage, development of coordination between the eyes and motor skills are just developing. The child explores with their eyes, hands, and mouth and will start to reach for objects purposely around four months. Accuracy of hand use is limited.

Development of Bilateral Coordination in Feeding Skills at 6-9 Months

At this stage, the child is typically sitting up with or without support. The child’s hands are often times used in grasp with a clenched or a fist-like grasp. The child will begin to separate the thumb from the rest of the fingers to use a gross grasp on objects. Babies at this stage will typically place everything in their mouth, using both hands together in symmetry. The child will hold a bottle or cup with assistance, placing both hands on the cup/bottle, but are not able to hold the cup or bottle on their own.

Development of Bilateral Coordination in Feeding Skills at 9-12 Months

The child is able to sit upright without support and develops proximal stability, allowing for increased development of distal extremities. In this stage, babies are developing pincer grasp and thumb opposition skills. This stage brings the ability to hold one object in each hand such as two blocks. The baby will be able to bring both hands together at the same time. Children will be able to begin finger feeding skills around 9 months as they bring dry cereal foods to their mouth with a scraping motion.

Finger isolation on both hands begins as they poke foods and explore textures with their hands. Children will use both hands to smear food and bring soft foods such as wet foods like a cereal mix or applesauce to their mouth. The child will be able to hold a cup with both hands and bring it to their mouth.

The child will start to hold a spoon with a gross grasp, but without a dominant arm. At this stage, grasp of the spoon occurs with a palmer grasp. The child will not hold the bowl or plate with their non-assisting hand.

Development of Bilateral Coordination in Feeding Skills at 12-15 Months

In this stage, the child begins to dip their spoon into foods. They will have more accuracy with dipping as opposed to scooping foods. The spoon is help seith a digital grasp and the child will likely switch hands while holding the spoon. The child will lift and drink from a cup with one hand.

A scooper bowl with suction base can be  help with scooping development and bilateral coordination at this stage.

Development of Bilateral Coordination in Feeding Skills at 15-18 Months

The child is able to support the bowl with one hand while scooping with a spoon. Children can hold a small cup and pick out pieces of dry cereal or snacks. Fine motor skills are developing quickly.

Development of Bilateral Coordination in Feeding Skills at 18-24 Months

The child will typically be able to drink from a cup with accuracy and with one hand. There will be more coordination of the cup and accuracy, with less spillage. At this stage, the child will use a dominant hand in self-feeding and will begin to supinate the forearm when scooping with a spoon, resulting in greater accuracy.

Development of bilateral coordination for feeding skills is essential for accuracy and improving independence in self-feeding in kids.

Development of Bilateral Coordination in Feeding Skills at 24-36 Months

During this stage, the child’s dominant hand is more established and the child can support with the non-dominant hand with greater accuracy. There will be greater control of forearm supination sor that the palm is facing upward when scooping. Typically, the child is able to self-feed without assistance.

Development of Bilateral Coordination in Feeding Skills at 3-4 Years

The child will begin to use a fork with improving accuracy. They can use a straw and hold the cup with one or both hands. The child will use both hands together with improving coordination in self-feeding.

Development of Bilateral Coordination in Feeding Skills at 4-5 Years

Children will be able to use a knife to spread butter or peanut butter with the dominant hand while holding the plate or bread with their non-dominant hand. Beginning use of child-friendly knives is appropriate. They will press with the knife rather than chopping or slicing.

Development of Bilateral Coordination in Feeding Skills at 5-6 Years

Children will use a fork and spoon accurately. They will be able to scoop, poke, and stab with a fork using appropriate positioning and without use of the non-dominant hand to support the plate. The child will begin to use a knife to cut foods.

Development of Bilateral Coordination in Feeding Skills 6+ Years

The child will be able to cut meat with a knife with increasing accuracy and ability. As they develop, the child will increase coordination with knife and fork use in a coordinated manner. Spilling of cups and foods decreases with age and development.

Attention in feeding tasks develops as children progress through the various stages, too. This makes a big difference in accuracy as well.

Development of bilateral coordination skills in feeding occurs throughout childhood.

Occupational Therapy Activity Kits

This blog post by contributor author Regina Parsons-Allen describes occupational therapy activity kits that can be used to address a variety of occupational therapy goals using themed OT kits, saving time and planning for therapy. 

Pediatric and school-based occupational therapy practitioners are busy people. Often times, they see many children and can work with preschoolers to young adults in a single day. They are challenged with keeping children actively participating in therapy while building skills to achieve their OT goals. Pediatric and school-based OTP’s must analyze, plan, prepare, implement, modify, adapt, grade, problem-solve, reflect, research, document, collaborate and consult for each child they serve. To say the least, they are busy, busy, busy and the “OT” never turns off!

Edit: This is part TWO of a series on occupational therapy toolkits. You can find more OT activity  toolkit ideas here.

Having a pre-planned set of occupational therapy activities in mind can be a huge help when it comes to addressing fine motor skills, visual motor skills, sensory processing needs, or other underlying areas interfering with function in the school, home, or community.

These occupational therapy activity kits are perfect for incorporating into a bin rotation system, much like these fine motor bins.

Make these grab and go occupational therapy toolkits to use in school based OT services or by mobile therapists working on fine motor skills or occupational therapy activities with kids.

Themed Occupational Therapy Activity Tool Kits

What is a themed occupational therapy therapy activity tool kit and how do I make one?
Themed occupational therapy tool kits are a great way to invest some time now, but save a ton of time later. They help make a therapist’s job easier when planning, preparing and documenting.
Tool kits are a great way for therapists to have what they need in an organized kit and ready to use with many kids at any given time. They are portable, all inclusive, and separated by a theme. Grab and go kits are the goal!

Holiday or seasonal themed tool kits contain activities that allow for “celebration” of holidays or events while heaping fun and play into a single session. Let’s face it, children love the holidays and these themed tool kits keep kiddos engaged and help them build skills for development and success. Kiddos love to see one coming their way! They know fun and surprise are inside while therapists know kiddos will be motivated to “work” on their therapy goals.

Tools of the trade kits may contain the staples for pediatric or school-based OT practice. More specifically, tools that are used during most OT sessions to include scissors, pencils, grips, paper, etc.

The kits have specific tools that are essential for intervention, assessment, progress review, or trial. These grab and go kits always contain a variety of tools, graded in nature, standard or adaptive, which are utilized by a wide range of kiddos with various levels of skill.

Other tools of the trade kits may contain therapy tools or materials that develop a targeted skill area such as fine motor, gross motor, strengthening, sensory processing, self-regulation, etc. The kits contain specific tools or materials that are needed mostly for specific intervention programming.

Types of Occupational Therapy Activity Kits

Let’s talk types of tool kits. There are many kinds of possible therapy tool kits that can be created for pediatric and school-based OT. Generally, they are separated into certain types while some may even be combined to meet the needs of the child and/or the therapist. Examples include:

Types of OT Activity Kits

Seasonal – spring, summer, fall, or winter

Holidays – Easter, Christmas, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.

School Celebrated Times – Back to School, Dr. Seuss Day, Fire Safety, etc.

Skills – fine motor, gross motor, sensory, visual motor/visual perception, strengthening, prewriting, handwriting, dressing, oral motor, self-care, reading, etc.

Tools – scissors, writing/coloring implements, grips, tongs, feeding tools, fidgets, etc.

Size – small, medium, large or combination

Purpose – therapy session, screening, assessment, classroom inclusion, trial, therapy homework, etc.

Design – material, sectioned or non-sectioned, handled or non-handled, portable or non-portable, lid or no lid, stackable and/or slidable, etc.

How to Make an Occupational Therapy Activity Kit

Here are some size and design examples of types of tool kits and possible storage containers for inside:

Create an occupational therapy toolkit using a variety of containers to address underlying skills like fine motor skills, visual motor skills, or other OT goals.

Let’s talk tips on how to make one. Building tool kits for therapy can be done over time or immediately depending on the purpose, availability of items or materials, and funds for purchasing.

Below are some helpful tips for building your own tool kits for therapy:

Gather all tools, materials or items you already have and simply start developing your tool kits based on what you already have.

Then make a list of tools, materials or items you would like to add. Start small so that it doesn’t get overwhelming.

Know that your kits may, and probably will, start small and change over time. This is okay and sometimes better when you are first starting out in the field of OT.

Don’t be afraid to ask colleagues if they have some extra tools or items they would be willing to part with to help you stock your tool kit. OTP’s are generous people and willing to offer help. Just ask!

Look for items at the big retail chains such as Wal-Mart and Target. Look in the clearance, dollar, and seasonal sections. Check out weekly sales. Shop for items after the season or holiday is over to prep for the next year. You can get awesome deals such as 50-80% off of the regular price. Even check the craft sections for deals!

Search dollar stores for fun activities or ideas. Think outside of the box with items!!

 Hint: try to pick items that have versatility so that you can reach a larger age range or items that can be combined to address a variety of needs.

Go to thrift stores and take a peek, you can find some great one-of-a-kind or classic items that will work great in a tool kit.

Shop garage or yard sales and go to the toy sections or even those miscellaneous trinket boxes and look, look, look.

Get on email lists for some of the therapy companies that sell products so you can keep “in-the-know” when products go on sale or when new products are available.

Pick a kit container that best fits the objects you have, the design you like, the clients on your caseload (clear containers peak the most interest) and the portability and durability that you need.

Buying stackable containers keeps the storage, organization, and the ‘grab and go’ approach easier. Also, consider if you like handles for single hand carry or if handles are not necessary.

Shop a variety of stores to find the type of containers you want or need. Check office, craft, and storage departments in bargain stores, big chain stores, dollar stores, online stores, and craft stores. Sometimes craft stores have great containers with many organizational possibilities.

Store items in your kit using various containers, especially if you have a large drop-in container vs. a sectioned container.

 Consider using zipper baggies, twist top or flip top containers, button or snap containers, zipper pencil bags, squeeze containers, and other recyclable containers, etc. Build fine motor skills with the containers inside!

Consider keeping a few staples in each container such as writing or coloring tools, scissors, glue and paper. Or maybe you want to have those in a separate tool kit to ‘grab and go’ with your other kits. It’s your personal preference with this one!

Types of Themed Occupational Therapy Tool Kits

Below are examples for a few types of themed tool kits:

Seasonal and holiday kits are fun activities contained in one kit which can reach a huge range of kiddos with many types of needs. OTP’s can splash the activities with a little creativity and modification to hit it out of the park during therapy sessions.

Below is an example of an Easter holiday themed tool kit and its contents. I lovingly refer to this kit as a “dump and run” kit because I can dump in the contents and run from session to session or site to site with little organization other than the use of some baggies.

Create a holiday themed Occupational Therapy Tool Kit

Create an Easter themed occupational therapy activity kit with a holiday theme to address underlying skill areas like strength, fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and other OT goals.
Create an Easter themed occupational therapy activity kit with a holiday theme to address underlying skill areas like strength, fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and other OT goals.

Easter Holiday Occupational Therapy Tool Activity Kit:

Tools of the trade kits contain specific tools, devices, or materials which are all inclusive from standard to adaptive and may either contain purchased or DIY contents. OT’s need these essential tools for treatment, trial, loan, or assessment to determine level of performance, therapy plans, and interventions.

This Easter activity is a great addition to an Easter-themed occupational therapy toolkit, as it requires scissors you already have in your occupational therapy supplies but requires some Easter items you can find at the dollar store.

Make these grab and go occupational therapy toolkits to use in school based OT services or by mobile therapists working on fine motor skills or occupational therapy activities with kids.

Grab and Go Occupational Therapy Tool Kit to address a variety of needs

Below is one example of a small, tiered container with a combination of regularly used OT tools for use during treatment sessions. It is a simple tools kit that stays organized so I can grab it and go from similar sessions with all of my therapy staples in one kit.

OT Tools Tool Kit:

A grab and go occupational therapy toolkit helps the school based OT with organization while meeting a variety of OT goals to address therapy goal areas.A grab and go occupational therapy toolkit helps the school based OT with organization while meeting a variety of OT goals to address therapy goal areas.

Create an Occupational Therapy Activity Kit to address targeted skill areas

Below is an example of a targeted skill area kit which contains therapy tools and other materials that develop the targeted skill of strengthening. It contains specific tools of the trade and other miscellaneous materials.

Occupational therapists will love these occupational therapy activity toolkits for addressing skills like strengthening.

Strengthening Skills Kit:

Create an occupational therapy activity toolkit designed to address hand strengthening and strengthening goals for students or clients in pediatric occupational therapy.
Create an occupational therapy activity toolkit designed to address hand strengthening and strengthening goals for students or clients in pediatric occupational therapy.
Create an Occupational Therapy Tool Kit to address areas like handwriting or scissor skills.
Make an occupational therapy activity toolkit to address skills like handwriting or scissor skills, perfect for the school based OT.
Make an occupational therapy activity toolkit to address skills like handwriting or scissor skills, perfect for the school based OT.

Themed therapy kits will make your life as a pediatric or school-based therapist easier and more enjoyable allowing you to focus on the intervention with the child!

Create occupational therapy activity kits to address a variety of occupational therapy goal areas.

Regina Parsons-Allen is a school-based certified occupational therapy assistant. She has a pediatrics practice area of emphasis from the NBCOT. She graduated from the OTA program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina with an A.A.S degree in occupational therapy assistant. She has been practicing occupational therapy in the same school district for 20 years. She loves her children, husband, OT, working with children and teaching Sunday school. She is passionate about engaging, empowering, and enabling children to reach their maximum potential in ALL of their occupations as well assuring them that God loves them!

How to Schedule Sensory Diet Activities

Below, you’ll find a selection of sensory diet strategies to use when presenting sensory diet activities. Read on to find various ways to present sensory diet tasks for use within a child’s day. 

Sensory diet activities that are appropriate for an individual child should be presented after analyzing and identifying the child’s specific needs. Just as a sensory diet uses specific sensory activities based on the child’s needs, the WAY a sensory diet is presented needs to be used according to the child’s strengths,  abilities, and needs. Presenting a sensory diet activity in a way that the child understands is very important for carryover. 

Understanding exactly what is a sensory diet is a good starting point for addressing sensory needs. 

Try these strategies to present sensory diet activities to kids with sensory needs. They are quite effective strategies when getting started with setting up a sensory diet. If you are wondering where to start with addressing sensory processing needs in kids or wondering HOW to set up a sensory diet, start with the links below.

If you are just getting started with setting up a sensory diet, start with How to Create a Sensory Diet

For understanding why a sensory diet is important, you’ll want to read more about the goals of a sensory diet.



Use these tips and strategies to schedule sensory diet activities and to set up a sensory diet to address sensory processing needs in kids.

Sensory Diet Activity
Selection Strategies
(How to present sensory diet activities)

First, a few tips for starting a sensory diet:

Once sensory diet strategies are developed, it’s important to present them to the child in a clear manner. This will ensure carryover and success.

There are many ways to set up a sensory diets scheduled activities. Each child may prefer an entirely different strategy for organizing sensory activities in their individualized sensory diet. The child who responds well to visual schedules in their classroom may use a picture schedule for their sensory diet.

A schedule of sensory activities based on specific needs is an important part of a sensory diet and a sensory lifestyle.

Scheduling sensory diet activities is important for carryover and use of appropriate sensory activities throughout the day and not after sensory overload or sensory seeking behaviors has occurred. Sensory diet strategies can help prevent or address a sensory meltdown, so it’s good to have the information and tools you need ahead of time and to better understand what causes a sensory meltdown and how to help.

Use these tips and strategies to schedule sensory diet activities and to set up a sensory diet to address sensory processing needs in kids.

Sensory Diet Scheduling Strategies

1.Picture Schedule- Take photos of sensory activities. Print them out and laminate them. The photos can be added to a pocket in the front of each sensory bin or container. When the child takes out that activity, they can place the photo in a bowl or stick it to a wall planner using Velcro.

2. Clip Schedule- Use clothes pins to clip onto a schedule list of activities. When the child chooses a specific sensory activity, they can clip next to the words on their list.

3. Use PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) or other pictures of sensory activities to create a keychain flip booklet of sensory diet activities.

4. Create strips of paper with sensory diet activities written out on strips of paper. Laminate the strips for sturdiness. Attach a self-sticking Velcro tab to the back of the laminated strip. The schedule of activities can then be attached to a felt board or schedule board with Velcro tabs. Once the activity is performed, the child can drop the strips into a cup. For a more durable system, use foam craft sticks or wooden craft sticks.

5. Create a sensory diet binder using page protectors. Children can mark off activities with a dry erase marker.

6. Visual Supports- Dry erase boards, Velcro board, flip picture schedule, felt boards are all ideas. Use visual supports in the simplest way possible with reduced visual distractions. A single color is best. Meeting the needs of the child is essential as well.

7. “First, Then” Strategy- Children with sensory processing challenges, particularly those on the Autism spectrum struggle with excessive instructions. It is hard for them to pull out the important words from a paragraph of instructions. Simplifying directions is key for these children. The “First, Then” strategy breaks down tasks into the simplest form. This is an effective mechanism for challenging behaviors and transitions.

8. Keychain schedule- Create a schedule that can go with the child. These can be clipped to belt loops, jackets, binders, necklaces, or backpacks. The options are limitless with a keychain schedule system. Use whatever strategy works best with the child. Some ideas are picture schedules, First/Then strategy, or even a dry erase schedule with words. A reward at the end of the schedule is a great reinforcer for children.

9. Special Interest Schedulers- Using the interests of the child as a motivator and as a scheduler can have great results. For the child who is interested in vehicles, they can attach a “wheel” onto a picture of a monster truck when each task is completed. The sky is the limit when it comes to using special interests in the form of schedules.

10. Apps and Technology- For some children, the use of a screen is the motivating tool that can help kids transition through their day. Special interests can be used in this manner as well. There are apps that utilize a form of the “First/Then” strategy combined with special interests such as characters like Sponge Bob.

11. Communication Center- Sensory diet activities can be created with visual images or words and made into magnets that are stuck to the refrigerator. Other ideas for a sensory diet center include a dry erase board or laminated paper that is used at a student’s desk in the classroom or on the dining room table at home.

Use these tips and strategies to schedule sensory diet activities and to set up a sensory diet to address sensory processing needs in kids.

More sensory diet resources

Sensory Diet Activities for the Classroom

Looking for more resources on how to set up and create a sensory diet? The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory diet creation, set-up, and carry through. Not only that, but the book helps you take a sensory diet and weave it into a sensory lifestyle that supports the needs of a child with sensory processing challenges and the whole family.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a resource for creating sensory diets and turning them into a lifestyle of sensory success through meaningful and motivating sensory enrichment.
Use these tips and strategies to schedule sensory diet activities and to set up a sensory diet to address sensory processing needs in kids.

How to Create a Sensory Diet

If you have been following along here on The OT Toolbox recently, then you may have seen some of our recent sensory diet resources. We’ve shared a lot of information about creating a sensory diet. There is a valid reason. Besides the growing need for sensory support for kids with sensory processing disorder or sensory challenges, there is a real need for parents and teachers to understand exactly what a sensory diet is and how it can help address sensory needs.  




The tips below are strategies for creating a sensory diet that can be effective and helpful in enabling a successful sensory lifestyle. Understanding how does a sensory diet help is many times, the first step in addressing sensory related needs!


Whether you are wondering exactly what a sensory diet entails or why a sensory diet can be effective in addressing underlying sensory needs, knowing how to create a sensory diet using the tools a child needs is essential. 



Below, you’ll find answers to questions about how to create a sensory diet and what exactly a sensory diet is. If you are wondering how does a sensory diet work, then read on! 




Wondering how to create a sensory diet? Use these steps to create a sensory diet for children with sensory needs that result in meltdowns, attention challenges, struggles with regulation, and other sensory processing related difficulties. Perfect for the occupational therapist who works with kids with sensory needs.



Sidenote: Over the last week as we’ve led up to the release of The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook, we’ve shared some amazing free resources. You can still grab those tools below. They are just a sample of the type of tips and tactics found in The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook. These are a great starting point for knowing how to start a sensory diet.


Get your free sensory resources here:

Free Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and Challenges
Free Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit
Free Attention and Sensory Workbook


What is a sensory diet? 

First, it can be helpful to explain exactly what a sensory diet is. A sensory diet is a specific set of sensory activities designed to meet specific needs of the individual. Creation of a sensory diet requires assessment and trial followed by analysis and continued monitoring of strategies and their effectiveness. 

Studies support the use of active participation in multi-sensory activities for at least 90 minutes per week to improve occupational performance and autism symptoms and behaviors (Fazlioglu & Baran, 2008; Thompson, 2011; Woo & Leon, 2013; Wuang, Wang, Huang, & Su 2010).

Children who have a toolbox of sensory activities available to them for daily use may benefit from prescribed sensory activities. A sensory-based strategy guide can help.

Sensory diets are a commonly known strategy for addressing sensory needs. The term “sensory diet” was coined by Patricia Wilbarger in 1984 to explain how certain sensory experiences can improve occupational performance and help to remediate disruption of the sensory processing systems. A sensory diet is a means to adjust sensory input in relation to an individual’s needs.

A sensory diet is a meaningful set of strategies for developing sensory programs that are practical, carefully scheduled, and controlled in order to affect functioning. Sensory diet activities provide appropriate sensory input based on the needs of an individual.

Just as a healthy diet consists of a variety of foods, a sensory diet is a balanced set of sensory information that allows an individual to function. A person cannot survive on broccoli alone. Similarly, a child cannot function with only one type of sensory activities.


Wondering how to create a sensory diet? Use these steps to create a sensory diet for children with sensory needs that result in meltdowns, attention challenges, struggles with regulation, and other sensory processing related difficulties. Perfect for the occupational therapist who works with kids with sensory needs.



Why use a sensory diet?


Sensory diets are effective for addressing many sensory-related behaviors. Just a few reasons for using a sensory diet may include:

Emotional overreaction
Meltdowns
Aggression
Hyper-attention
Difficulty with transitions
Inattention
Sleep issues
Impulsivity
Sensory-seeking behaviors
Sensory-resisting behaviors
Resistance to textures/food/clothing
Poor social Interactions


Wondering how to create a sensory diet? Use these steps to create a sensory diet for children with sensory needs that result in meltdowns, attention challenges, struggles with regulation, and other sensory processing related difficulties. Perfect for the occupational therapist who works with kids with sensory needs.



How to create a sensory diet


There is more to a sensory diet than applying sensory input or encouraging a child to participate in sensory play activities. Knowing how and why a sensory diet should be created is essential to success, safety, and carryover of sensory strategies.

As individuals, we tend to choose activities and experiences that are pleasurable. We enjoy snuggling up under a thick blanket at the end of the day. We tend to shy away from unpleasant sensations such as a static shock that happens every time we use that certain blanket.

Likewise, some of us are thrill seekers and enjoy experiences like jumping from airplanes or bungee jumping. Others like to stay firmly on the ground and play it safe when it comes to leisure activities.

Similarly, our clients or children who struggle with sensory processing can present with different preferences, as discussed in The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook.

Steps to Create a Sensory Diet


The key to successful integration of a sensory diet is ensuring the clinical strategizing and application are fit into the specific needs of the individual. However, combining the needs of an individual with interests and preference along with application of specific steps ensures successful creation of a sensory diet.

Analyze/Identify

Strategize

Apply


Monitor

Step 1: Analyze/Identify- The first level in creation of a sensory diet requires identification of sensory related behaviors, attention issues related to impaired sensory input, challenges with focus or emotional regulation as a result of sensory needs, or meltdowns that impair functioning.

This level of sensory diet creation requires assessment and identification of each challenging issue. Sensory behaviors should be identified and charted. This includes jotting down when specific behaviors occur, the setting where meltdowns occur, and antecedent to the behavior.

Sensory related issues can be charted in a methodological manner or they can simply be written down on a scrap paper. The point is to identify the issues through analyzation and to record them.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook contains printable data collection forms that can be used to analyze and identify sensory-related actions, behaviors, and resulting issues.

Step 2: Strategize/Reasoning- The next level in creating a sensory diet involves identifying the “why” behind the behaviors. Is it an unmet sensory need that causes a child to bolt down the hallway? Is the reason the child chews on all of their clothes because they need more proprioceptive input?

After dysfunctional behaviors are identified, the reason behind the behaviors should be described.

In The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook, you will find printable sensory-based behavior screening tools that can be used to identify the underlying sensory needs leading to a behavior or action. Additionally, resources in the book allow for strategizing to address existing sensory challenges for an individual. The best part is that the pages can be printed off and used over and over again for a single individual or for many individuals. 


Step 3: Apply/Trial Various Sensory Strategies- In this stage of sensory diet development, strategies need to be trialed for effectiveness within the lifestyle of the child and family. Sensory strategies need to be incorporated as indicated across a variety of settings, based on various sensory needs as they change throughout the day.

Each strategy should be assessed for effectiveness. A simple checklist can be completed in the classroom or at home. When a sensory strategy is determined to work, that activity can be added to the child’s sensory diet.

If a particular sensory activity is determined to be ineffective, return to level one.

As adults who work with or raise children, we know the fluidity of childhood. Needs, strengths, interests, environment, and other areas can change as a child develops and grows. In the same manner, a sensory diet needs fluidity. Applying various strategies at different levels of growth in a child is a must.

Readers of The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook will find the Sensory Diet Schedule in the Addendum of the book to be a useful tool in creating a checklist for sensory diet activities. This is another series of printable pages that can be utilized over and over again as needed.

Step 4: Monitor- At this stage in development of a sensory diet, strategies should be monitored for effectiveness. Strategies should be monitored on a frequent basis with regard to effectiveness. As part of the monitoring process, a subjective assessment can be completed by adults who oversee the child’s sensory diet strategies.

Additionally, carryover of sensory strategies must be monitored. A list of prescribed activities that are not completed because they require exhaustive effort are not an effective strategy within the life of a family.

Carryover of sensory strategies is extremely important in both the home and in the classroom. If activities are not able to be carried out, then a different sensory strategy should be incorporated into the child’s sensory diet.

When using The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook to create and monitor sensory diets, users will find the Daily Sensory Diet Sheet and the Sensory Diet Schedule to be effective tools for carryover and monitoring strategies.

Use the Sensory Diet Effectiveness Tool, found in the Addendum of this book, to monitor sensory diet results and strategies. This form should be completed after a sensory diet has been in effect for two weeks. 


The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook, a book on how to create sensory diets

If creating a sensory diet and turning it into a sensory lifestyle sounds like a strategy that is needed in your home, classroom, or clinic, then The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a tool that you may need to get there! Check out more on The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook HERE. 


Wondering how to create a sensory diet? Use these steps to create a sensory diet for children with sensory needs that result in meltdowns, attention challenges, struggles with regulation, and other sensory processing related difficulties. Perfect for the occupational therapist who works with kids with sensory needs.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a strategy guide for sensory processing needs. With valuable insight into the sensory system and the whole child, the book details how sensory diets can be incorporated into a lifestyle of sensory success. 



The tools in this book provide intervention strategies to support and challenge the sensory systems through meaningful and authentic sensory diet tactics based on the environment, interests, and sensory needs of each individual child. 

Wondering how to create a sensory diet? Use these steps to create a sensory diet for children with sensory needs that result in meltdowns, attention challenges, struggles with regulation, and other sensory processing related difficulties. Perfect for the occupational therapist who works with kids with sensory needs.

So often, we hear that sensory recommendations are not carried over into the home or classroom. The tips and tools in The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook uses child-led interests and daily life interactions so kids WANT to participate in sensory diet activities their bodies need…because it’s part of play!
The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a resource for creating sensory diets and turning them into a lifestyle of sensory success through meaningful and motivating sensory enrichment.

Attention and Sensory Needs are Connected

Recently here on The OT Toolbox, we’ve talked a lot about sensory processing needs and how strategies can be incorporated into the child’s environment. These tactics provide an authentic and meaningful sensory strategy for incorporating much-needed sensory input right into a child’s environment. It’s all part of creating a sensory lifestyle for a child!



Today, we’re talking about the connection between attention and sensory.



Attention and Sensory Needs are Connected

Attention is a big challenge for kids. Distractions occur in the home, community, classroom, and everywhere a child goes! When attention interferes with learning, performance of functional tasks, or creates unsafe situations, it can be a real problem. But did you ever stop to think about how attention is so very related to sensory processing?


Related read: Here are more executive functioning resources to fill your therapy toolbox!

This free printable workbook is a helpful tool in explaining how attention and sensory are connected and can help parents, teachers, and therapists to address attention through sensory processing strategies.



Our children with sensory challenges know the struggle of inattention. Parents, teachers, and therapists know that sensory processing challenges interfere with a child’s ability to attend.  They may be so focused on a specific sensory input or need that they don’t notice when someone has called their name. Or, they may be so fearful in anticipation of a light touch that they miss what’s happening right in front of them.


Sensory meltdowns can happen in the blink of an eye. They don’t always look like a fleury of kicking, hitting, or yelling. A sensory meltdown can look like distraction or inattentiveness, too.


You may have seen this video floating around on Facebook. Here’s the thing: Attention and sensory challenges are connected. Sound familiar?



This free printable workbook is a helpful tool in explaining how attention and sensory are connected and can help parents, teachers, and therapists to address attention through sensory processing strategies.



As a parent, teacher, or therapist working with these children, we can find it difficult to address the underlying needs so that a child is able to pay attention to their classroom, or to a passing car.



We need to figure out strategies that meet the child’s needs in motivating and natural ways within the environment. Lack of attention span and undesirable responses to sensory input can lead to frustrated teachers, and challenged parents. Distractions from external and internal stimuli can lead to responses that look a lot like behaviors.



What if we could treat the underlying issues, resulting in increased focus and attention?



That’s where the Attention and Sensory Connection Workbook can help.

It’s a FREE one-stop spot for information on the basics of how attention is related to sensory processing. It provides tips to boost attention through the senses so that kids can learn, focus, and pay attention when they need to.

This free printable workbook is a helpful tool in explaining how attention and sensory are connected and can help parents, teachers, and therapists to address attention through sensory processing strategies.
The workbook covers information about how impaired sensory processing relates to attention issues in a variety of ways and provides movement and sensory-motor activities that can help boost attention.

There are specific activity ideas and tactics to address attentiveness. You’ll also find workbook pages that can be used to identify underlying sensory-related areas that impact attention and tools for addressing those needs.


This workbook is a guide for better focus at home or in the classroom. The Attention and Sensory Workbook contains:



  • How Sensory and Attention are Connected
  • The Impact of Sensory Processing on Learning
  • Movement and Sensory-Motor Activities to Improve Attention
  • Sensory Activity Ideas
  • Sensory Processing Workbook Pages
  • Attention and Sensory Activity Workbook Pages

This is an ideal tool to add to any sensory lifestyle! And it’s free!



Using specific and prescribed sensory strategies like those in a sensory diet can be a huge help for the child who struggles with attention and sensory issues. A sensory diet can be the ticket to improved attention when the strategies work and are carried over appropriately.

This free printable workbook is a helpful tool in explaining how attention and sensory are connected and can help parents, teachers, and therapists to address attention through sensory processing strategies.

A sensory diet that focuses on organizing vestibular and proprioceptive input can help a child regulate in order to focus in a classroom lecture. An outdoor recess with calming and alerting input can help a child focus in their afternoon classes. When sensory strategies are incorporated into a child’s environment in meaningful manners, a sensory lifestyle occurs.



Here are a few ways that The Attention and Sensory Connection Workbook can address much-needed skills of our children/students/clients with sensory needs:



  • Sensory processing is the ability to register, screen, organize, and interpret information from our senses and the environment. This process allows us to filter out some unnecessary information so that we can attend to what is important. Kids with sensory challenges often time have difficulty with attention as a result.

  • It’s been found that there is a co-morbidity of 40-60% of ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder. This workbook is an actionable guide to help teachers, therapists, and parents to help kids boost attention and focus in the classroom by mastering sensory processing needs.

  • You will find information on the sensory system and how it impacts attention and learning. There are step-by-step strategies for improving focus, and sensory-based tips and tricks that will benefit the whole classroom.

  • The workbook provides tactics to address attention and sensory processing as a combined strategy and overall function. There are charts for activities, forms for assessment of impact, workbook pages for accommodations, and sensory strategy forms.



This free printable workbook is a helpful tool in explaining how attention and sensory are connected and can help parents, teachers, and therapists to address attention through sensory processing strategies.



It’s been fun sharing all off these free resources with you recently. What’s awesome is that the tools you’ve accessed can be used to create a sensory lifestyle that is meaningful, authentic, and motivating for kids, in all aspects of a child’s day!


Attention Activities for Kids

When it comes to boosting attention in kids, there is a lot going on. Attention is aligned with executive functioning, sensory processing, self-reflection, and so much more! Below, we are chatting about a few attention activities for kids. These are the ones that develop attention through games, activities, and fun. Being that a child’s primary occupation is play, why not develop the skills they need (like attention!) through active participation in an interest-based activity?





Use these attention activities for kids to address attention and the underlying needs that impact attention in kids, perfect for parents, teachers, and occupational therapists looking for ideas to improve attention.



Attention Activities for Kids



There is a lot of information out there on addressing attention needs in kids. Parents can become easily overwhelmed by the shear amount of tactics and treatment approaches for attention


We’ve shared a lot of activities that develop and grow attention here on The OT Toolbox. You can check them out on our Attention page.


You may want to grab a few of these games and tools that boost attention and focus. These are the games and toys out there on the market that make great gift ideas for kids…fun activities that develop attention at the same time!


One thing that stood out in our list of games and toys that develop attention is the sensory aspect.


When it comes to boosting attention in kids, there are a few things that stood out. First, games are huge part of boosting attention! Games like DIY memory games can be adjusted to meet the interests of each child and can be modified based on ability or age.


Kids love target games. Using an item like weighted bean bag games add proprioceptive input that is calming. These snowflake bean bags or ice cream cone bean bags are easy DIY ideas. 


Adding sensory supports that reduce overwhelming input can be helpful in addressing attention needs, too. This article explains a lot about the sensory aspect of attention


Adding some gross motor activities into a routine through outdoor play, or via brain breaks in the classroom, or with simple games can be a big boost when it comes to helping with attention and focus. This dinosaur movement game is a big hit. It can be adjusted based on the child’s interests, too. Have a little one who is more interested in Shopkins than dinosaurs? No problem! Just make the game based on those tiny figures! 


If you’re needing more movement ideas, this list of monthly movement activities is a good start. You can get ideas for the whole year in this one post. 


Working on mindfulness is another approach to addressing attention needs in kids. Here are YouTube videos that address mindfulness and are appropriate for kids.


It can be helpful to work on identifying and expressing emotions with kids of any age. For the child with attention challenges, emotional regulation and working on strategies to manage big emotions can be a huge help. 


Teaching kids about coping skills and self-regulation is a good strategy for addressing attention during tasks, too. 


There are so many strategies to address attention in kids and activities that can help address attention needs. One tactic that can be a big help is analyzing precursors to behaviors related to attention and addressing underlying needs. 


The Attention and Sensory Workbook can be a way to do just that. 


The Attention and Sensory Workbook is a free printable resource for parents, teachers, and therapists. It is a printable workbook and includes so much information on the connection between attention and sensory needs. 


Here’s what you can find in the Attention and Sensory Workbook


  • Includes information on boosting attention through the senses
  • Discusses how sensory and learning are connected
  • Provides movement and sensory motor activity ideas
  • Includes workbook pages for creating movement and sensory strategies to improve attention



A little more about the Attention and Sensory Workbook: 



Sensory processing is the ability to register, screen, organize, and interpret information from our senses and the environment. This process allows us to filter out some unnecessary information so that we can attend to what is important. Kids with sensory challenges often time have difficulty with attention as a result.


It’s been found that there is a co-morbidity of 40-60% of ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder. This workbook is an actionable guide to help teachers, therapists, and parents to help kids boost attention and focus in the classroom by mastering sensory processing needs. 


You will find information on the sensory system and how it impacts attention and learning. There are step-by-step strategies for improving focus, and sensory-based tips and tricks that will benefit the whole classroom.


The workbook provides tactics to address attention and sensory processing as a combined strategy and overall function. There are charts for activities, forms for assessment of impact, workbook pages for accommodations, and sensory strategy forms.


Grab the Attention and Sensory Workbook by clicking HERE or on the image below.

Attention and sensory workbook activities for improving attention in kids

Use these attention activities for kids to address attention and the underlying needs that impact attention in kids, perfect for parents, teachers, and occupational therapists looking for ideas to improve attention.

Sensory Strategies in Schools

Here on The OT Toolbox, we’ve shared a lot of information about addressing sensory processing needs in the classroom environment. We’ve shared sensory strategies for the school-based OT. We’ve talked about sensory diets in the classroom. So often, kids with sensory processing challenges struggle in the school environment. And, we’ve talked about calm-down strategies that can be used in the classroom.

Today, we’ve got a big resource for anyone who lives with, loves, or works with a child with sensory processing needs. These sensory strategies can be used in schools by occupational therapists, teachers, parents, administrators, or anyone who advocates for a child with sensory needs.

Use these classroom sensory strategies to help kids with sensory processing needs to learn, pay attention, self-regulate, focus, and address sensory needs within the classroom or learning environment to address educational goals and sensory needs. Perfect for occupational therapists in the schools..

Sensory Strategies in Schools

As a caregiver or parent, it is exhausting to see the challenges your child faces, while ticking through the laundry list of strategies and still witnessing the sensory breakdowns. Parents are the advocate for addressing their child’s needs. They are looking for resources to share.



Therapists are challenged to find tactics that will be carried over while meeting functional goals. We strive to create streamlined suggestions that will be used at home and in the midst of a busy classroom.



Often times, teachers are the middleman when it comes to sensory issues. They are dealing with curriculum requirements, little time, and demands of a full classroom. Time, space, and resources are limited in the classroom. Teachers struggle with meeting sensory needs and children who “feed off” other students.


Strategies for addressing or preventing sensory meltdowns are needed before they happen!
Use these classroom sensory strategies to help kids with sensory processing needs to learn, pay attention, self-regulate, focus, and address sensory needs within the classroom or learning environment to address educational goals and sensory needs. Perfect for occupational therapists in the schools. Use these classroom sensory strategies to help kids with sensory processing needs to learn, pay attention, self-regulate, focus, and address sensory needs within the classroom or learning environment to address educational goals and sensory needs. Perfect for occupational therapists in the schools.

Because of these challenges, the classroom can be a tricky environment for addressing the needs of students, incorporating strategies, and addressing behaviors related to sensory needs. If any of these struggles sound familiar, know that you are not alone!



You’re striving to find and use the sensory strategies that students need and to put them into place in easy-to-understand handouts where recommended tools can be highlighted. You’re seeking information about why students are acting the way they are and how to help them to improve learning, attention, regulation, and emotional needs so that educational needs are met.



That’s where the Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit comes in.

Use these classroom sensory strategies to help kids with sensory processing needs to learn, pay attention, self-regulate, focus, and address sensory needs within the classroom or learning environment to address educational goals and sensory needs. Perfect for occupational therapists in the schools. Use these classroom sensory strategies to help kids with sensory processing needs to learn, pay attention, self-regulate, focus, and address sensory needs within the classroom or learning environment to address educational goals and sensory needs. Perfect for occupational therapists in the schools.

The Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit is a printable packet of resources and handouts that can be used by teachers, parents, and therapists. Whether you are looking for a handout to explain sensory strategies, or a tool for advocating for your child, the Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit has got you covered.



And it’s free for you to print off and use again and again.



In the Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit, you’ll find:



  • Fidgeting Tools for the Classroom
  • Adapted Seating Strategies for the Classroom
  • Self-Regulation in the Classroom
  • 105 Calm-down Strategies for the Classroom
  • Chewing Tools for Classroom Needs
  • 45 Organizing Tools for Classroom Needs
  • Indoor Recess Sensory Diet Cards

Use these classroom sensory strategies to help kids with sensory processing needs to learn, pay attention, self-regulate, focus, and address sensory needs within the classroom or learning environment to address educational goals and sensory needs. Perfect for occupational therapists in the schools.



Here are a few ways that the Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit can address much-needed skills of our children/students/clients with sensory needs:



  • Science tells us there are more kids with processing needs than ever before. Schools are responding with a better understanding of how to help students using sensory input within the school day.

  • The Sensory Strategy Toolkit is a helpful tool for incorporating sensory needs within the educational environment as supports and tools that kids need.

  • Sensory processing challenges in kids are baffling! Having a set of sensory tools that can be used in the classroom is powerful to teachers, parents, and therapists.

  • Sensory processing issues cause stress, motivation, and challenges for the whole family. Having a toolkit of sensory strategies for the classroom can help.

  • Self-regulation in the school environment can derail the whole classroom from effective learning. Use the calm-down strategies and self-regulation pieces in the toolkit and have the information you need to address these challenges.

  • Those who work in the school environment struggle with a limited budget for addressing sensory needs. These strategies use equipment that is on hand in the classroom.

  • The toolkit is appropriate for preschool through teenage years and older and the strategies can be modified to meet the needs of each individual.



Use these classroom sensory strategies to help kids with sensory processing needs to learn, pay attention, self-regulate, focus, and address sensory needs within the classroom or learning environment to address educational goals and sensory needs. Perfect for occupational therapists in the schools.

Be sure to grab the Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit and start addressing those classroom sensory challenges!



Use these classroom sensory strategies to help kids with sensory processing needs to learn, pay attention, self-regulate, focus, and address sensory needs within the classroom or learning environment to address educational goals and sensory needs. Perfect for occupational therapists in the schools.
P.S. Stay tuned because in just a couple of days, we’ll have another free resource for you. It’s all about sensory activities like those in a sensory diet and how they can be used to address attention and focus in kids. And what’s awesome is that the free printable resource coming your way will help the kids you parent, teach, or serve in therapy to work on attention using sensory strategies, even if they don’t have a sensory diet in place.

Quiet Fidget Toys for School

The fidget tools listed below are those that are quiet in nature. You’ve probably spun a fidget spinner or two in your days (the last year or so that fidget spinners where a “thing”, anyway). They make a noise, right? Those fidget clicker boxes? They make a noise too. For the classroom environment where a click or a spin can be distracting to others, quiet fidget tools are a must. 


Scroll on to find out more about quiet DIY fidget tools for school that can be a valuable tool for kids with attention challenges, regulation needs, sensory processing issues, or other needs that require a fidget tool for concentration and inclusion in the classroom setting. 




Quiet fidget tools for kids in the classroom to help with attention, fidgeting, or sensory needs.




Quiet Fidget Tools for School



Here’s the thing about fidget tools in the classroom setting. They can get a bad rap. But, have you ever stopped to think that we ALL need a fidget tactic of some sort when we need to really concentrate? We jiggle our leg. We tap the desk. We doodle. We talk with our hands. We mess with a pen. We tap our phone. We twirl our hair. We all do something that is an overflow of motor actions with concentration. 


So, when we ask our kids (who are getting less time outdoors, less recess, and are experiencing more sensory processing needs) to sit still at their desk and NOT fidget, wiggle, twirl, move, slouch, or jump…it’s a messy classroom!


Fidget tools for students in a classroom don’t need to be a pricey. 


They don’t need to be obtrusive. 


They don’t need to be a tool that is unnatural in the classroom. 


Fidget tools can be used by any student and can be items that are a natural part of the classroom. 


Try using some of these quiet fidget tools in a classroom. It may be helpful to go over rules of fidget tools with the whole class. Do that before handing over the fidget. Set up guidelines for use, and inappropriate use of fidget tools. Instruct students that they are to be used when concentrating and at all other times should be placed in pencil box or pencil pouch, with crayons, scissors, and other “tools”. Just like those items have a place and a use in the classroom, the fidget tool should be used at certain times and in certain ways!

Quiet Fidget Tools for School



Affiliate links are included below. 


Fun pencil topper
DIY pencil topper
Small koosh ball (tuck this in the palm of the hand for younger students to encourage a functional pencil grasp and separation of the sides of the hand.)
Two or three paper clips linked together
Paper brad with paperclip clipped into a folder or notebook cover
Pencil grip
Beads on a pipe cleaner
Keychain
Small stress ball
Marble sewn into a cotton glove
Sliced pool noodle (Very cost efficient! A whole class can be outfitted with a quiet fidget tool for about $1)
Wikki Stix (an effective tool for a writing or reading guide too.)
Rubber bands on a ring 
Craft pom poms
DIY Zipper pull

Sensory strategies like these can be a big help for many children. 


You may also be interested in the free printable packet, The Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit.

The Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit is a printable packet of resources and handouts that can be used by teachers, parents, and therapists. Whether you are looking for a handout to explain sensory strategies, or a tool for advocating for your child, the Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit has got you covered.


And it’s free for you to print off and use again and again.


In the Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit, you’ll find:


  • Fidgeting Tools for the Classroom
  • Adapted Seating Strategies for the Classroom
  • Self-Regulation in the Classroom
  • 105 Calm-down Strategies for the Classroom
  • Chewing Tools for Classroom Needs
  • 45 Organizing Tools for Classroom Needs
  • Indoor Recess Sensory Diet Cards

Sensory Strategies for the Classroom

Quiet fidget tools for kids in the classroom to help with attention, fidgeting, or sensory needs.