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Every year we trek 6 hours to the beach. Four kids in a minivan for a six hour trip that in actuality takes 8 or more hours after bathroom breaks. It can be nerve wracking for the kids and the parents. Long road trips with the family are definitely fun. They are certainly stressful and chaotic times with sibling love and revelry, but definitely memory-making. Whether you have one child or 6, a road trip involves planning. You prepare the books, the activities, the snacks, the music, or videos. You can prep it all, but no matter what, there will be craziness that only kids can bring. There are the potty emergencies that happen 20 minutes after you left the rest stop. There are the drink spills that saturate the car seats. There are spilled toys and fights that break out among sisters. But through it all, you’re plowing 65 miles an hour to memories.
But, when all of this chaos is happening, you can take mini-sensory breaks that will give the kids a chance to calm down the fidgets and the wiggles. As an occupational therapist in the school-based setting, I often times made recommendations to parents and teachers for kids who needed to move during the span of a class or school-day. Unfortunately, when you are travelling long distances in a car on a road trip, you can’t always stop and get out to move and stretch. There are definitely times that a rest stop is needed and those are the perfect times for kids to get out of the car and run a bit. But, when you are stuck in a van or car for a while, sometimes kids just need to have a sensory break. This is true for typical kids or kids with sensory processing disorders (and parents, too)!
We made these snack bottles to help with calming sensory input using Twizzlers Twists. Sensory Processing Disorder in children can present with many different sensory needs due to difficulties with modulating sensory input. The long car ride of a family vacation can cause sensory overload or a lack of sensory input to kids who need help regulating input. Whether a child with sensory processing disorder is sensory seeking, under-responsive to sensory input, or sensory defensive, oral motor sensory integration activities like chewy Twizzlers Twists can help. The repetition of chewing a licorice twist can help to calm and regulate sensory needs. Not only are Twizzlers Twists the perfect car snack for sensory needs, they are easy to eat and Don’t Melt like chocolate snacks might!
Twizzlers Twists are a great way to organize a child’s sensory needs. The proprioceptive input that oral motor sensory activities provide can help a child who is escalating in sensory needs and demonstrating indicators of sensory needs; chewing on their shirt or seat belt straps, wiggling, fidgeting, elevating outbursts, or other sensory indicators that children might exhibit. Twizzlers Twists are a great texture and length to provide proprioceptive input to the molars. I’ve recommended Twizzlers Twists to parents of my Occupational Therapy clients for years!
To make a Road Trip Twizzlers Twists Snack holder:
With kids, a road trip almost guarantees a messy car with crumbs and spills. We wanted to create a container that would hold our Twizzlers Twists and keep the mess on the lower end. A cute container is bonus, so we pulled out the ribbons and glue gun. These snack holders will keep our Twizzlers Twists ready for kids (and the parents) that need a quick sensory break during a long trip:
Gather a few tall plastic jars from the recycle bin. We used recycled peanut jars and loved that the lids coordinated with our Twizzlers Twists! Grab a strand of ribbon and the glue gun to make these jars something special.
Other ideas for oral motor input during long car rides might include some of these ideas:
- Chew on a straw
- Blow through a straw
- Eat crunchy snacks
- Drink a smoothie through a sippy cup with a straw-type top
- Use a “crazy straw” in a cup. The smaller opening is great for oral motor input.
- Play “Simon Says” with mouth exercises: Suck cheeks in/puff cheeks out/Make a big “O” shape/Stretch out the tongue
- Chew gum
- Use a straw to suck and pick up pieces of paper. Transfer them carefully to a cup using only the straw.
Celebrate a Twizzler Summer with a Road Trip Sensory Break! You’ve seen how we’re handling a long road trip. How do you manage sensory needs on your long car rides? Let us know in the comments below.