Improve Attention with Auditory Processing

Auditory processing and strategies to improve attention

Below, you will find information on how to improve attention and memory with auditory processing techniques, specifically through auditory feedback. We’re sharing information regarding an auditory processing tool intending to utilize auditory feedback to promote attention and memory within functional tasks.

Tips and strategies to improve attention and memory with auditory processing.

On a daily basis, therapy providers witness the strong connections between attention and memory, and their influence on function. They’re also able to prescribe customized therapy programs that ameliorate each level of auditory processing needed to carry out a task. Activities that work multiple systems while strengthening the foundation of function help to streamline therapy and meet goals. This wholistic approach is a hallmark of the occupational therapy profession.

Auditory Processing

We’ve shared various auditory processing activities here on The OT Toolbox. Today, we’re chatting about auditory feedback and the part this plays in improving attention needed in learning. You can find additional resources and activities like this auditory feedback tool at the bottom of this post.

Memory and Attention are the Foundations for Learning

Memory and attention work together in the brain to form the basis of our cognitive abilities. Attention is the ability to process information—sometimes selectively—and memory is the ability to store that information for retrieval as needed.

This foundation impacts everything we do, including basic cognitive tasks (such as brushing our teeth) and more complex tasks (like playing a musical instrument).

What is auditory feedback and how does this  skill play into auditory processing and its impact on attention and memory?

What is Auditory Feedback

Auditory Feedback is a natural process in the human body that helps us understand and modulate sound and speech signals in real time. When we speak, our ears receive the signal, and our brains make sense of it. In the case of vocalizations, and to a greater extent speech, our brains modulate the productions in real time so that we can quickly adapt, ensuring our message is accurate.

Strengthening the Foundation

Simply using the auditory feedback system—or auditory feedback loop—is one way to ensure that memory and attention continue to work well. We do this every day by listening to sounds and speaking.

In order to improve these skills, we need to challenge the brain in specific ways. We know that the brain is plastic; it is a living organ that changes and adapts to the needs of the body. If someone stops using their left arm, the brain will strengthen connections to the right arm to compensate. Furthermore, the neural connections that aren’t being used for the left arm will start to deteriorate, which is hard evidence for the “use it or lose it” adage.

Practical and Results-Focused Brain Training

Disclosure: Affiliate links are included below.

Capitalizing on the audio-feedback loop and its ability to improve memory and attention in the brain is the business of Forbrain® Bone Conduction Headphones. With these headphones, a simple task can become a multi-faceted memory and attention-boosting transformation.

Bone conduction hearing is ten times quicker than air conduction and while using Forbrain, which includes a microphone and a dynamic filter, manipulated sound stimuli reach the brain quicker, and are presented in a way that’s naturally challenging. Challenging the brain is synonymous with growing the brain!

The use of Forbrain has been proven to improve therapy outcomes. One study suggests that there is a real basis for the claims that Forbrain can improve voice quality and the executive attentional mechanisms and memory. The results suggest that an auditory feedback device such as Forbrain® could be helpful in improving focus in those who have attention disorders such as ADHD, and those who have difficulties with speech production and auditory processing (Escera).

Activities to improve attention through auditory processinG

It’s as simple as wearing the headphones while carrying out auditory feedback activities during therapy or during everyday tasks. Examples of activities might include:

  • Reading a book or poetry aloud
  • Practicing tone and pitch while singing
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Memorizing material for an exam
  • Performing exercises to improve posture and diaphragmatic breathing

Easy to incorporate auditory processing activities:

Forbrain isn’t just for therapists or those of us in a therapy program. If you or someone you know can benefit from the improved memory and attention abilities that Forbrain provides, read more about using a bone conduction headset and grab one of your ownn here.

Tips and tools for better attention using auditory feedback and other auditory processing strategies.
Use an auditory feedback tool like bone conduction headphones to improve attention through auditory processing strategies.

References:

Escera, C. (2015). A scientific single case study on speech, auditory processing and attentional strengthening with Forbrain® . Retrieved from Agency name website: https://www.forbrain.com/uploads/editor/files/Scientific_Research_Forbrain-Carles_Escera-Summary_Report.pdf

Toy Theme Play Dough Mat

toy theme play dough mat

This toy theme play dough mat may be just the incentive kids need to build hand strength! Kids can improve hand strength in fun ways when play dough is added to the mix. We’ve been sharing a variety of free play dough mats based on several different themes. These are free printable playdough mats that kids can use to increase hand strength, specially strength of the intrinsic muscles of the hands.

Use this free printable toy theme play dough mat to boost fine motor skills and hand strength that kids need for fine motor tasks, perfect for those kids that love play dough activities!


Toy Theme PlayDough Mat

Kids love toys, right? I haven’t met a child who isn’t captivated by a new toy. This toy theme play dough mat builds on the fundamental “job” that kids have…play!


You can print off this printable play dough mat that focuses on toys and an toy theme and use it to work on fine motor skills and the intrinsic muscle strengthening that kids need to complete many functional tasks…and even play!

Toy Themed Play Dough Mat for Fine Motor Skills

Show your child how to use the finger tips and thumb of one hand to roll a small ball of play dough. By using just one hand, they can develop and define the arches of the hand, while strengthening the other muscles of the intrinsic muscle groups at the same time.   

Then, ask the child to place and press the play dough on the circles on the toy play dough mat. They may need to pull off a bit of dough to make the play dough ball fit into the circles. This is a great activity for boosting visual perceptual skills too!  

Looking for more ways to use play dough to increase fine motor skills? Add these play dough activities to your therapy toolbox!

Gold, Silver, & Bronze Metallic Crayon Play Dough

Patriotic Crayon Salt Dough Recipe

Crayon Salt Dough Recipe

Crayon Floam Dough Recipe

Crayon Shaving Art

Shades of Red Crayon Play Dough

Harold and the Purple Crayon Play Dough

Here are more free play dough mats:

Free Ice Cream Play Dough Mat

Free Bird Play Dough Mat

Free Toys Play Dough Mat

Free Astronaut Play Dough Mat

Free City Skyline Play Dough Mat

Enter your email in the form below and access your free printable play dough mat. Then, pull out the play dough!   

Grab this FREE printable Toy themed play dough mat to help kids strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the hands!

    We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.
     
     
    Kids will love this free playdough mat with a toy theme while building the hand strength and fine motor skills.
     

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    DIY Whisper Phone

    One of our more popular posts here on The OT Toolbox is our post on classroom sensory strategies. For kids who struggle with attention challenges, general sensory processing needs, auditory processing, self-regulation, or other needs, a whisper phone can be a power tool when it comes to reading or processing auditory information. Below, you’ll find information on how to make a DIY whisper phone for only $3 and how a whisper phone helps kids of all ages! Plus, we’re sharing where we got this awesome idea to make a whisper phone that kids will love! For more sensory play ideas, stick around!!
    Affiliate links are included in this post. 
    Make a DIY whisper phone to address reading comprehension, letter sounds, and sensory processing needs.

    DIY Whisper Phone

    When it comes to therapy tools and equipment, finding the best deals is ideal. But even better is when you can make your own therapy tools at a fraction of the cost and still benefit from the therapeutic benefits. This DIY whisper phone is just the example. In fact, a whisper phone on Amazon costs more than $6 so when you are shopping to fill the needs of a classroom or caseload, the DIY version can be a fun alternative. 
    Auditory processing activities may include whisper and volume of voice, including using a whisper phone in therapy.

    What is a Whisper Phone

    First, you may be wondering “What is a whisper phone“…read on to find out what exactly a whisper phone is and how they can be so beneficial to so many kids. 
    Typically, a whisper phone is a tube shaped like a phone that can be held at the child’s ear and mouth. They can whisper sounds and words and clearly hear individual sounds without background noise. 
    They are a great tool for kids with auditory needs AND kids without auditory processing issues. Whisper phones can be so helpful in teaching any child to recognize sounds of letters! Kids can use a whisper phone to hear themselves read, which helps them with comprehension and fluency through auditory feedback.
    A whisper phone is a tool that can be so helpful for kids with auditory processing needs or other concerns that interfere with a child’s ability to focus on auditory input. These kids sometimes struggle with pulling out important information from auditory input. 
    Other times, a whisper phone is used in reading to help kids recognize sounds in words, including pronunciation, fluency, and reading comprehension. This can be helpful for kids without auditory processing needs too! 
    Make a DIY whisper phone to address reading comprehension, letter sounds, and sensory processing needs.

    How to use a Whisper Phone to help with Auditory Processing

    Auditory processing challenges can look like a variety of things: poor listening skills, difficulty with language comprehension, auditory sensory sensitivities, or other listening concerns.

    Using a whisper phone can help with skills like:
    • Auditory discrimination
    • Auditory sequencing
    • Auditory memory
    • Auditory figure-ground discrimination
    Here are more auditory processing activities that can help.
    Make a DIY whisper phone to address reading comprehension, letter sounds, and sensory processing needs.
    A whisper phone can be used in many ways:
    Sound out letters to help kids recognize the sounds associated with each letter. This is SO important in kids whom we later see in therapy who can not associate letter formation and struggle with handwriting and formation!
    Sound out words to identify parts of words.
    Auditory feedback when reading.
    Provide a calming sensory diet activity.
    Improve self-confidence with reading skills.
    Discriminate between sounds and background noise.
    Identify tone and volume of speech.
    So much more!
    Make a DIY whisper phone to address reading comprehension, letter sounds, and sensory processing needs.

    How to make a DIY Whisper Phone

    We were inspired to make a DIY whisper phone when we saw a fun activity in the new STEAM Learn and Play Book. This whisper phone is not the traditional hand-held style, but more like the traditional can phones from the therapist’s childhood! 
    We made a whisper phone that can be used with two children and is a fun way to address the needs described above. 
    To make a DIY whisper phone, you’ll need just three items. We gathered these items at our Dollar store, making the DIY whisper phone a great deal! 
    • Two small funnels
    • One tube
    To make the DIY whisper phone, just connect the funnels to a tube. The bendy tube that we used was long enough to reach between two friends. 
    If the tube doesn’t fit exactly, use a bit of tape to hold the tube in place. 
    Then, play and learn! 
    Make a DIY whisper phone to address reading comprehension, letter sounds, and sensory processing needs.
    This whisper phone is so easy to make that kids can make it themselves. In fact, it would be a great group activity for a small group in a camp setting. 

    STEAM Play & Learn Book

    We got the idea to make a whisper phone from the new STEAM Play & Learn book written by Ana at Babble Dabble Do. What a fun book this is for hands-on activities that kids will WANT to do while learning and playing. 
    Each page is full of colorful activities that teach.

    There are so many fun ways to explore science, technology, engineering, art, and math with this book. For parents or teachers looking for a complement to a specific curriculum, this book is it. Kid can explore so many areas while learning through hands-on play.
    The OT in my LOVES the tactile experiences shared in this book! Check out some of the ideas below:

    Looking for more ways to address sensory needs? 

    You will love our Printable Sensory Diet Cards that cover so many areas! There are activities and ideas to address auditory processing needs, plus every other sensory system. Grab our Sensory Diet Cards for a complete packet of sensory activities. You’ll find 24 pages of 345 sensory diet activities including:

    • Calming and alerting movement activities
    • Heavy work fine motor activities for pre-writing needs or fidgeting needs
    • Sensory activities
    • Sensory support cards
    These sensory diet cards can be used in the home, classroom, or clinic. They are available now for $9.99 on The OT Toolbox shop
    Use printable sensory diet cards to encouraging sensory input through play

     Read more about the challenges of auditory processing disorders.


    Fall Leaf themed auditory processing activities for sensory needs in kids.Auditory processing dominoes made with bells are perfect for a color matching activity, and can be graded to meet the auditory needs of all ages.Auditory processing sensory ideas for backyard summer sensory play, perfect for sensory diet ideas for kids.Baby Sensory bottles using recycled spice jars

     Fall Leaf Auditory Processing Activity




    Sensory Diet Activities at the Beach

    Whether you live at the beach or just travel to the beach for an annual family trip, it can be overwhelming for a child with sensory needs to cope with the sensory input that a trip to the beach can cause. The beach has so many sights, sounds, scents, and textures that can be used to meet sensory needs. For the family that is travelling with a child with sensory processing challenges, the beach can be both a blessing and a source of sensory overload. Use the strategies listed below to address sensory needs on a trip to the shore and the tactics to address hypersensitivity during a beach trip. These sensory diet activities at the beach can be a powerful tool or recommendation by occupational therapists and part of an outdoor sensory diet


    Knowing what a sensory diet is and how it can be used within a sensory lifestyle is a big part of integrating sensory activities and sensory play, even while travelling or for the family who lives at the beach or water area. 


    Kids with sensory processing challenges or SPD can use these sensory diet activities at the beach, perfect for Occupational Therapists to recommend as a home program for beach play or for families travelling to the beach for vacation.


    Sensory Diet Activities at the Beach

    Make a sandcastle
    Rake the sand (for pulling and pushing proprioceptive input)
    Bury feet or hands
    Sprinkle sand on hands or toys
    Fill a bucket with water
    Carry water from the shore to dry sand
    Dig wet sand 
    Dig dry sand
    Make a “wet castle” using wet sand
    Firm pressure massage with sunscreen
    Carry a bucket of sand
    Scoop and pour sand
    Scoop and pour water
    Inspect tide pools
    Pick up, scoop, and carry pebbles
    Jump low waves
    Sit at water’s edge for sand play
    Bury a toy and then find it
    Play visual discrimination games with sand toys: Child can look at a collection of toys then one is removed and the child needs to determine which is missing
    Play beach “I Spy”
    Roll up in a beach towel burrito with heavy input
    Fill a gallon sized bag with sand for a DIY weighted lap pad or shoulder pad
    Pull or push a bin or wagon of beach toys
    Carry a beach bag
    Fly a kite (great for visual motor skills, visual scanning, and proprioception)
    Catch and toss a beach ball
    Play beach ring toss
    Chase waves
    Look for seashells
    Rinse and clean seashells



    Kids with sensory processing challenges or SPD can use these sensory diet activities at the beach, perfect for Occupational Therapists to recommend as a home program for beach play or for families travelling to the beach for vacation.


    Accommodations for addressing sensory needs at the beach

    Children with sensory processing challenges can be overwhelmed given all of the sights, sounds, scents, and textures that the beach provides. Try these accommodations for addressing sensory needs in backyard play:

    Play in a baby pool to enjoy water without the waves
    Use a large beach blanket and weight down edges
    Be cognizant of hot sand
    Provide calming snacks
    Wear long sleeved sun clothing

    Wear water shoes instead of sandals or bear feet
    Proprioceptive input such as firm touch to the shoulders
    Bucket of water to rinse hands if child is sensitive to sand
    Sheltered area such as a wind tent or low umbrella if child is sensitive to wind blowing on skin
    Wear a lightweight wind jacket
    Use baby powder to remove sand
    Hat with brim to reduce bright light or intense light in eyes or on face
    Wear sunglasses
    Wear headphones to reduce background noise
    Be aware of certain sunscreens which as a strong scent
    Bring extra dry towels

    How to incorporate sensory play into playing at the beach

    Sensory diet activities can be specific to sensory system like these vestibular sensory diet activities. Sensory activities can be prescribed according to need along with environment in order to maximize sensory input within a child’s day such as within the school day. Using authentic sensory input within the child’s environment plays into the whole child that we must understand when focusing on any goal toward improved functional independence. 



    Many sensory diet activities can naturally be found outdoors. In fact, outdoor sensory diet activities are a fun way to encourage sensory input in a child’s environment and without fancy therapy equipment or tools. 

    It’s a fact that kids are spending less time playing outdoors. From after-school schedules to two working parents, to unsafe conditions, to increased digital screen time, to less outdoor recess time…kids just get less natural play in the outdoors. Some therapists have connected the dots between less outdoor play and increased sensory struggles and attention difficulties in learning. 

    Knowing this, it can be powerful to have a list of outdoor sensory diet activities that can be recommended as therapy home programing and family activities that meet underlying needs.

    That’s where the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and Sensory Challenge Cards come into play.

    They are a FREE printable resource that encourages sensory diet strategies in the outdoors. In the printable packet, there are 90 outdoor sensory diet activities, 60 outdoor recess sensory diet activities, 30 blank sensory diet cards, and 6 sensory challenge cards. They can be used based on preference and interest of the child, encouraging motivation and carryover, all while providing much-needed sensory input.

    Here’s a little more information about the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards
    • 90 outdoor sensory diet activities
    • 60 outdoor recess sensory diet activities
    • 30 blank sensory diet cards, and 6 sensory challenge cards
    • They can be used based on preference and interest of the child, encouraging motivation and carryover, all while providing much-needed sensory input. 
    • Research tells us that outdoor play improves attention and provides an ideal environment for a calm and alert state, perfect for integration of sensory input.
    • Outdoor play provides input from all the senses, allows for movement in all planes, and provides a variety of strengthening components including eccentric, concentric, and isometric muscle contractions. 
    • Great tool for parents, teachers, AND therapists!


    Be sure to grab the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and use them with a child (or adult) with sensory processing needs!

    Outdoor sensory diet activity cards for parents, teachers, and therapists of children with sensory processing needs.

    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. The book is now released as a digital e-book or softcover print book, available on Amazon. 

    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.

    Kids with sensory processing challenges or SPD can use these sensory diet activities at the beach, perfect for Occupational Therapists to recommend as a home program for beach play or for families travelling to the beach for vacation.

    Outdoor Sensory Diet Activities for the Backyard

    So often, kids are sent home from therapy with a sensory diet of specific activities and sensory tools that are prescribed for certain sensory processing needs. When a therapist creates a home exercise program, they do their best to ensure carryover through small lists of activities, parent education, and 
    motivating activities that are based on the child’s interests and personal goals.


    If you are looking for more outdoor sensory diet activities that can be used in the backyard or as part of a home program, these occupational therapy activities will be a huge help!





    These outdoor sensory diet activities are good sensory experiences to meet the needs of children with sensory processing needs or those who struggle with sensory related behaviors, perfect for a home exercise program or occupational therapy activities.



    We’ve all seen home programs that are just not used at home! Between all of the things that need doing in the home, it is hard to do that one extra task that is a home exercise program…even when it’s a sensory diet strategy that can help everything else. 


    So, using sensory diet tools within the context of environments or activities that are deeply meaningful to a family and child such as play that is already happening, can be the meaningful and motivating strategy to actually get that sensory diet task completed. And it benefits the child along with the whole family. 


    These sensory diet activities are those that can be included into backyard play. That may look like independent play by the child or it might mean family time on a Sunday afternoon. Use these outdoor sensory diet activities in the backyard to as sensory tools that double as playtime for the child while he/she learns and grows… or to meet the sensory needs of the child while creating memories and enjoying time together!


    Disclaimer: When therapists develop a specific and highly individualized sensory diet, it’s not just throwing together a day filled with sensory input. A sensory diet  is a specific set of sensory tools used to meet and address certain needs of the individual based on sensory need and strategizing. Each of the sensory diet activities above should meet specific needs of the child. Every child is different so applying sensory input to one child may look very different than that of another. Parents should use the tactics below along with your child’s occupational therapist.


    These outdoor sensory diet activities are good sensory experiences to meet the needs of children with sensory processing needs or those who struggle with sensory related behaviors, perfect for a home exercise program or occupational therapy activities.

    Bakyard Sensory Diet Activities

    Slide down a hill on cardboard
    Grass sensory bin
    Use a magnifying glass to inspect the grass and dirt
    Mud kitchen
    Roll down hills
    Animal walks with barefeet
    Create nature “soup” with grass, flower petals, sticks, etc.
    Pick flowers
    Cartwheels and tumbling on the grass (barefoot or with shoes!)
    Water Table with nature
    Cartwheel or tumbling 
    Target games
    Bean bag games
    Relay races
    Hide and seek games
    Simon Says games
    Tag 
    Bell parade
    Kazoo sound hunt
    Listening for birds or animals
    Record backyard sounds and playback the recording. Try to recognize and name the sound and where it was located in the yard.
    Fill containers with items from the backyard.  Shake plastic containers or even paper bags with the items and see if your child can name the objects.
    Play Marco Polo in the yard!

    Auditory backyard games like: Neighborhood Listening Scavenger Hunt, Auditory Hide and Seek, Listening Tag, Noisy Toy Positioning Game
    Create with recycled materials and make arts, crafts, and activities.
    Pull plastic ware out of the cupboards and sort the lids onto the containers.
    Mix colors with food coloring in water.
    Blow bubbles
    Jump rope
    Play Kickball
    Throw a book picnic: grab snacks, a blanket, and a pile of books and head outside.
    Dress up with old fancy dresses and clothes from mom’s closet (then throw them in a bag and donate!)
    Bake
    Poke holes in a cardboard box and push pipe cleaners through the holes
    Bowl with recycled plastic waterbottles
    Act out a favorite nursery rhyme
    Play Pizza Tag: one person is “it” and chases the others.  Players run from “it” and can stay safe from being tagged by naming pizza toppings and touching the ground.
    Put dollhouses or play sets into a bin of shredded paper.
    Play hide and seek
    Climb trees
    Watch and draw clouds
    Tell stories where one person starts a story and each person adds a sentence to continue the story.  Write it down and illustrate your story!
    Make and deliver lemonade to neighbors
    Go birdwatching
    Make creative firefly catchers and then catch the fireflies that night.
    Play charades
    Act out a favorite book
    Create with finger paints (make your own with flour, water, and food coloring or washable paint!)
    Sing songs
    Turn on music and dance
    Pick flowers and give them to neighbors
    Make crafts. Have an art show and invite friends.
    Spin in circles.
    Swing side to side on a swing set.
    Hang upside down from swing set equipment.
    Swing on a hammock.
    Backyard dance party.  Encourage lots of whole body movements and spinning.
    Cartwheels
    Tumbles
    Hopscotch
    Play Leapfrog
    Mini trampoline (or the big sized-trampoline)
    Catch a ball while standing, sitting, swinging, rolling a ball, catching between legs, etc.
    Hit a tennis racket at a target including bubbles, falling leaves, large balls, small rubber balls, and balloons
    Catch butterflies in a net
    Bubble pop, including popping bubbles with a toe, knee, foot, head, finger, or elbow
    goop
    play dough
    shaving cream
    paper mache



    Backyard Sensory Diet Equipment

    Make a bin of outdoor toys that are readily available in your garage or storage area so that sensory play experiences are at your family’s fingertips. 
    Hoola Hoops
    Jump Ropes
    Balls
    Bat
    Tennis Racket
    Butterfly Net
    Baby Swimming Pool
    Tarp or Slip and Slide
    Water Hose
    Scoops and cups
    Sidewalk chalk
    Bike
    Scooter
    Skateboard
    Cardboard
    Target or net
    Shovels
    Buckets
    Play wheelbarrow
    Swingset
    Climbing structure
    Flashlight
    Magnifying glass
    Cones
    Bubbles
    Bean bags


    Accommodations for addressing sensory needs in the backyard

    For kids with sensory needs, it can be overwhelming to have an open space full of sights, sounds, scents, and textures. Honking horns, barking dogs, and other sounds that frequent the backyard or lawn can be too much for the child with sensory sensitivities. Try these accommodations for addressing sensory needs in backyard play:
    Wear shoes instead of sandals or bear feet
    Proprioceptive input such as firm touch to the shoulders
    Calming vestibular sensory input such as side to side or forward-front slow swinging
    Throw and play catch with a weighted ball 
    Bucket of water to rinse hands if child is sensitive to messy hands or dirt
    Sheltered area if child is sensitive to wind blowing on skin
    Wear a lightweight wind jacket
    Hat with brim to reduce bright light or intense light in eyes or on face
    Sunscreen with firm touch before going outdoors
    Wear sunglasses
    Wear headphones to reduce background noise
    Be aware of freshly cut grass which as a strong scent
    Wear thin gloves for gardening activities

    More about outdoor sensory diet activities

    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. The book is now released as a digital e-book or softcover print book, available on Amazon. 

    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.

    These outdoor sensory diet activities are good sensory experiences to meet the needs of children with sensory processing needs or those who struggle with sensory related behaviors, perfect for a home exercise program or occupational therapy activities.

    Train Themed Sensory Ideas

    Kids with sensory needs can benefit from a themed intervention.  The child that craves sensory input can benefit from a set of sensory activities that are designed around their special interests.  The same holds true for the child who pulls back from sensations.  A set of sensory activities with a special theme can be motivating for the child who avoids specific sensations, positions, or textures.



    This post is one in a series of special-themed sensory activity sets.  You can find all of the special interest activities on our Sensory Interests Series.  Maybe there is a set of activities that is perfect for your child’s individual interests.  You’ll find everything from sports to dolls to cooking, with more special interest sensory themes coming soon!


    These activities and interest-led sensory-based ideas can be a great addition to a sensory diet. Read more about sensory diets.


    Use these train themed sensory ideas to help kids with sensory processing challenges to get the sensory input they crave and need using a special interest and motivating activities.

    Add these resources to the ones you can find here under sensory diet vestibular activities to meet the sensory needs of all kids. 




    If there is a special theme you are looking for, shoot me an email at www.theottoolbox.com and I will do my best to come up with a set of activities based on that theme.


    Need information about sensory processing? Grab this free sensory processing booklet.

    Use these train themed sensory ideas to help kids with sensory processing challenges to get the sensory input they crave and need using a special interest and motivating activities.

    Train themed sensory ideas for kids

    Does your child LOVE trains?  These sensory activities are designed to meet sensory needs in a motivating manner.


    Train Themed Proprioception Activites

    Push 2×4 wood pieces or wooden blocks with both hands down a driveway or sidewalk.  There is a lot of history and research based on using sanding as a means of therapeutic intervention.  Pushing a wooden block along a resistive surface applies proprioceptive input through bilateral resistive wrist, elbow & shoulders.  Add additional blocks of wood to create a train.


    Fill a cardboard box with books or other heavy items.  Push it along a carpeted room.  Add other boxes to the train. Try to keep them in a line.  This is a great way to work on motor planning and core strength as kids balance to keep the boxes in the train aligned. Try this with books or crates.



    Blow a train whistle.



    Draw tracks on a paper with pencil.  Children can use a rectangular school eraser as a “train” to erase the train track lines.  Draw the lines with heavier pressure for more required proprioceptive input.  Drawing with lighter strokes requires less heavy work.  Also try a kneaded eraser.



    Fill a laundry basket with books, blocks, or other heavy items.  This can be a train cargo car that needs loaded and unloaded in order to set off on a delivery.  Kids can act like a crane with whole body movements.


    Fill a plastic sandwich bag with dry beans.  Reinforce the edges and sides with heavy duty tape like duct tape.  Cover the entire plastic bag to create a DIY bean bag.  Stick train stickers to the outside of the bean bag.  Use them to play target games.


    These train beads would come in handy for heavy work to the hands.  Hide them in silly putty, slime, or thera-putty.  Hide them in play dough and then freeze the dough to add more resistance.  Kids can find and hide the train beads for proprioceptive input through the hand and finger joints.


    Tape pieces of paper to the floor in a line.  These are the “tracks” of a train.  Kids can hop, leap, or jump from paper to paper as an indoor heavy work activity.


    Use sidewalk chalk to create train tracks on a large sidewalk or driveway.  Hop, run, leap, skip, or jump on the track from stop to stop.


    Stick masking tape to the floor of a carpeted floor.  Ask kids to send animals on the train! They can do different animal walks along the tracks to get from train stop to train stop.  Animal walks that add proprioceptive input include: bear walk, crab walk, frog hop, or donkey kicks.



    Vestibular Train Themed Sensory Activities

    Make a train with friends and walk over couch cushions and outside down slopes and on slanted grassy surfaces.

    Use a therapy scooter board to pull the child using therapy band or a hoola hoop. The child can pretend they are on a train as they ride in various directions.

    March along a path or balance beam like a train.


    Oral Sensory Motor Train Themed Sensory Activities

    Make a Train Whistle to address oral motor and proprioceptive needs. Kids can use a recycled cardboard tube such as a paper towel roll. Using a sharp pencil, punch a hole in the middle of the tube. Cover one end with a small piece of wax paper and attach with a rubber band. Use the tube like a kazoo. When kids blow into the hole, a buzzing noise like a train whistle is produced. Use this DIY train whistle craft as a tool for sensory needs.

    Auditory Train Themed Sensory Activities

    Use a train whistle to create loud or soft whistles.  Listen for the volume of the whislte and play a matching game where kids need to copy the intensity of sound.  Try this with patterns, too.


    Tactile Train Themed Sensory Activities

    Make an easy train themed busy bag. Ask kids to guess the items in a bag without looking and just using the sense of touch to identify shapes and items. This activity is based on the children’s book, Steam Train Dream Train.

    Train Themed Snacks

    Make this crunchy train theme graham cracker snack.
    The kids can help make this healthy train themed snack using fruits and vegetables.


    Train Themed Transitions

    Train Themed Sensory Activities for On-The-Go

    These activities are designed to be taken out of the home or classroom.  Use them while out in the community, while in the car, or when traveling.

    Create a travel sensory bag with fidget toys, train activity cards, sensory snacks, or weighted tools.  This train key chain is a great fidget tool that can be attached to backpacks, jackets, binders, or belt loops. 



    Use these train themed sensory ideas to help kids with sensory processing challenges to get the sensory input they crave and need using a special interest and motivating activities.

    More Train Sensory Tools

    There are other sensory tools that kids can have in their arsenal as a tool for self-regulation:
    Self-talk
    Yoga stretches
    Behavior chart
    Reward/Goal Chart

    Use these train themed sensory ideas to help kids with sensory processing challenges to get the sensory input they crave and need using a special interest and motivating activities.

    Sensory Strategies for the School Based OT

    For the child with sensory challenges, the classroom can be an overwhelming place.  All of the sensory systems are touched on in the classroom.  When sensory systems are challenged, learning is a struggle.  School based OTs are often times consulted when students struggle with physical or sensory issues that result in educational deficits.  


    Previously, The OT Toolbox has shared free ways to incorporate sensory motor experiences into the classroom.   You might be looking for more resources that can be used to address many sensory needs in the classroom.  Below are sensory resources for the school based occupational therapist and strategies that can be incorporated into OT in the school. 


    These are strategies to fill your therapy toolbox and address everything from inattention to sensory meltdowns.





    School-based OTs can utilize this resource of sensory strategies for school based OT and occupational therapy intervention in schools.
    These tong activities would be a great addition to summer occupational therapy activities and home programs!

    Sensory Resources for the School Based OT

    This post includes affiliate links.

    This is a great article written on sensory integration practices in the school setting.  It includes the clinical reasoning and practices that go along with sensory practice in the school.  Of interest are sensory screening and evaluation recommendations for school settings, sensory intervention and treatment delivery options, and recommendations.  Also included is a table with approaches and sensory strategies for Occupational Therapy intervention in the classroom or school setting.  Case studies include IEP goal ideas related to sensory processing interventions.


    Assessments for sensory needs can include direct observation of the child’s performance in the school setting.  Observing a variety of tasks during the school day can be helpful to analyze the demands of specific activities, including needs and strengths in tool use, fatigue, sequencing, spatial concepts, social interactions, physical requirements, cognitive abilities, etc.  A child transitions through a variety of settings during a school day and is challenged in various environments which might present differing needs or abilities.  The school-based OT should assess a student’s sensory and neuromuscular functioning in these various environments.  


    Many students who struggle with sensory challenges benefit from a sensory diet during the school day.  This specialized diet of sensory activities and input should be designed by an occupational therapist who assesses and identifies the student’s particular needs and strengths or interests.  Sensory diets in the school can include many different tools, not limited to fidget tools, specialized seating, movement breaks, weighted lap pads or vests, calming scents, limited or structured visual adjustments, chewing tools, or other activities.  Read more about the goals of a sensory diet


    Use this free Sensory Processing Disorder booklet for passing on sensory processing information to parents and teachers. 

    Fidgeting Tools for the Classroom

    Fidgeting with items can help with attention, regulation, and focus.  Try these fidgeting options in the classroom:


    Adapted Seating in the Classroom

    Adapted seating can be a sensory strategy that helps with fidgeting as well.  Sensory needs can overflow to wiggling, poor posture, slouching, and decreased focus.  An altered seating system is sometimes used to address a weak core strength and resulting inefficient posture as well.  Try these sensory-based seating ideas:


    • Cheap Alternative Seating Option
    • Movement seats like a disk cushion are great for allowing movement for improved attention.
    • Wobble Seat uses the idea of a therapy or stability ball in the form of a stool.  This is great for classroom use because the giant therapy balls tend to roll away from desks.
    • This Guide to Alternate Seating is a resource that can benefit many individuals in the school, including teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, and school-based therapists. 
    • Special cushions
    • Bean bags
    • Intertubes
    • Therapy balls
    • Wedge seats
    • Support added to the seat
    • Etc.

    Self-Regulation in the Classroom

    For the child who struggles with sensory processing disorder or is challenged with impaired responsiveness, interventions in regulation can be used in the classroom:

    Sensory-Based Interventions for the School Based OT

    Here on The OT Toolbox site, we have a huge collection of sensory-based play and sensory experiences that meet various needs.  Find all of the sensory activities here and how these experiences can address discrimination needs, improve participation, and address sensory modulation. 


    Sensory Integration Approach to School Based OT

    A sensory integrative approach is based on the work of A. Jean Ayres, PhD, OTR, and identified as Ayres Sensory Integration.  For school-based practice, sensory integration and praxis needs are addressed by assessment and interventions occurring in natural sensory-rich spaces.   A sensory integration approach utilizes interactions between the OT and the student in a sensory-rich environment in a playful approach that allows for adaptation to novel challenges addressing reactivity, postural skills, praxis, and perceptual skills.  

    Read more about sensory-based interventions and sensory integration approaches to school based OT and how these approaches look in meeting needs of students here.


    Chewing Tools for Classroom Sensory Needs

    • Pencil Topper Chews come in a variety of textures and toughness to meet sensory needs.
    • Chewable jewelry  is often times appropriate for the classroom, because the variety of necklace or bracelet styles on the market are discreet while meeting sensory needs. 
    • Here is information on how to choose the right chew tool for addressing sensory needs.

    Push In or Pull Out OT Services in the School

    Sensory needs can be addressed by strategies from the school based OT both in and out of the classroom.  For the child who receives occupational therapy services at school, therapy can occur in any aspect of the child’s day where needs are limiting educational abilities.  

    OT services completed with a “push in” model allow the therapist to identify needs in the classroom. Therapists can then intervene, and provide adaptations, modifications, and tools during classroom activities.  Consultation with teachers and professionals can occur right in the classroom during daily tasks and in a natural setting.  Sensory strategies can easily be a collaborative nature with teachers and paraprofessionals when performed right in the classroom and in the natural environment of the child’s day.  

    Therapy being competed in a “pull out” model can address sensory diet needs and development that is then utilized throughout and within the student’s daily activities at school.  Specific skill assessment and development can occur in pull out services.  

    References:
    Occupational Therapy for Children and Youth Using Sensory Integration Theory and Methods in School-Based Practice. Am J Occup Ther 2015;69(Supplement_3):6913410040p1-6913410040p20. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2015.696S04.
    School-based OTs can utilize this resource of sensory strategies for school based OT and occupational therapy intervention in schools.

    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

    Activities for Auditory Learners

    Learning styles are the manner in which we best learn and process information. Examples of learning styles includ auditory learners, kinesthetic learners, and visual learners.  Each of us has a preference (either obvious or less obvious) to one style of learning or another.  As children develop, they can progress through different stages and preferences of learning.  



    Kids can succeed with a variety of learning styles.  One strategy is to address the sense of hearing when teaching new concepts or reinforcing older concepts. 


    There are many characteristics of a student who is an auditory learner.  A few indications include the children who can’t seem to stop talking, the child who repeats verbal information outloud, or the child who prefers discussion in classroom activities.  


    Read below to find more characteristics of auditory learners and activities for auditory learners in the classroom or at home.


    Try these strategies to help kids who are auditory learners in the classroom or at home.



    Characteristics of Auditory Learners

    Not all children who are auditory learners will experience all of the characteristics below.


    Prefer listening in the classroom
    Like to talk
    Repeats directions
    Can’t concentrate when there are noises in the environment
    Can’t fall asleep to music or a television
    Benefits from repetition of directions
    Learns best when listening
    Learns well from videos
    Easily recalls songs, poems, and phrases
    Talks out decision processes
    Remembers facts in detail when hearing them
    Prefers to hear all of the facts when learning something new
    Hums or talks to self
    Easily can identify differences in pitch or tone of sounds
    Follows verbal instructions better than written instructions
    Prefers smaller groups in the classroom (limits the auditory distractions)
    Remembers facts better after repeating them
    Talks or moves lips while they write
    Recalls a person’s tone of voice when remembering a conversation
    When reading or writing, written information may not make sense until it’s been read aloud
    Writes with light pencil pressure


    Children who learn best through the auditory sense may benefit from auditory strategies.  Try some of the activities for auditory learners that are listed below:


    Try these strategies to help kids who are auditory learners in the classroom or at home.

    Activities for Auditory Learners

    Read homework directions out loud
    Record facts on video and then replay it.  A mobile phone or tablet works well for this strategy.
    Sing facts to a tune
    Write a song when memorizing facts or spelling words
    Teach to other students or even to stuffed animals
    Practice in front of a mirror
    Try a whisper phone
    Listen to books on tape using headphones
    Rhyme facts
    Spell words out loud in different pitches and tones
    Use noise eliminating headphones in the classroom or during tests
    Find a quiet space for homework
    Turn off distractions. Consider televisions, phones, or even fans
    Use mnemonic devices to memorize facts 
    Listen to audiobooks
    Use oral reports for classroom projects
    Allow students to record portions of homework or projects onto devices
    Make flashcards and read them out loud
    During classroom lessons, clap or speak louder during important parts
    Speak in syllables


    What are your best strategies to help auditory learners?

    Try these strategies to help kids who are auditory learners in the classroom or at home.