Mask Social Story Slide Deck

wear a mask social story for sensory issues

Here, you can get a mask social story for kids with sensory needs. Trying to help kids with the task of wearing a mask? In our area, schools are moving from full virtual to hybrid learning, so that means kids that have been out of the classroom since March are now going to be back in the physical school location. And, getting kids to wear masks…and keep those masks on…can be a real concern, especially for kids with sensory needs! Today, I’ve got a free teletherapy slide deck to help kids learn the importance of wearing a mask and it covers the sensory concerns that might come up with mask wearing. This slide deck is a social story for mask wearing with sensory issues, so it adds a story component while allowing kids to understand why they need to wear a mask when it feels itchy or scratchy. This slide deck is free to download, so grab it below.

Get this free mask social story to help kids with sensory needs tolerate and accommodate for mask wearing.

Wearing a mask with sensory needs

For kids with sensory needs, wearing a mask can be a big problem. But some schools, businesses, and situations require a mask for entry. So how does the child with sensory needs deal with this situation? For some, the softest of face masks can feel scratchy or itchy. It can make others feel like they are contained. Still others are frustrated wtih the feel of mask straps behind their ears.

Kids with sensory needs and masks don’t mix!

That’s why I wanted to put this social story together and get it into your hands. Because some kids are truly struggling with wearing a mask and don’t understand why they need to have this itchy, scratchy fabric attached to their face!

Help kids wear a mask when they have sensory preferences due to sensory processing disorder.

Wearing a Mask Social Story

Some kids respond really well to social stories, so this slide deck should be a good way to teach this concept. I’ve made the slide deck interactive, so kids can read through the slide, and move the checkmark to the “finished” square once they understand the concept on each slide.

Kids with sensory needs can struggle with wearing a mask. This mask social story can help if the mask feels too tight.

The slides cover various aspects of masks for kids with sensory needs, including how masks feel on the skin, or how they may make a person feel hot.

I’ve also included slides in this social story that tell the reader they can ask for help if they need it when wearing a mask.

Some children may chew on their face mask to meet oral sensory needs as calming input when they attempt to self-regulate. However, another sensory tool could be used in place of the mask. This sensory social story helps kids to understand that by reading the words of the story and by matching those words to the image.

Kids with sensory needs can feel a mask as too tight or scratchy. This mask social story can help.

Kids with sensory needs or those with sensory processing disorder may feel the temperature difference between having a mask on or off. This mask sensory story covers those issues.

You’ll find slides for kids that feel that mask move in and out with their breath, as well. All of these sensory sensitivities can be very apparent with the use of a face mask!

use this free mask social story in teletherapy or to help kids with sensory needs adjust to wearing a mask by offering other alternatives that meet their sensory needs.

Free slide deck for wearing a mask with sensory needs

To get this slide deck, enter your email address below. By doing this, I am able to deliver the slides to your email inbox.

Be sure to log into your Google drive first. You will get a pdf that you can save and use over and over again. Click the document to make a copy of the slide onto your drive.

Use the slide deck in “edit” mode to allow students to move the check marks on each slide as the individual slide is read. You can also use this slide deck in “present” mode, but the movable piece won’t work.

Get this Free “Wearing a Mask” Social Story slide deck

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    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

    Auditory Sensory Activities the Backyard

    auditory sensory activities for the backyard to add to a sensory diet for kids

    These auditory sensory activities are a variety of backyard sensory play ideas that can be used as tools for addressing auditory sensory processing needs at home. using what you’ve got in (or outside) your house is a great way to work on auditory processing needs with kids. Think about all of the backyard sounds that can be used as therapy tools to help with auditory memory or auditory comprehension. In fact, the backyard is the perfect place to work on sensory needs with kids.

    This blog post is part of my backyard sensory play series. It’s an old post here on The OT Toolbox, but it’s one that I’ve revamped to make into a movement and sensory challenge to help kids be active and building therapy skills at home.

    auditory sensory activities for the backyard to add to a sensory diet for kids
    Auditory processing sensory ideas for backyard summer sensory play, perfect for sensory diet ideas for kids.

    The auditory sensory activities listed here can be used as part of a sensory diet for kids. Some of the ideas are great auditory seeking activities. Others are great for helping to challenge those with hypersensitivity to sound. In either case, the auditory sensory activities can be used as part of a sensory diet for those with needs.

    If you are looking for information on how to create a sensory diet and use these movement activities with kids, then you are in the right place. Here are more outdoor sensory diet activities to get you started with sensory needs and the outdoors.

    auditory sensitivity activities for kids

    Auditory Processing Activities

    Try these auditory processing ideas this summer. Each activity can be modified to make is a challenge for auditory seeking or auditory sensitivities.

    Neighborhood Listening Scavenger Hunt-  Notice the sounds in the neighborhood.  Ask your child to locate or name the origin of the sounds as they walk around the neighborhood.  If the sound is too far away, ask them to name the origin.  During this activity, they need to discriminate between sounds.

    Auditory Hide and Seek-  Play a game of hide and seek with sounds.  They child that is searching for kids can make a call and each hider responds with their own sound.  The person who is looking for others can determine who is making the sounds they hear and locate each child one at a time.

    Listening Tag-  Play a game of tag in the backyard as children race to tag one another.  When the person who is “it” comes near another person, they can tag a person unless the runner sits on the ground and makes a noise.  When the child sits, they are on “base” and safe from being tagged. They can stand up again when the child who is “it” makes the same noise.  

    Noisy Toy Positioning Game- Use a squeaky toy or bike horn in this noisy toy game.  Have one child hide with the toy and make it squeak.  The person who is looking for the toy needs to describe where the toy is hidden by using descriptive words like “over”, “under”, and “left”.

    More auditory Sensory Activities

    • Bell parade
    • Kazoo sound hunt
    • Listening for birds or animals
    • Record backyard sounds and play back 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 memory activities for kids to do at outdoors at home.

    Looking for more backyard sensory ideas for summer?  

    The Summer Sensory Activity Guide is the place to find everything you need for a summer of sensory input.  Use the sensory activities described in the booklet as a guide to meet the individual needs of your child.  The activities are not a substitute for therapy.  Rather, they are sensory-based summer activities that are designed to address each sensory system through summer play.  Activities are described to involve the whole family.  Right now, the Summer Sensory Activity Guide is a free bonus item to the new Summer Occupational Therapy Activities Packet.

    The Summer OT Activities Packet is a collection of 14 items that guide summer programming at home, at school, and in therapy sessions. The summer activities bundle covers handwriting, visual perceptual skills and visual motor skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, regulation, and more.

    You’ll find ideas to use in virtual therapy sessions and to send home as home activities that build skills and power development with a fun, summer theme. Kids will love the Summer Spot It! game, the puzzles, handouts, and movement activities. Therapists will love the teletherapy slide deck and the easy, ready-to-go activities to slot into OT sessions. The packet is only $10.00 and can be used over and over again for every student/client!

    Grab the Summer Occupational Therapy Activities Packet HERE.

    Summer activities for kids

    For more auditory sensory activities, try these activities for auditory learners.

    Auditory processing sensory ideas for backyard summer sensory play, perfect for sensory diet ideas for kids.

    Sensory Activities in the Backyard

     These are more sensory ideas you can add to an outdoor sensory diet to address sensory seeking needs or sensory avoiding in kids:

    Wobble Ice Disk– Add vestibular input with a DIY wobble disk. Kids can help to make this heavy ice disk, adding proprioceptive input for a hot summer day.

    Use a therapy ball– A large ball or a therapy ball/ exercise ball is a great way to add movement, heavy work, and calming proprioceptive input into backyard play.

    Make a Water Bin– Water play is a great way to spend hot summer days in sensory play.

    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

    Sensory Swing for Modulation

    Sensory swings are a wonderful tool for improving sensory modulation in kids. Here, we will discuss how and why a sensory swing is used for modulation of sensory needs. Sensory swings are powerful sensory strategy when it comes individuals with sensory processing needs. Let’s discuss how sensory swings can help with sensory processing and modulation.

    This content is part of our week-long therapy giveaway event, where we are collaborating with brands to give you the opportunity to win various therapy items, toys, and games as a thank you for being here and a celebration of our profession and those we serve.

    Use a sensory swing to help kids with sensory needs including sensory modulation

    Sensory Swings for Modulation…

    You’ve seen the issues in classrooms and in homes. There are kiddos struggling with self-regulation and management of sensory processing. We notice the child that gets overwhelmed or stuck on a direction to complete a worksheet. We see a child who breaks down and resolves into a pattern of hitting, biting, kicking, or damaging property. We notice the child that can’t sit upright in their seat to listen to their teacher. We can identify the child who bites on their pencil to the point of nibbling on eraser bits and chunks of wood. We see the actions and we see the results of a real need. Sometimes, we can even predict the events or situations that lead to these behaviors.

    What we don’t see is the internal struggle.

    We miss out on the feeling of overwhelming sensory input. We can’t feel the emptiness or the detached sensation. We miss out on what’s happening inside those beautiful, intelligent, and awesomely created brains and bodies.

    While we can connect the dots from event to behavior, our biggest struggle as advocates, educators, and loved ones is to know the true internal path that connects those dots.

    An occupational therapist analyzes the occupational domains that a child or individual pursues. They determine any difficulties in modulation, discrimination, praxis, motor skills, and other components that impact those occupations. In providing sensory-based interventions, therapists use tools to move their clients to optimal levels of arousal for functioning.

    The sensory swing is one of those ways to help with sensory modulation.

    What is Sensory Modulation

    Sensory modulation information including what is sensory modulation and how to help.

    As discussed in the book, The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook, sensory modulation is the organization and regulation of sensory input through the central nervous system to enable skills and abilities such as attention, activity levels. This skill is an efficient, automatic, and effortless occurrence in those with typically developing individuals.

    Sensory modulation is defined by Dr. A Jean Ayres as “the neurological process that organizes sensation from one’s own body and from the environment and makes it possible to use the body effectively within the environment. The spatial and temporal aspects of inputs from different sensory modalities are interpreted, associated, and unified” (Ayres, p. 11, 1989).

    Problems with sensory modulation result in difficulty responding to and regulating sensory input. A child with sensory modulation disorder might withdrawal as a result of their responses. They may become upset by noises or sounds. They may become overly distracted or obsessed with specific stimuli.

    Sensory Modulation in a Nutshell

    Essentially, sensory modulation is the ability to take in sensory input, sort it, and respond to that input. Modulation results in function, alertness, awareness of self, and awareness of the world around oneself.

    When sensory modulation is stalled, moving slowly, or running on hyper speed, we see disorganized, over-responsive, or under-responsive individuals.

    As a result, children struggle to complete functional tasks, follow directions, learn, manage emotions, interact socially, etc.

    How to Help with Sensory Modulation

    Sensory modulation issues can be improved to impact a child’s arousal state so they can be effective and function in daily living tasks, in school, emotionally, and socially. Some sensory strategies to help with modulation are listed below.

    Use the expertise of an occupational therapist to identify and analyze modulation levels. Identifying strengths and weaknesses can play a part in helping to understand other underlying areas that need addressing and play into sensory modulation concerns. Functioning individuals may require specific levels and intensities of specific sensory input, which can vary across different environments or on a day-to-day basis.

    1. Use sensory activities to add proprioception, vestibular input, or touch input to help with arousal states, and calm or alert levels in order to function in tasks.
    2. Create a sensory diet that allows for sensory use across environments and sensory tools or strategies to address changes in modulation or arousal.
    3. Set up a sensory station to successfully integrate sensory activities into daily lives. Sensory stations can occur in the home, classroom, or on-the-go.

    A sensory swing can be used to impact sensory modulation in all of these strategies.

    Harkla sensory swing for therapy and sensory modulation

    Use a sensory swing for Modulation

    A sensory swing can be a calming place to regroup and cope. It can be a safe space for a child to gain calming vestibular input through slow and predictable motions.

    A sensory swing can be a source of intense vestibular input as a means to challenge arousal levels.

    A sensory swing can use a firm pillow base to provide proprioceptive feedback and heavy input while addressing tactile defensiveness.

    A sensory swing can be a means for combining calming or alerting motions with coordinated movement strategies to impact praxis, postural control, and perception.

    A sensory swing can be used with others as a tool for building social skills and emotional regulation.

    A sensory swing can be used as an outlet for meltdowns before they turn into biting, kicking, hitting, or yelling.

    A sensory swing can be a transition tool to provide calming vestibular input before physical actions and executive functioning concepts needed for tasks such as completing homework, or getting ready for bed.

    Use a therapy swing to help kids with sensory processing

    INDOOR Sensory Swing

    Want to address modulation and impact sensory processing needs in the home, classroom, or therapy room? we’ve talked about how sensory swings impact sensory processing and the ability to regulate sensory input. Let’s take things up a notch by getting a therapy swing into your hands.

    One sensory swing that I’ve got in my house is the Harkla sensory swing. We’ve used this exact swing as an outdoor sensory swing, but it’s a powerful tool when used as an indoor swing. Today, you have the chance to win one of your own. Using a Harkla swing as an indoor swing provides opportunities for modulation in various environments and as a tool to regulate emotions, behaviors.

    Over or under inflate to provide more or less base of support and a challenge in postural control. Additionally, this swing holds up to 150 pounds, making it an option to address sensory modulation for adults.

    Use the cocoon swing to create a relaxation space or sensory station right in the home or classroom. With the easy-to-install swing, a sensory diet space can come alive using the Harkla Therapy Swing!

    Occupational therapists use pod swings to address sensory modulation, attention needs, regulation, or sensory processing disorder. The cocoon swing we’re giving away below provides a hug-like effect to address sensory needs or as a fun space to hang out in in the classroom or home. A few more details about this indoor swing option:

    • Comes with all the hardware for an easy setup, including a pump, adjustable strap, 4 bolts, carabiner, and a ceiling hook
    • Holds up to 150lbs for a safe place for your child
    • Includes an adjustable strap to make it easy to safely hang your sensory swings indoors from any height
    • Comes with easy-to-follow directions so anyone can hang it up
    • Free shipping & a lifetime guarantee

    Harkla Sensory Swing Giveaway

    This giveaway, sponsored by Harkla, has now ended.

    TOns of Sensory Modulation Ideas

    Some of the smartest and most creative folks I know are the readers of The OT Toolbox. I asked readers to tell me sensory strategies they personally love and use to address sensory modulation. Scroll through the comments…you might just find some new sensory strategies that will work for you! Hopefully we can learn from one another!

    Ayres, A.J. (1 989). Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests. Los Angeles, Western Psychological Services.

    Sensory Processing Spanish Resource

    Spanish Occupational Therapy Resource

    Here on The OT Toolbox, we’ve had a Sensory Processing Disorder information packet available for a long time. The booklet is a free handout that offers an understanding on sensory processing concerns. It’s a handout that can be used to advocate for sensory needs and is one of our top sensory processing resources here on the site. I’m excited to say that this booklet has been translated into Spanish! Below, you will find a Spanish resource on Sensory Processing that can be used by therapists working with Spanish-speaking clients and families.

    Sensory processing information resource in Spanish for printing and educating in Spanish resources for occupational therapy

    Sensory Processing Disorder Resource in Spanish

    Sensory processing resources in Spanish can be hard to come by. For the client working in the Spanish-speaking community or for those looking for resources for their caseload, having a go-to booklet can make all the difference. Therapists need resources that don’t take time to create while supporting the clients they serve. 
    This booklet can be used to help and educate adults with sensory processing concerns too. ,
    Many times, therapists use conversational Spanish, but a sensory resource translated into Spanish would be an asset to their therapy toolbox. The specific terms used in describing and understanding SPD and the sensory systems can be tricky to portray in translation.


    Que es procesamiento sensorial free printable resource for sensory processing information with a Spanish translation for Spanish speaking clients




    This Spanish Sensory Processing information booklet is perfect for the therapist needing resources to educate parents and teachers.

    You’ll find information on sensory processing, including each of the sensory systems and how these sensory systems present when sensory processing is a challenge. You’ll find each sensory system covered on its own page, including interoception, vestibular sense, tactile sense, and proprioception…all of which are big topics and can be difficult to portray in translating sensory information during occupational therapy sessions.

    Sensory processing information in spanish for educating and helping Spanish speaking occupational therapy clients

    Pages in the sensory processing information booklet are easy to read and broken own by sensory system. For the full printable booklet, scroll below to enter your email.






    In this sensory resource, you’ll find each of the sensory systems broken down and information telling how the sensory systems are related to behaviors, actions, and specific needs that we see. This resource is a powerful way to get the information across! 


    Print this free Spanish resource for explaining sensory processing with a spanish translation.

    Occupational Therapy Resources in Spanish

    Let me know if this resource is helpful to you! Would you be interested in more Occupational Therapy resources in Spanish?

    Free Sensory Processing Disorder Booklet in SPANISH!

    Use this sensory processing resource for understanding sensory processing and the sensory systems


    Celebrate “Sensory”

    These sensory memes are perfect for advocating for sensory and sharing sensory processing information.
    If there’s one thing that is certain, it’s that we are ALL “sensory”! So often, therapists or teachers hear the term “sensory” in the classrooms and clinics. The term sensory can sometimes be used as a noun to describe a child or behaviors that are a result of sensory processing needs. Today, I wanted to offer a handful of sensory memes that can help us to better understand that we are all sensory creatures. It’s the way we are wired as humans!

    While there definitely are behaviors and actions that are connected or as a result of unmet sensory needs or in direct relation to an unregulated sensory system, sometimes the word “sensory” is just that. A word. So, let’s celebrate the sensory beings that we all are with a few sensory memes!

    Sensory meme: We are ALL Sensory in one way or another!

    Sensory Memes

    The sensory memes here are part of a Celebrating Sensory …celebration! If you would like a file with these memes delivered right to your inbox, scroll to the bottom of this post. You can get them as well as two sensory processing disorder packets for celebrating and advocating for sensory processing. They are free downloads for you!

    We are all “Sensory”

    Here’s the thing: we are ALL sensory! We all have ways that we keep ourselves regulated whether it’s by taking a deep breath when you’re feeling stressed, or by getting up and pacing during a phone call. You’ve seen so many forms of self-regulation in action:
    • Clicking a pen during a meeting
    • Quickly tapping a toe or wiggling one leg
    • Stretching
    • Taking a moment to take a deep breath and refresh
    • Needing to step away and sip cold water
    • Naps!
    Sensory regulation comes in all forms. And, sensory processing needs can be met in so many ways. We are all different and in that, comes so many means of self-regulating.
    For our kids who struggle with regulation, yes; The term “sensory” applies. But, we are ALL sensory!

    For ideas to add sensory input into everyday play, try these sensory play ideas.

    For information on sensory diets, we’ve got a lot here on The OT Toolbox. This article on What is a Sensory Diet can get you started.

    HUGE Sensory Resource

    Sensory meme: Child super powers. Kids are capable!
    Celebrate ability and kindness. Our kids are capable. Let’s power them by telling them.
    Sensory meme: You are strong, capable, loved, and so much more!
    You are strong, capable, loved, and so much more!
    Sensory meme: Celebrate differences!
    Celebrate what makes us different!
    Sensory meme: Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.
    Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.
    Want to get these memes as a free download? These pics AND our Sensory Processing Disorder Booklet and the NEW Spanish version of the Sensory Processing Disorder Booklet are available in a massive printable file. Print off the booklets to start advocating for sensory processing today. Simply print and hand out! The memes can be used on social media.
    Grab them by entering your email below. If you are using a school system’s email or an email on a .us, .edu, .gov or other email on a large system, the email delivering these files may be blocked as the email contains a file to download. You may want to enter a personal email address here to ensure delivery. For any issues with accessing these files, simply email

    Celebrate Sensory with memes and advocacy packets!

    Sensory Meltdown or Tantrum: Which one is it?

    When working with sensory kids and their families, one of the number one questions that is asked is—is this a sensory meltdown or a tantrum? It’s often hard to tell the difference between the two, and takes some detective work to figure out which one it is. Determining if a sensory meltdown is occurring is especially difficult because sensory thresholds for these children can vary day to day. So often we hear, “Is it sensory or a behavior” that is causing an action in a child. Here are the clues to help you discern the difference.

    For more information on sensory processing, you’ll want to grab our free sensory processing disorder information packet. This is a handy printable designed to better understand SPD and what that looks like in our kids.

    How to know if a chil is having a sensory meltdown or tantrum. These clues will tell the difference.

    Behaviors of Sensory Meltdowns and Tantrums Look Similar

    The challenge in determining whether behaviors are the result of a sensory meltdown or a tantrum, is that the child’s behaviors in both instances, are usually the same.

    Behaviors that are observed during both a sensory meltdown and a tantrum may include:
    • Screaming
    • Hitting
    • Kicking
    • Name calling
    • Hiding or avoidance
    • Crying

    The difference between a meltdown and tantrum however, can be often times, be found in the events prior to the behaviors.

    For information on sensory play ideas, you’ll find a lot here on The OT Toolbox.


    Tantrums are usually in response to the child not receiving a want/desire out of a situation, or not achieving a goal as they had planned. In these instances behaviors typically occur for an audience, and may cease when the child has achieved their goal. This may be a way of testing boundaries with the authority figure in the situation.

    Tantrums can usually be resolved with consequences, reminders of the boundaries, removal from the situation, or distraction to the upset child. Children are also not typically emotionally drained after a tantrum and can resume their routine with ease. This is not necessarily the case when a sensory meltdown occurs.

    What is a sensory meltdown and how to tell if a child's behaviors and actions are a sensory meltdown or a tantrum

    Sensory Meltdowns

    Sensory Meltdowns are the result of sensory overload, and reaction to the big feelings that overloads cause.

    When in the throes of the sensory meltdown, the child is not able to control their reactions, behaviors, or emotions.  These episodes may also leave the child inconsolable, even when distraction or preferred items are offered, or even when the parent ‘gives’ into what the child is demanding.

    Meltdowns may appear happen without a trigger, or may be in response to an event that seems otherwise innocuous to the parent.

    The main clue that the behaviors the child is exhibiting is sensory meltdown related is that the behavior does not achieve a want, need or goal.

    In the case of a sensory meltdown, having a set of strategies available through use of a sensory diet can help with sensory overload, big feelings, and reactions.

    Clues a Behavior is a Sensory Meltdown

    • Reaction to event, feeling or overload of sensory input
    • Is not to achieve a want, need, or goal
    • Continues even without an audience
    • Ends only when the child has calmed down and the feelings are out
    • The child is very tired after the meltdown or appears ‘spent’
    • The child may feel embarrassment or shame as a result of their actions—typically this is seen in older children.

    These signs can show up at home, in the community, or in the classroom. Here are strategies for using a sensory diet in the classroom.

    What can Trigger a Sensory Meltdown?

    Sometimes, we can see a meltdown coming, and other times it seems to hit out of the blue. This is particularly true of children who are a little bit older, and understand what is acceptable and what is not. Because of this, parent’s often report that their children do GREAT at school, and then lose it at home.

    Some clues that it might be a meltdown include:

    • Being over tired or hungry
    • Illness or general unwellness—allergies can be a trigger to this sense of general unwellness. This may include food allergies or sensitivities.
    • “Holding it together” for long periods of time—going to school, camp, play dates, etc.
    • Change in routines—extra day off of school, vacation, or parent traveling. Essentially, anything outside of the child’s daily routine being off may result in a sensory overload and meltdown.

    It may take several hours, or several days before a meltdown occurs as a result of these triggers. As a result, it can appear as though there is no cause for the meltdown until the events prior to the event are examined. If you go back far enough into the past few days, a trigger is usually able to be found.

    Whether it’s a tantrum, or a meltdown, behavior is a direct form of communication from kids to adults about what is going on in their life. Knowing the difference between the two can lead to recognition of triggers and patterns, implementation of prevention strategies and successful emotional recovery in both situations.

    Create a sensory lifestyle to address sensory meltdowns or tantrums in a way that fits into the daily life of a child with sensory needs.

    Tools for Sensory Meltdowns

    The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a guidebook in strategies to help with sensory meltdowns. Taking the specific and individualized activities that make up a Sensory Diet and transitioning them into a lifestyle of sensory modifications, strategies, and techniques is a Sensory Lifestyle!

    This book is for therapists, parents, teachers, or anyone who works with kids with sensory needs.

    If you struggle with creating a sensory diet that WORKS…
    If you are tired of trying sensory tools that just don’t seem to fit within a child’s busy day…
    If you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start with understanding sensory processing…
    If you are a therapist struggling to set up sensory programs that are carried out and followed through at home and in the classroom…
    If you are a teacher looking for help with regulation, attention, or sensory meltdowns and need ideas that mesh within the classroom schedule…
    If you are looking for sensory techniques that kids WANT to use…
    If you are striving to create a sensory lifestyle that meets the needs of a child and family…

    The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is for you!

    Sensory Lifestyle Handbook book by The OT Toolbox author, Colleen Beck, OTR/L

    Fidgeting During Homework

    Ooooh, those wiggles.  The wiggles start and then they become so distracting.  It’s hard to concentrate on homework when the fingers are messing with the pencil sharpener, the feet are kicking, and the bottoms are sliding all over the chair.  Mom gets frustrated, the kiddo gets upset, and the homework battle continues. Does this sound familiar?  Struggles with concentrating on homework can be far more than just the math facts that need practicing.  Sometimes, the urge to fidget and move and fall out of the chair is just too overwhelming.  It may be that your child has a sensory need, or it may just be a long day followed by an overstimulating bus ride home…and then having to sit down for more writing, math, spelling, and vocabulary.  Trying to get the homework done with the fidgets is just not easy for any kid.  Today, I’ve got tips for doing homework when kids just can’t stop fidgeting.  This post is part of our  31 Days of Occupational Therapy with free (or mostly free) materials.  We’re hoping this resource is helpful for the fidgets!

    Tips and tools for kids who fidget during homework and classroom activities.

    This post contains affiliate links.  

    Tips for helping with Fidgeting during homework

    So why do kids fidget?  Fidgeting during work stimulates the brain, allowing a child to complete school work or homework.  Fidgeting is mindless play or touching fingers, pencils, hands…anything that allows a person to focus on the task at hand.  Kids that are fidgeting are seeking calm, and focus so that their brain can complete a task.  The problem is when the brain’s urge to fidget distracts a child from school tasks.  They might be so wiggly and moving that they just can not sit still and focus in a functional manner.  Fidgeting can be managed with less distracting techniques which can allow the child to accomplish the homework, and move on to other things.

    Solutions for Fidgeting During Homework

    Try some of these techniques to help with the fidgeting.  These are certainly methods that can be adapted to classrooms, but I wanted to focus on the kiddos that come home from a long day at school and just need strategies for success in homework.  A DIY fidget toy can be just the tool that helps.

    • Brain Breaks: Do jumping jacks as you spell words with your child, toss a ball as you practice math facts, or do a quick jog around the house between math papers.
    • Forget the dining room table.  Do homework on a bean bag or a pile of pillows using a clipboard.  Kids with sensory needs often times, crave proprioceptive input and an upright chair can be overly distracting, especially after sitting in a desk at school.
    • Or, forget sitting down all together!  Try completing homework while standing up.
    • Tie a bungee cord around the chair’s legs so that your child can kick and stretch their feet.  
    • Partially blow up a beach ball. Place this on the chair’s seat.  Kids can sit on the beach ball to get needed movement during homework.
    • Provide a small bit of play dough.
    • Squeeze balls
    • Wrap Wikki Sticks around a pencil.
    • Pipe cleaners wrapped in a loose ball.
    • A small bouncy ball and a cup.
    • Rubber bands on a ruler
    • A strand of paper clips
    • Pop beads
    • Bubble Wrap
    • Paper binder clip
    • Provide a chewy snack at the same time as homework.  This might include gum, raisins, celery, carrots, fruit leather or fruit roll-ups, or licorice sticks.  You could also try therapy rubber tubing. 
    • Another snack idea is a thick smoothie in a straw.  Try one of these recipes, with added ice for a thicker smoothie. 
    • Drink water from a “squeeze bottle” or sports bottle.
    • Chair push-ups:  Show the child how to push up from their chair, by placing their hands on the seat alongside each leg. Slowly, they should push their upper body up and off the chair.  Do a set of 10 chair push-ups before returning to homework tasks.
    • Roll a tennis ball under their foot.  They can roll the ball back and forth under their feet as they work.

    Other modifications to homework time that may help with sensory needs causing fidgeting:
    • Eliminate distractions (as much as possible in a busy family’s home.)
    • Begin homework at the same time each day.  Keep routines consistent.
    • Set up a homework station and do homework in the same place each day.

    Tips and tools for kids who fidget during homework and classroom activities.

    Love this post?  Pin it!  You will also love our sensory activities Pinterest board.

    Classroom and homework fidget toys to help with concentration and fidgeting in sensory processing disorder SPD, Autism, Asperger's, and typical sensory needs.

    Toys and Tools to Help with Fidgeting

    There are many items on the market that are designed to help kids with the fidgeting.  There are apparently A LOT of kids out there who fidget.  These toys and tools are items that may help your child in the classroom and at home during homework.  While the tools detailed below are certainly not free (based on our 31 days of free or inexpensive OT tips), they are items that may be of use to your child or classroom.  These might be items that are a great gift idea if you are looking for more resources for your fidgety kiddo.

    The Tangle Jr. Original Fidget Toy
    will keep fingers and hands busy so kids can concentrate on homework or school work. 

     A ball of play dough or this Pull and Stretch Bounce Ball
    is a good way to keep kids’ hand occupied as they move with the small motor proprioceptive input. This heavy work for the hands can allow kids to concentrate as they write. 

    is great for kids who are doing homework as it can sit on a table surface or it can be a hand-held sensory fidget toy. 

     A pencil topper like these Pencil Tops Fidget
    can help kids while they write, and can be fidgeted with on or off the pencil. 

     Try writing with a vibrating pen like this Squiggle Wiggle Writerfor proprioceptive input before a writing homework assignment. 


    is a quiet fidget toy that kids can keep in their pocket. 

     Something as simple as nuts, bolts, and washers
    can make a great fidget toy for kids. 

     A few Wikki Stix
    can give a child just the fidget toy they need to concentrate. Kids can bend them into a ball, and work the bendable strings as they work. 

    Grip Pop Beads
    are one of my favorite fidget toys for kids. They work on the small muscles of their hands as they build the pop beads and have a fidget once they have a strand of beads.

    Are you looking for more information on Sensory Processing or any of the body’s sensory systems and how they affect functional skills and behavior?  This book, Sensory Processing 101, will explain it all.  Activities and Resources are included.  Get it today and never struggle to understand or explain Sensory Integration again.  Shop HERE.

    What are your favorite fidget toys and tools?

    Tips and tools to help with kids who fidget during classroom and homework activities.

    Be sure to stop back and follow along on our  31 Days of Occupational Therapy series each day this month as we share lots of ideas for development and learning.

    Sensory Gardening with Kids

    It is that time of year when we start to dig up the dirt and grow our garden…all with the kids!  Digging in dirt and kids go hand in hand so when we started our garden for the first time last year, the kids were all over it.  They were my biggest helpers when it came to planting, weeding, and of course, taste-testing!  This post includes pictures from last year’s garden, and we can’t wait to get started on our garden again this year!

    Gardening with kids.  Make these small adjustments to your garden to make it a sensory sanctuary in your own backyard!

    This post contains affiliate links.

    Sensory Fun Gardening with Kids

    You know we LOVE sensory play, right?  Gardening is the ultimate sensory activity when it comes to kids.  There are so many of the senses addressed when a child is outside in the dirt.  There is the calming and relaxing environment of quiet outdoors, soft dirt, cool colors, and the warm sun.  Digging and turning dirt is a wonderful proprioception activity for kids (and adults) who need to address movement and grading of muscle use in activities throughout their day.  The resistance of weeks that need pulling will provide feedback to muscles and joints.  Kids can taste, see, feel, and smell so many textures, tastes, colors, patterns, and olfactory experiences depending on the fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs that are planted.

    Kids can explore all of the senses in a relaxing and calming sensory garden!  Sight, smell, touch, sound, taste, proprioception, and vestibular senses are addressed with gardening!

    Make a Sensory Garden for Kids

    Gardening is already such an amazing wealth of input to the senses.  How can you make it even more of a sensory haven for kids to calm, relax, or provide stimulation?
    Sight:  Plant brightly colored flowers.
    Plant flowers in a pattern order.
    Use brightly colored garden markers.
    Add flowers or bushes that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Garden Hanging Butterfly Feeder
    or hummingbird feeders can easlily be added to gardens by hanging to branches or walls.
    Add textures to borders.
    Add height and depth to gardening surfaces by using wall hangers, raised potted plants, or tables. A Vertical wall planter
    encouraged overhead reach and visual attraction to different planes.

    Sound:  Add bird feeders or wind chimes
    to the garden.
    Add water features to the garden. A solar powered water feature
    can be easily added to a garden space.
    Plant ornamental grasses or taller plants that will add a soft sound in the breeze.

    Taste: Plant a variety of sweet, bitter, tart vegetables and fruits.  
    Add edible flowers to borders.
    Encourage cooking with kids using the produce from the garden.

    Touch:  Plants can provide a variety of textures.  Some leaves are soft and fuzzy, and others are sharp and prickly.  
    Pulling weeds in different soil experiences is a great sensory activity.  Pull weeds from dry soil and wet soil.
    Add rocks, pebbles, bricks, and gravel for texture.
    Play in mud puddles.
    Walk barefoot in the grass and dirt.

    Scent:  Dirt is such great scent!  Add novel scents like mint, lavender, tomato plants, basil.

    Proprioception:  Add plants that require a bit of “oomp” to pick or harvest, like radishes, potatoes, carrots.  
    Have children dig!  Moving soil provides heavy input to upper and lower extremities.  
    Push wheelbarrows with varrying weights of dirt. (I love the sze of this Kids’ Wheelbarrow!)
    Lift and carry buckets of water.
    Pull the hose from the hose hook-up.
    And wind it back up when done!
    Use gardening tools like a hoe, garden rake, scoops, shovels. Kids can use adult sized tools but a child sized rake, spade, hoe, shovel set. would be great too.

    Vestibular:  Encourage children to get down on the ground to garden.  
    Jump in mud puddles.

    How to incorporate sensory play into playing gardening with kids

    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. 

    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.

    Kids can explore all of the senses in a relaxing and calming sensory garden!  Sight, smell, touch, sound, taste, proprioception, and vestibular senses are addressed with gardening!

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    Kids can explore all of the senses in a relaxing and calming sensory garden!  Sight, smell, touch, sound, taste, proprioception, and vestibular senses are addressed with gardening!

    Kids can explore all of the senses in a relaxing and calming sensory garden!  Sight, smell, touch, sound, taste, proprioception, and vestibular senses are addressed with gardening!

    Kids can explore all of the senses in a relaxing and calming sensory garden!  Sight, smell, touch, sound, taste, proprioception, and vestibular senses are addressed with gardening!

    Kids can explore all of the senses in a relaxing and calming sensory garden!  Sight, smell, touch, sound, taste, proprioception, and vestibular senses are addressed with gardening!
    Kids can explore all of the senses in a relaxing and calming sensory garden!  Sight, smell, touch, sound, taste, proprioception, and vestibular senses are addressed with gardening!
    How to grow a sensory garden

    Get the things you’ll need: 

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