DIY Fidget Toys

Diy fidget toys

These DIY fidget toys are homemade fidgets that kids can make. Use these fidget items to help kids pay attention and focus in the classroom or home.

Kids can use these DIY fidget toys to help with attention and sensory needs in the classroom or at home.

DIY Fidget Toys

Fidget toys are in the hands of many school-aged kids.  Students without sensory or attention needs are playing with fidget toys on the playground, on the school bus, and in the classroom.  You can find spinner fidgets, and so many other fidget toys in many stores and online, but what about the DIY version?

The thing about some store-bought fidget tools is that they are noisy and call attention to the user. Fidget toys have become more popular in recent years, allowing those that truly need them for meeting sensory and motor needs to be more mainstream.

However, that can be another issue when a student has a fidget tool in the classroom. It can draw attention to the student because other students see the itm as a toy rather than a tool to support learning.

Coming up with quiet fidget toys that help the child meet their sensory and movement needs without creating more noise or attention in the classroom can be tricky. Here are more ideas for quiet fidget toys for the classroom.

So what is the obsession with these fidget toys?  

The fidgets are intended to provide kids with a means to occupy their hands so that they can focus during tasks that require attention.  There are many children who need fidget tools in order to complete work.  Most of us know the feeling: the urge to doodle when talking on the phone or the tendency to tap a foot during a lengthy work meeting.  

Fidgeting is a tool that helps us to actually pay attention and focus on the task at hand in many situations. Fidgeting during homework or in the classroom is a common behavior. 

Diy fidget toy for kids to use when learning
Make a DIY fidget toy using beads and a craft stick.

DIY Fidget Toys

Affiliate links are included here.


You have probably seen kids (and maybe your own kids) spinning these spinner fidget toys.  

The fidgets that are in every school and classroom these days are beneficial to some students.  For others, they are a cool new toy.  For those that require a fidget tool to focus or attend, or have sensory needs requiring the hands and fingers to move, other fidget toys may work just as well. 

keychain fidget toys
Keychain fidget toys can be a great way to add movement inexpensively.


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.

Calming weighted fidget toys for kids
Use a glove to make a weighted fidget tool for kids. Here are the instructions for this DIY fidget tool.

Homemade Fidget Toys for Kids

Here are a variety of DIY fidgets that can work for kids in the classroom or at home:

How to Make Fidget Toys

Getting kids involved with making homemade fidget toys is part of the fun. There are fine motor benfits involved in this process, too.

  1. First, select the type of DIY fidget you would like to use to meet specific needs.
  2. Next, select materials. You may need pipe cleaners, beads, balloons, or nuts and bots.
  3. Prepare a work space. Set out the materails on a table or desk.
  4. Students can select the materials they would like to use.
  5. Create a fidget tool using the materials.

The nice thing about fidgets is that with the growth of YouTube as a resource, there are many videos on how to make fidget toys out there. Use one of those available videos as your inspiration, or use the materials you have on hand.

If one thing is for certain, it is possible to make a DIY fidget toy using anything!

homework fidget toys
Try these suggestions for homework and classroom fidget tools.

What are your favorite DIY fidget toys?  Do you have any favorite tools that work for your child, student, or client?

fidget tool or a fidget toy? 

Here is your disclaimer on the wording of this blog post…

The term fidget toy is very well known these days, with the popularity of spinner fidgets.  However, there is a distinction between a fidget toy and a fidget tool.  When there is a therapeutic need for a product, it is a tool.  A therapy tool is one that helps meet goals, results in independence through intervention.  Something that looks like a toy can be a tool for the child with sensory needs, fine motor challenges, attention difficulties, or any other problem areas.  

Fidget tools are those that help kids cope, meet sensory needs, and get the input they need so they can focus, pay attention, and move. In this blog post, I am using these terms interchangeably, for best search results. In other words, people complete a Google search for fidget toy, not a fidget tool, and I want this information to be found on Google so that the kids who need a fidget tool are well-served!

These DIY fidget toys are a perfect addition to the classroom to address sensory and attention needs in kids.

Need to add DIY fidget toys to a sensory diet? Wondering how to integrate a sensory diet into everyday tasks? A sensory lifestyle may be more of what you are looking for! DIY fidget toys fit right into a sensory lifestyle with ease and flexibility.

Read all about how to create a sensory lifestyle here:

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory processing information, each step of creating a meaningful and motivating sensory diet, that is guided by the individual’s personal interests and preferences.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is not just about creating a sensory diet to meet sensory processing needs. This handbook is your key to creating an active and thriving lifestyle based on a deep understanding of sensory processing.

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.

Sensory Summer Camp at Home

sensory camp for summer

Summer camp is an exciting experience for most kids, but what if you could create a custom sensory summer camp that supports sensory processing for all needs?  Summer is a time of learning, fun, and new adventures over the lazy days of summer.  Summer camp in the traditional sense is a time of themed activities that build character for a child.  

However, it’s not always possible to sign up for a week of summer camp. Summer camp is expensive.  Parents work or have busy schedules that make a week-long summer camp just not feasible.  A backyard DIY summer camp experience is a way to save money while creating a summer learning experiences right in the backyard. 

Be sure to check out this resource on how to run a therapy camp for tips and strategies with sensory summer camp planning.

Sensory Summer Camp

One great addition to a sensory summer camp is our free summer sensory path! It’s a free sensory printable you can hang on a wall to add sensory motor, mindfulness, and sensory coping tools with a summer theme. 

I’m joining several other bloggers who write about sensory processing in a Sensory Summer Camp at Home backyard summer camp experience.  


Scroll through the links below to find enough sensory summer camp themes and ideas to last all summer long.  You’ll find themed activities touching on all of the sensory systems to create an environment of learning through the senses.

Looking for a sensory camp that supports specific needs? No worries! You can find so many summer sensory activities here on the website to address various sensory motor considerations.

Specifically, these summer occupational therapy activities support development of skills across the board while focusing on the primary job of kids: play!


These sensory summer camp experiences are perfect for the child who craves or resists sensory input and can be modified to meet the needs of every child with sensory processing disorder.  While these sensory summer camp ideas are perfect for kids with sensory processing disorder, they can easily be used in traditional summer camps.  So, take a look at each of the camp themes below and get ready for a summer of sensory fun and memories!

Looking for activities and ideas to use in summer programming? You’ll love our new Summer Occupational Therapy Activities Packet. It’s 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 Spring Occupational Therapy Activities Packet HERE.

summer occupational therapy activities for kids

n the Summer OT packet, you’ll find:

  • Beach Fun Google Slide Deck/PDF set
  • Summer Spot It! Printable Game
  • Hole Punch Cards for matching upper case and lower case letters
  • 7 Roll and Write Play Dough Sheets – Apples, Bees, Bugs, Buttons, Donuts, Play Dough, and Unicorn themes
  • Summer Fun Pencil Control Strips
  • Summer Lists Writing Prompts
  • Summer Number Practice
  • Summer Visual Perception Pages

All of the Summer OT activities include ideas to promote various developmental areas with a Summer-theme. Activities guide and challenge development of handwriting, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, body scheme, oculomotor control, visual perception, fine motor skills, self-regulation, gross motor skills, and more.

Use these activities as warm-ups to your therapy sessions, or add them to the homework page below to create a home program.

 
Sensory Summer camp at home ideas for kids with sensory processing needs
 

 

Occupational Therapy Summer Camp

I love the play-based sensory and motor activities in the summer camp ideas listed below. Each would be a great summer camp theme for using in an occupational therapy summer camp.

OT professionals know the power of play. But occupational therapy supports development, and while a traditional occupational therapy summer camp may not be an individualized process, there is still skill development happening even in a group setting. 

An occupational therapy summer camp can focus on an area of function: sensory play experiences, handwriting, shoe tying, typing, or social emotional skills. The sky is the limit this summer when it comes to OT camps as a tool and resource for kids and parents. 

However, because an OT camp might not be focused on individual needs and goals of the camp participant, a summer occupational therapy camp can integrate play, sensory experiences, and any summer theme you can imagine. 

These summer sensory camp ideas below can get you started with brainstorming:


Outer Space Summer Camp at Home Ideas


Circus Summer Camp At Home Ideas

Sensory Handwriting Camp

Address handwriting skills during a summer camp with sensory input, tactile play, and sensory motor experiences!

Sensory Space Camp | My Mundane and Miraculous Life


Sensory Olympic Games Camp | Growing Hands on Kids


Sensory Nature Camp | Putting Socks on Chickens

Sensory Summer camp at home ideas for kids with sensory processing needs

 

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory processing information, each step of creating a meaningful and motivating sensory diet, that is guided by the individual’s personal interests and preferences.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is not just about creating a sensory diet to meet sensory processing needs. This handbook is your key to creating an active and thriving lifestyle based on a deep understanding of sensory processing.

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.

Summer Sensory Stations

Summer sensory activities

Today’s sensory resource is a self-regulation tool that is very popular among therapy professionals and educators: an all-new Summer Sensory Stations set! This set of printable sensory path activities are nice because they can be printed off, laminated (or placed in a page protector sleeve), and hung in a hallway. We’ve received so much great feedback about out other seasonal sensory stations that this summer version was a must! Add this resource to your Summer occupational therapy activities.

You’ll want to check out the other sensory station printables at the bottom of this post.

Free summer sensory stations for a DIY sensory path or self-regulation tool with a summer theme.

Summer Sensory Stations

A DIY sensory path can include a few quick stops to add deep breathing, mindfulness, proprioception, vestibular input, eye-hand coordination, crossing midline, and whole-body movement.

And that’s just what this set of summer themed sensory stations includes!

The movement-based stops offer users to take a break at various stations and integrate movement, coordination, and visual input with deep breathing, and heavy work.

What a great way to add a quick brain break between activities or to get ready for a therapy session!

In this summer themed set of activities, you’ll find a printable page for each “station” or stop along the sensory path:

Bee path infinity loop-

The first page in the summer sensory path kit is a bee infinity loop, which is great for mindfulness, deep breathing, crossing midline, eye-hand coordination.

Tracing the infinity loop offers an opportunity for mindfulness through the summer bees’ paths as they move along the loop. This creative way to foster visual attention, self-regulation, self-awareness, coping skills, and concentration is fun for summer! By tracing the loop, hand-eye coordination and mindfulness allow the user to be more present in the moment, and more aware of themselves.

Some users may stand on an uneven surface while doing this activity to challenge balance and visual skills. Think about adding a gymnastics mat, slant board, balance pod, or other uneven standing surface.

Others may want to kneel or do a lunge while completing this activity to further challenge balance and coordination skills. The nice thing about the printable sensory station is that it can be raised or lowered on the wall easily.

Leap like a dolphin-

The next page in the sensory paths for summer is a “leap like a dolphin” activity. It’s a powerful activity for vestibular input, motor planning, and proprioceptive heavy work

Proprioception offers a way to “wake up” the joints and muscles in the body. This leaping activity can be done from a standing, kneeling, or from the floor. Proprioceptive input from the muscles and joints provides information about body position, weight, pressure, stretch, movement and changes in position in space, so this leaping activity adds a summer theme!

Beach ball wall push-up-

Next in the Summer Sensory Stations kit is a beach ball wall push up page. Add whole body proprioceptive input through the upper extremity: shoulder girdle, elbows, wrists, and arches of the hands. Plus wall push ups are a great strength and stability exercise for the core.

You can modify this activity to place it lower on the wall for a lunge position, or even can do the wall push-ups from a seated position to challenge seated balance. This is a great motor and sensory opportunity for wheelchair users.

Seashell trace and breathe printable-

Users love our spiral path deep breathing exercises. There is so much heavy work benefit to filling and emptying the lungs as a self-regulation strategy.

Follow the circular path from the crab to the seashell while breathing in. Then follow the path again to breathe out. This visual offers a deep breathing exercise for filling and emptying the entire lungs, which is a great interoception and proprioception exercise for mindfulness and self-regulation.

Summer Sand Squats-

Finally, the last page in the Summer Sensory Stations printable is a summer-themed squat exercise.

Users can do a certain number of repetition of squats along with the visual for a balance activity and coordination exercise. This visual is left open-ended but you could challenge users to pick up an object from the floor for more balance opportunities, or you could ask them to move their hands or keep their vision on an object for visual attention, etc.

How to Use these Summer Sensory Stations

Using these Summer sensory path stations is simple:

  • Print off the pages.
  • Laminate them or slide them into a page protector sleeve. This way the sheets can easily be cleaned with a spritz of cleanser or disinfectant spray.
  • Hang the pages in a hallway to create a DIY sensory path. Or, hang them in a corner of a room to make a sensory calm down corner.

You can use these stations as a brain break, a scheduled sensory diet activity, a calm-down activity, or a transition activity for routine sensory input. The stations are great because they can be used with all individuals, making them perfect for a groups of children at a sensory summer camp (or any type of summer camp!) or meeting individual needs during therapy sessions.

Want these Printable sensory Stations?

Enter your email address into the form below. You’ll receive an email containing the PDF file. This resource is also available in our Member’s Club, where members can head to the dashboard and click a download button to immediately access the printable along with hundreds of other resources…no need to enter your email address!

Want to add this resource to your therapy toolbox so you can help kids thrive? Enter your email into the form below to access this printable tool.

This resource is just one of the many tools available in The OT Toolbox Member’s Club. Each month, members get instant access to downloadable activities, handouts, worksheets, and printable tools to support development. Members can log into their dashboard and access all of our free downloads in one place. Plus, you’ll find exclusive materials and premium level materials.

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Free Summer Sensory Stations

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    Looking for more Sensory Stations?

    Check out these other themed sensory station printables:

    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.

    What you need to know about Sensory Swings

    Sensory swings

    If you’ve ever walked into an occupational therapy gym, you may have seen a variety of sensory swings and wondered, “why does occupational therapy swing kids in their OT sessions?” There are many reasons why, and in this blog post, we’ll cover sensory swings, the best swings to use for sensory needs, and why!

    Sensory swings for sensory input and occupational therapy swings used in OT sessions

    Sensory Swing Movements

    Swings are simply a great tool for sensory input as well as sensory integration. The predictability of linear swinging can be calming and settling for the children who need that support. 

    Having the swing perform unpredictable moves such as rocking, spinning, side to side movement, and even start and stop movements while suspended in air, can be very alerting and stimulating for the children who need that support.

    In our blog post, Sensory Swings for Modulation you will read how powerful the swing can be when used as a sensory strategy for individual sensory processing needs and modulation. 

    There are many considerations when it comes to sensory swings, however. A swing can be a tool for modualtion but ican also cause dysregulation in users.

    Dysregulation refers to internal needs of the sensory systems that result in meltdown because the sensory processing system is out of balance.

    You might find that only 5 minutes of intense swinging leads to dysregulated sensory system with overstimulation. This state can require a long period of time and intervention to get the individual to reset or calm down.

    When it comes to sensory swings, different types of movements can impact modulation or dysregulation. It’s important to be aware of these considerations before using a sensory swing as a tool in therapy.

    Each individual will be different and it can be a delicate balance of movements that are stimulating verses calming. A swing for one child might spiral into dysregulation with a lengthy period of time and calming input required to regulate the sensory systems. Other individuals may crave intense movements and can benefit from that swing input for a longer period of time, allowing for functional participation.

    Alerting sensory swing movements

    In general, fast rotary vestibular input is often stimulating. Likewise, quick and sporadic movements on the swing are stimulating.

    The vestibular sense which is utilized during swing use helps to activate more body awareness, muscle tone, balance, and coordination as well as providing a level of increased alertness. If you want to learn more about vestibular activities in general, you can read the blog post Vestibular Activities.

    Calming sensory swing movements

    Calming or regulating sensory swing movements may include gentle, linear movement to calm the vestibular system. These swing pushes should be rhythmical and linear movement as these are more calming swing movements.

    The proprioceptive sense can be activated during swing use by reclining in a swing and rocking rhythmically in a swing providing deep pressure input to the body can help soothe strong emotions and decrease engine levels of high alertness. This helps with self-regulation and body control. 

    You can see that there are many different variables and each individual will require independent assessment from a qualified professional. This is why simply adding a sensory swing to a sensory room in a school can be a detriment to all of the students. School administrators and educators should always consult the occupational therapy professional before using a sensory swing in the school environment.

    Types of sensory swings in occupational therapy and activities to do with sensory swings

    Occupational therapy Swings

    Sensory processing is not the only area that can be addressed with the use of swings.

    How you utilize a swing and even the type of swing you use, can help a child to work on core and upper extremity strengthening, balance, visual processing, bilateral coordination, motor planning, righting reactions, body awareness, position in space, gross motor coordination, neck extension, eye-hand or eye-foot coordination, and visual tracking.

    When working with occupational therapy swings, each child is different in their needs and their preferences and it is up to you as the OT professional to determine what is needed and what needs to be worked on for skill development.

    It is also your role as the OT practitioner to guide and educate other professionals and parents of children to ensure the child’s needs are being met properly and that safety measures are being utilized.

    Now, two questions for you regarding those OT swings:

    1. Do you know what swing to use for the kiddos you see in therapy? 
    1. Do you often ask what activity can I do while they are on this swing so they will continue to remain motivated?

    Well, let’s take a look at six of the most common occupational therapy swings utilized in therapy clinics and therapy rooms in schools.

    Also, there are swings that parents can use indoors or outdoors to address a child’s sensory needs.  If you read our post Outdoor Sensory Swing you will learn how taking sensory play activities into the outdoors will provide children with many outdoor sensory experiences just by using the world around us.

    If purchasing a sensory swing is just simply too expensive to think about, read all about how you can use the playground equipment to address Sensory Integration at the Playground with the guidance of the therapist to meet each child’s needs.  

    Bolster Sensory Swing

    A Bolster swing challenges balance, vestibular processing, motor planning, cervical extension endurance, proximal control/stability, and core strengthening, The child can lie prone, inverted, kneel, sit or straddle the swing. 

    Bolster Swing Activities:

    1. Have a child work on hanging inverted like a koala bear and then time them to see if they can meet or beat their last best time.
    2. Have a child kneel on the bolster while hanging on and then attempt to toss bean bags into a basket.  
    3. Have a child straddle the bolster swing like a horse and use a reacher to pick up bean bags from the floor and then try to toss them into a basket using the reacher to toss.
    4. Spread balls around on the floor under the swing and have the children lie prone on the swing and attempt to reach out to pick up the balls and place them in a basket. You will move the swing around as needed.

    Ladder Sensory Swing

    A Climbing ladder swing provides the challenge of motor planning while simultaneously working on balance, strength, and body awareness. The child simply works to climb the ladder from the bottom to the top and then back down again. It adds the fun of swinging while providing a challenging workout.

    Ladder Swing Activities:

    1. Place a bucket or basket filled with puzzle pieces, letters, shapes, or other items at the top of the ladder for a child to retrieve one at a time by climbing up and down the ladder swing. Then, have them either put the pieces into the puzzle base or practice writing the letter or drawing the shape before going back up the ladder to grab the next item. 
    2. An adult can stabilize the bottom of the swing by holding it steady while the child climbs or an adult can slightly twist and turn the ladder swing while the child attempts to climb up and down. It’s called the ship on the rocky seas! 
    3. Place two or three articles of clothing at the top of the ladder and have the child retrieve one at a time and when they get to the bottom they can work on zipping, buttoning, or snapping!

    Hammock Swing

    A Cuddle hammock swing (also called a cocoon swing), provides proprioceptive input, assists with soothing strong emotions, and gives a nice deep pressure input which is calming and grounding for some children. This swing can be an easy first swing for children who need more gross motor support and are fearful of the movement other swings provide.  The Lycra-type material allows children to sit, stand, or lie in the swing making it a highly versatile swing. 

    Hammock Swing/ Cocoon Swing Activities:

    1. Have a child lie prone with their head and arms positioned outside the swing. This position creates a form of weight bearing through their arms and works on full upper body strengthening. They will work to pull and push themselves using the floor while inside the swing. 
    2. Place items around on the floor under the hammock just out of the reach of the child and then have them pull themselves along the floor to reach the items, such as bean bags, to toss into a basket. 
    3. Have the child lie prone and then grasp and hold your hands while you are seated on the floor in front of them. They will pull themselves toward you to shift the swing back and forth. 
    4. Have the child lie supine and reach up to remove clothespins that are clipped on the edge of the swing. The swing provides body support but works on building upper extremity strength and endurance as the child works against gravity to reach up. You can alternate activities and have the child place the clothespins instead.
    5. Have the child recline or lie within the swing and simply do deep breathing or mediation exercises while slowly swinging back and forth. 

    Pod Swing

    A Hanging pod swing provides vestibular input, assists with balance, and makes a nice cozy pod that gives children a sense of calm regulation and relaxation to just simply cool inside. This swing can serve as a good first swing as it allows for seated support while simply swinging slowly and provides more comfort to children who may be more fearful of the freedom of other types of swings. 

    Pod Swing Activities:

    1. Try turning off the lights, playing soft music, and have a child hold a small fidget or light-up toy while swinging slowly back and forth as they stay cuddled inside. 
    2. Place a pillow inside of the pod swing and have the child climb inside to provide a cushy, deep pressure input while swinging slowly and rhythmically in a linear fashion.
    3. Blowing bubbles for the child to watch while seated in the swing provides a calming feel as the motion of the bubbles will be slow as they descend. 
    4. Have the child sit in the swing and complete deep breathing or mediation exercises while slowly swinging back and forth. 

    Platform Swing

    A Platform swing (or this version of a platform swing with net base or material platform base) is the most common swing found in therapy settings and provides the opportunity for calming and alerting to get the child’s engine right where it needs to be for a treatment or classroom session. It is highly versatile as it can help a child build upper body strengthening, core strengthening, balance, and motor planning. 

    Platform Swing Activities: 

    1. Use this unstable surface swing to challenge a child’s body positioning to include side-lying, tummy time, tall kneeling, standing, criss-cross sitting, long sitting, and partial kneeling. 
    2. Have the child lie prone with their head and arms positioned over the edge. Then have them walk with the upper extremities around the floor picking up puzzle pieces to place in the puzzle base located in a central location. Pieces are picked up one at a time. 
    3. Place different colored bean bags in a circle on the floor around the swing. Call out different colors and have the child rotate themselves while lying prone on the swing and using their hands to walk around on the floor to stop at each color called out.  Letters and shapes can be used for this activity too.
    4. Place cones on an elevated surface and while the child is either lying prone or in a quadruped position, have them reach out to drop rings onto the cones. 
    5. Have the child sit criss-cross in the center and toss a beach ball to themselves.

    Trapeze swing provides a good opportunity to work on upper extremity strength and endurance, gross grasp skills, trunk strength, and motor planning. If you add lower extremity work also, then you address upper and lower body coordination. 

    Activities:

    1. While swinging or not, encourage a child to hold and lift their legs to kick a ball.
    2. While swinging, the child can simply jump over a therapy ball that is placed inside of a tire tube. 
    3. Simply work with a child on grasping and swinging while pumping the swing with their own feet. 
    4. While swinging or not, have a child hold on and lift their legs to kick a set of bowling pins or have them attempt to pick up each bowling pin with their feet and place them in a basket. 
    5. While swinging the child, can work on timing and release to let go and crash into a crash pad.

    Sensory Swing Tips

    What do you do with all of this information and activity ideas? Go get onto a swing and try out some of these fun activities! That’s right, we as adults need to have some fun too!

    But, after you’ve tried them, demonstrate them to the kiddos as they will most likely be more motivated to do the same activity after they see YOU do it. After all, you and I both know that the best way to teach a child is by setting a good example and you’ll get to have some fun in the process! It’s a win-win folks! 

    One tip for using a sensory swing in a therapy session can include a visual schedule with a plan that helps the individual with regulation needs. It can include swinging, then heavy work, music, blowing bubbles, dim lights, heavy rhythmic play, and deep breathing. All of these sensory tools regulate the system and can calm the system after the movement from the sensory swing. This is just one example and each individual will benefit from different strategies.

    Be sure to take a look at the maximum pounds allowed for some swings as you’ll want to be sure that it will work for all of your kiddos before purchasing.

    Always supervise children while on swings especially when rotary swinging as this can instigate seizure activity in some children.

    The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory processing information, each step of creating a meaningful and motivating sensory diet, that is guided by the individual’s personal interests and preferences.

    The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is not just about creating a sensory diet to meet sensory processing needs. This handbook is your key to creating an active and thriving lifestyle based on a deep understanding of sensory processing.

    Regina Allen

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

    Fidget Kits for Travel and On-the- Go Sensory

    fidget kits

    Do you know a kiddo that LOVES all things fidget toys? This Fidget Kit is a DIY Travel Sensory Kit that is perfect for on-the-go sensory needs for kids with Sensory Processing Disorders children or those who are Autistic and prefer sensory fidget items. Let’s cover fidget kits, just one occupational therapy kit that meets specific needs.

    Read on for tips to help with sensory issues while out and about, how to use and set up a fidget kit, and why fidget kits are a great sensory tool for self-regulation, a sensory diet (based on meaningful and motivating sensory strategies (aka a sensory lifestyle), or sensory needs. 

    Sensory fidget kits

    What are Fidget Kits

    A fidget kit is essentially a collection of fidgets that can be used to meet sensory needs and can be used as a movement break to incorporate specific sensory motor actions into daily functional tasks. Fidget kits may contain squeeze toys, fidget items, pop toys, putty, slap bracelets, Rubix cubes, stress balls, and many other fidget items. These sensory items can be housed in a box, bin, tote bag, shoe box, or any small carrying case. Fidget kits can be used by occupational therapy professionals with a whole caseload of clients, or a fidget kit can be individualized based on one person’s specific sensory preferences.

    Fidget toys support self-regulation and sensory needs so that kids can pay attention, focus, learn, and interact with others. Some fidgets offer heavy work through the hands. Others offer movement for the hands or body.

    A fidget kit can be used in many different ways:

    1. A fidget kit can be used in a sensory corner of a classroom as a calm down area.
    2. Or, a collection of sensory fidgets can be used by one individual for meeting various needs.
    3. Other times, a fidget kit is used as a choice, where use of a sensory tool is selected from a bin or bag of sensory fidget items. In this case, a visual schedule may be incorporated into the fidget toolbox.

    We’ve shared various collections of fidget toy recommendations here on the website in previous years.

    These types of fidget toys are all excellent additions to a fidget kit:

    Occupational Therapy Fidget Kits

    Occupational therapy practitioners know the benefit of carrying a collection of intervention tools in their therapy bag. They create a collection of materials designed to meet various needs on their caseloads. OTs make handwriting kits, scissor skills kits, auditory kits, functional skills kits, and even themed OT kits, or seasonal kits. Each therapy kit contains materials and activities designed to make therapy sessions fun and innovative. A fidget kit is no different!

    Why use fidget kits?

    Have you ever been out shopping the day before Christmas Eve when the entire city is packing everything from pineapples to pickles in their carts?  And while you wear your itchy winter coat and drippy boots, the carts bump into aisles, people are talking everywhere, and buzzes, dings, and noise are everywhere.  

    It is utterly unorganized chaos.   Now imagine you have difficulty ignoring those beeps and buzzes.  That itchy wool coat is SO there.  The people talk and talk and you hear them all.  The utterly unorganized chaos makes you feel so out of sorts that you can’t help but breakdown, throwing yourself on the floor, and trying to make it all go away.  

    Children who live with a Sensory Processing Disorder experience situations like this every day.  It doesn’t have to be a busy holiday for the environment to be too much for their body to organize.  It is everyday life for SPD kiddos.  They over or under process environmental stimulation at the bus stop, in the library, in a restaurant, or while waiting with Mom at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The disruption of typical processing can occur at minor or severe levels, but is always a struggle.     

    Use of a specialized sensory diet can help with over or under sensory responses while out and about.  Specific sensory inputs can help to organize these inappropriate sensory responses.

    Treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder with a Sensory Diet To treat these responses to input, Occupational Therapists perform an assessment of individual abilities and needs.  Using information from evaluation, they establish a diet of sensory integration activities to organize sensory systems so that appropriate and meaningful responses occur. Function and purposeful responses to sensory input in all settings are the goals of sensory integration and sensory diets.  

    A sensory diet is highly specific to the needs of a child with sensory processing disorder.  Sensory diet activities should be specialized to the meet the child’s regulation needs.  Items that are often times found on a sensory diet include activities like wall push-ups, jumping on a trampoline, vacuuming, pillow sandwiches, and kneading play dough (among tons of other ideas!)    But how do you do these sensory diet activities while in a classroom, car, restaurant, or in a while waiting for appointments? 

    This is where a fidget kit comes into play, that can help with sensory needs and can go anywhere.

    How to set up classroom fidget kits

    How to use a fidget kit in schools

    When I started working in school-based therapy in 2000, long before the craze of fidget toys, I created a set of fidget kits for each classroom in one school that I served.

    As the occupational therapist in this school, I worked with many of the children in various classrooms on my caseload. However, I knew the benefit of using fidget items during specified times in the classroom.

    The kits were contained within a clear plastic shoebox with a lid. There would be a list of materials in the kit and a sign out sheet if students removed an item to use at their desk.

    Because I knew the students on my caseload in each classroom, and their sensory preferences, I was able to select specific sensory tools to place in each classroom’s fidget kit. Then, I added additional materials that may benefit the general population of the classroom. These items included things like stress balls, a string of paperclips, a bead on a keychain ring, a fidget desk strip, wacky tracks (clicking string of blocks), finger trap, and Koosh ball.

    I offered a quick in-service to each teacher on the fidget kit that I created for their own classroom. I introduced the fidget kit, showed them the items in the kit and how to use them, and quickly explained the benefits of using a fidget kit to support attention, focus, sensory, and regulation needs in the classroom.

    I explained preferred sensory tools for the students on my caseload and when they may use the materials to best support their education.

    I also quickly explained that we all (whether receiving OT services or not) use sensory strategies all day long throughout our day to regulation, to focus, attend, deal with anxiety, or even boredom. For most of us, this fidgeting, or sensory breaks, looks like getting a cool drink of water, standing up after sitting for a long time, taking a deep breath, sitting up strait, stretching, clicking out pen, or jiggling a leg.

    Finally, I instructed teachers to use the supports as they deemed fit within their classroom. This way, the kit was used correctly within the classroom.

    Consult time with students was spent identifying needs and making changes to the individual student’s items and supports.

    At the end of the school year, I collected all of the kits and saved them for the next school year. These sensory kits were a success with every teacher and were requested again at the start of the next school year.

    How to make a sensory kit

    Sensory fidgeting breaks support learning and paying attention for all individuals and using a kit of fidget tools can support the entire classroom. Plus, another benefit to using a kit with the whole classroom is the normalization of the fidget tools as a generalized support, and using the tools correctly, and not as a means to gain attention. Still other students may feel as if they are being watched when using the fidget tools and when the entire classroom has fidget time, the use is less ostracizing.

    The benefit of creating fidget kits for schools is that you can put the items in any container that suits the needs of the students. Some can even travel from classroom to classroom. Try these ideas:

    • Plastic shoe box
    • Mini tote bag
    • Pencil box
    • Pencil pouch

    fidget kit

    This post contains affiliate links.

    sensory fidget kit

    This travel sensory diet is perfect for on-the-go sensory needs.  We made a small tote bag with fun paint and used it to create a travel sensory diet.  A tote of this size can be slid into a big purse, carried by the child, or carted around in the minivan.  

    The best thing about this travel sensory diet is that you can switch out activities so that new regulating items are added in and old favorites remain.    

    Travel Sensory Diet Bag for on-the-go-sensory needs

    What goes in a fidget Kit?

     A fidget kit can be made up of any sensory motor item!

    Some common sensory items include movement based fine motor or activities that offer heavy work through the hands, or Proprioception Activities Related articles: Proprioception and the hands impacts pencil pressure, and can be a great way to add a quick heavy work brain break.

    • Bungee cord or Exercise band.  These can be used by arms or legs while sitting or standing. 
    • 1 pound wrist weight:  This is an important addition to a travel sensory bag.  The weight provides proprioceptive input as the child carries the bag. Sometimes, just carrying the tote bag can be enough to regulate sensory needs. 
    • Other ideas include wearing the weight on the wrist, ankle, placed on the lap, or draped over shoulders.
    • Use the weight of the bag as input: While seated, hang the loop of the handles over a knee for weight down through the calf and into the foot.  Switch legs after a while.
    • Hang the bag on one shoulder, then the other.
    • Hold the loops of the bag by the hand as if carrying a suitcase. Switch hands often.
    • Hold the loops of the bag by individual fingers.

    Oral Fidget Items

    • Sugar free hard candy
    • Sugar Free gum
    • Eat dried fruit, bagel pieces, popcorn, pretzels, or raisins
    • Kazoo
      (take the paper out for less noise!)
    • Chew Toy ” or Chew Necklace

    Scent Fidget Tools

    • Small bottle of scented lotion

    Tactile Fidgets

    • Fidget with sensory koosh balls.
    • Pipe cleaners twisted together make a great fidget toy.
    • Beaded Keychain Friends
      for fidgeting
    • Small Scrub Brush
      (The pictured brush is used in the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol.  An Occupational Therapist should train you in this treatment
    • Baby wipe to wipe the face, arms, hands to “wake up” the skin.
    • Fidget items– The nice thing that is different than in 2000 is that Amazon now has large kits of items available that can be distributed into various smaller kits and recirculated among classrooms.

    Vestibular Fidgets

    • Heavy work activity cards
    • Hang the head and arms down between the legs to touch the floor.
    • Arm windmills
    • Twisting walks: Twist at the waist as the child walks.

    Other sensory diet ideas that work while on-the-go

    These are fidget kit ideas to have on hand that don’t require any equipment. these are sensory strategies that can be “pulled out” anywhere to support attention, focus, emotional needs, or sensory needs.

    • Carry grocery bags.
    • Push shopping carts.
    • Bend over hand hang the head and arms down to the ground.
    • Find a wall for wall push-ups.
    • Hug from a loved one.
    • Chew gum.
    • Drink from a straw.
    • Carry a sports bottle with crushed ice for resistive sucking and chewing ice.
    • March down a hallway.
    • Duck walks.
    • Find stairs and climb them.
    • “Mountain Climb” up a stairwell banister.
    • Use a coat as a sensory wrapper.  Wrap the child up like a sensory burrito with an extra coat.
    • “Prayer Stretch”  Press the palms of the hands together and press hard.
    • “Spider Finger” Stretches” Place fingertips of both hands together and stretch fingers up and down.
    • Spin in a chair (if at a doctor’s office).
    • Chair Push ups.
    • Weighted vest for situations that you know will cause sensory overload.
    • Headphones to cut out background noise.  
    Travel Sensory Diet Bag for on-the-go-sensory needs

      This on-the-go travel sensory bag can go everywhere from the doctor’s office with the too-hot waiting room and buzzing fluorescent lights to the hair salon with the noisy dryers and itchy hair clippings.  

    Travel Sensory Diet Bag for on-the-go-sensory needs


    This post is part of our 31 Days of Occupational Therapy series where you can find free or almost free treatment activities and ideas.  Stop by every day!  You’ll find more fun ideas each day in October.

    Looking for more sensory integration ideas?  These are some of my favorite:

    Dinosaur-Sized Sensory Feelings and Proprioception Activities

      Oobleck in the Marble Run

    Oobleck in the Marble Run

     Alphabet Discovery Bottle

    Alphabet Discovery Bottle

    Fidgeting During Homework

    The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory processing information, each step of creating a meaningful and motivating sensory diet, that is guided by the individual’s personal interests and preferences.

    The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is not just about creating a sensory diet to meet sensory processing needs. This handbook is your key to creating an active and thriving lifestyle based on a deep understanding of sensory processing.

     
     

    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.

    Goals of a Sensory Diet

    benefits of a sensory diet
    Have you ever had a professional mention the term “sensory diet”?  Have you wondered why a sensory diet would be used with kids?  This post describes the goals of a sensory diet for kids with sensory processing needs. 
     
    This resource on how to create a sensory diet is a good place to begin when it comes to creating a sensory plan that helps kids thrive and function in their daily tasks.
     
    Why do kids need a sensory diet to help with sensory processing problems?
     

    Sensory strategies that are motivating can be a big help for some kids. Try these train themed sensory activity ideas.

    Why Use a Sensory Diet?

    To begin, read this blog on what is a sensory diet. You’ll discover that sensory diets are a commonly known strategy for addressing
    sensory needs.  The term “sensory diet” was coined by Patricia Wilbarger in 1984 to explain how certain sensory experiences
    can improve occupational performance and help to remediate disruption of the sensory processing systems.  
     
    When it comes to benefits, a sensory diet is a means to adjust sensory input in relation to an individual’s
    needs.  
     
    There’s more to it, though. 
     
    Sensory diets don’t need to be a strict set of prescribed structured activities for every child.  They ARE a meaningful set of strategies for developing sensory programs that are meaningful, practical, carefully
    scheduled, and controlled in order to affect functioning.  
     
    We use sensory diets for many reasons: 
     
    Specific needs- While a sensory diet offers specific sensory input at times in preparation for periods of poor regulation, the optimal sensory diet becomes a sensory lifestyle, in which the individual has a “bank” of sensory strategies at their disposal and can use those tools in preparation before a meltdown or crash occurs.
     
    Individualized needs- No two individuals are alike. And, no two individuals will experience the same sensory needs. As a result every sensory diet will differ in sensory input, timing, and various other factors. Sensory diet activities provide appropriate sensory input based on the needs of an individual. 
     
    Balance- Just as a healthy diet consists of a variety of foods, a sensory diet is a balanced set of sensory information that allows an individual to function.  A person cannot survive on broccoli alone. Similarly, a child cannot function with only one type of sensory activities.
     
    Sensory diets are not just for kids with identified sensory issues.  We all need a diet of sensory input. 
     
    Position in Space- Our bodies and minds instinctively know that varying sensory input allows us to function appropriately.  Neuro-typical children naturally seek out a variety of proprioceptive, vestibular, and tactile sensory input.  Children that struggle because of underlying issues or developmental concerns may show difficulties with fine motor, gross motor, sensory processing, self regulation, executive function, creativity, and general life skills. It’s through a process of identifying specific sensory processing needs that these areas can be impacted. 
     
    Routines and Transitions- Having a better understanding of transitions, routines, and schedules may allow children to know what to expect in their day. A sensory diet offers this opportunity.
     
    Confidence- When we offer children strategies that support their needs, they thrive. This is true for children of all abilities and skill levels. Involving kids in movement based and sensory activities allows them to connect with others, and learn about the world around them, how their body moves and interacts in daily tasks, and this offers confidnce and further skill-building, as well as overall competence.
     
     
    Regulation Needs- As a result, they are able to accept and regulate other sensory input such as a seam in their shirt, a
    lawnmower running outside their classroom, or the scent of chicken cooking in the
    kitchen.
     

    Why Sensory Diets?

     
    Studies support the use of active participation in multi-sensory activities for at least 90 minutes per week to improve occupational performance and autism symptoms and behaviors (Fazlioglu & Baran, 2008; Thompson, 2011; Woo & Leon, 2013; Wuang, Wang, Huang, & Su
    2010).  
     
    Children who have a toolbox of sensory activities available to them for daily use may benefit from prescribed sensory activities.  These activities can be a part of and incorporated into the day in a natural way.


    Related Read: Here are more sensory-based tricks and tips that help with meltdowns.


    What is a sensory diet?

     
    A sensory diet is a set of activities that are appropriate
    for an individual’s needs.  Specific and individualized activities that are specifically scheduled into a child’s day are used to assist with regulation of activity levels, attention, and adaptive responses.  
     
    Sensory diet activities are prescribed based on the individual’s specific sensory needs.   Just as there are no two people that are alike, there are no two sensory diets that are alike.  
     
    Every sensory diet will meet the specific needs whether in activity, position, intensity, time, sensory system, or type.  Additionally, a sensory diet can be modified throughout the day and based on variances in tasks.
     
    A sensory diet needs to be specific with thoughtful regard to timing, frequency, intensity, and duration of sensory input.
     
    Goals of a sensory diet


    Goals of a sensory diet are to:

     
    1. Provide the child with predictable sensory information
      which helps organize the central nervous system.
    2. Support social engagement, self-regulation, behavior organization, perceived competence, self-esteem, and self-confidence.
    3.  Inhibit and/or improve modulation of sensation within daily routines and environments.
    4. Assist the child in processing a more organized response
      to sensory stimuli.

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

     
    Reference:
    Fazlioglu, Y., & Baran, G. (2008). A sensory integration therapy program on sensory problems for children
    with autism
    . Perceptual and Motor Skills, 106, 415–422. http://dx.doi.org/10.2466/PMS.106.2.415-422
     

    Read more on sensory processing information here:

     
    Sensory processing red flags for parents to help identify sensory needs in kids
     
     

    The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory processing information, each step of creating a meaningful and motivating sensory diet, that is guided by the individual’s personal interests and preferences.

    The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is not just about creating a sensory diet to meet sensory processing needs. This handbook is your key to creating an active and thriving lifestyle based on a deep understanding of sensory processing.

    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.

    Outdoor Sensory Activities

    outdoor sensory activities

    Have you ever considered what a wealth of sensory input there is in outdoor sensory play? Here, you’ll find outdoor sensory activities that would make a great addition to outdoor occupational therapy sessions, or just sensory input through playing outdoors! Consider taking the benefits of sensory play and moving them to an environment with differences in sounds, temperatures, textures, surfaces. You end up with a functional space that invites motor and sensory development!

    Previously, we’ve shared how to go on a sensory nature walk, but this resource covers much more in the way of outdoor occupational therapy activities to support needs.

    Outdoor sensory activities to support sensory processing

    Outdoor Sensory Activities

    The outdoor sensory ideas listed below include sensory activities that can naturally be found outdoors!


    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.

    Research on outdoor sensory play tells us that playing outdoors supports development through areas such as: developmental and primary tasks that children must achieve can be effectively improved through outdoor play. These include: exploring, risk-taking, fine and gross motor development, absorption of basic knowledge, social skills, self-confidence, attention, language skills, among others.

    In fact, one study found a sensory diet in outdoor play along with sensory integration therapy resulted in better functional behavior of kids with ADHD (Sahoo & Senapati). 

    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 activities that can be recommended as therapy home programing and family activities that meet underlying needs.

    A note about using outdoor activities in sensory diets (and creating a sensory lifestyle…)

    Sensory activities can be prescribed according to need along with environment in order to maximize sensory input within a child’s day such at home, within the community, during transitions, or within the school day. Outdoors are part of our everyday. Whether it’s walking to the car or school bus, travelling down a sidewalk, or spending time outside in the yard, there are many opportunities to support sensory and emotional regulation needs with outdoor play.

    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.

    We’ve been talking a lot about sensory diets here on The OT Toolbox recently. Understanding 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 into needed sensory input that a child needs to self-regulation, cope with his or her environment, and to attend or focus despite sensory overload or distractions.

    You’ll find more outdoor sensory diet activities like these outdoor sensory diet activities for the backyard coming to the site very soon!

    For specifics on how to get started with a sensory diet, and how to use these outdoor sensory processing strategies in a sensory plan, start here with this resource on how to create a sensory diet.

    Outdoor sensory activities can be specific to sensory system like proprioception activities, auditory processing, vestibular sensory diet activities, and the rest of the sensory systems.

    Use these outdoor sensory activities to help kids with sensory processing needs

    Outdoor occupational therapy

    When therapists develop a specific and highly individualized sensory diet, it’s not just throwing together a day filled with sensory input. It’s activities based on sensory need and strategizing. Each of the nature-based sensory activities above should meet specific needs of the child.

    outdoor occupational therapy activities and reasoning

    Imagine a world with more creative outdoor play that involves a variety of enriching sensory input. The proprioceptive input from running and jumping into puddles can calm the child who is typically overactive.

    Outdoor occupational therapy supports the development of skills in a functional and natural space. When OTs venture outdoors for therapy practice, the world opens up in the way of sensory input, motor experiences, emotional regulation, and skill-building.

    Occupational therapists practice outdoors for many reasons:

    • Develop confidence
    • Social skill building
    • Independence with clothing
    • Attention
    • Focus
    • Body awareness
    • Problem solving
    • Executive functioning skills
    • Safety skills
    • Motor planning
    • Sensory processing
    • Connection with others

    Through outdoor occupational therapy, individuals experience all that nature has to offer while developing skills, just like one would in traditional occupational therapy services.

    Below, you’ll find specifically sensory occupational therapy activities that can occur outdoors.

    Sensory Activities for Outdoors

    Nature, playing outdoors, and experiencing everything the outdoors has to offer supports all of the sensory systems. Let’s break this concept down:

    1. Visual System- Outside, we can see details in the trees, notice differences in plants, spot items hidden in the grass. Vision is more than just acuity. It’s through the visual sense that we learn, communicate. Visual motor activities and visual processing tasks occur naturally through play and experiencing the outdoors.

    Try some of these outdoor activities to support the visual system:

    • Play I Spy
    • Hide objects and find them
    • Play tag (visual tracking and visual scanning)
    • Collect rocks or leaves (visual figure ground)
    • Watch the clouds (visual attention)
    • Look for birds
    • Collect items from nature and notice differences

    2. Proprioceptive System- Another of the “Big 3” sensory systems (explained in detail in our book, The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook), is the proprioceptive system.

    There are so many proprioceptive activities supported by the outdoors. Try some of these:

    • Hike of inclines or declines
    • Animal walks in the grass
    • Relay races
    • Pound and smash ice
    • Lift and carry rocks or logs

    3. Vestibular System- The vestibular benefits of slowing swaying side to side on a tree vine can organize the child who is challenged by sensory overload.

    Try these outdoor vestibular activities:

    4. Interoceptive System- There is a connection with interoception, too. This sensory system is responsible for hunger, thirst, fatigue, digestion, sleep, toileting, and other internal systems. Sensory activities like going outdoors, experiencing differences in temperature and texture (warmth of the sun, cool breeze, wet rain drops, damp soil, etc.) on the skin receptors can impact how we feel, how mindful we are, and how the interoception system responds.

    Outdoor sensory activities that impact the interoceptive system include:

    • Running/walking/crawling
    • Playing in wet sand, soil, grass
    • Feeling the breeze on skin
    • Feeling the warmth of sun on skin
    • Playing on swings
    • Going up or down a slide
    • Laying on the ground (pressure on the stomach and internal organs)
    • Rolling on the grass (vestibular and proprioceptive systems)

    5. Auditory System- Outdoors, you can rest your state of mind just by listening. The outdoors offer a great mindset strategy for emotional regulation and is a way to calm the body. These backyard auditory processing activities will get you started. Try these outdoor auditory processing strategies for regulation and sensory needs:

    • Listen for birds
    • Mimic sounds
    • Play “I hear” (just like I Spy for sounds)

    6. Tactile System- The outdoors offer so many tactile experiences. From walking in grass without shoes on, to playing the variety of natural tactile sources, there are so many ways to support the tactile system outdoors.

    Try some of these calming or alerting sensory activities for the tactile sense:

    • Walk barefoot in grass
    • Play in a sandbox
    • Climb a damp tree
    • Pick grass
    • Dig in dirt
    • Play with messy, sensory play outside
    • Pick flowers
    • Feel and crunch leaves (also great for the auditory sense)
    • Create a tactile nature walk collection

    7. Gustatory System- The gustatory sense, or the sense of taste can be incorporated into the outdoors. Think about your experience with picking berries, tasting a cool and sweet popsicle on a hot day. There are so many sensory-based memories involving tastes. Try some of these gustatory sensory activities in the outdoors:

    • Grow a sensory garden with fruits and vegetables that can be eaten outdoors
    • Eat a juicy watermelon outside- This is a great tactile activity, too
    • Make ice pops, smoothies, or ice cream using fresh fruits.

    9. Olfactory System- This is the sense of smell. Outside, there are so many scents that occur and may change every day (and even based on the time of day!) Consider these olfactory sensory ideas:

    • Smell flowers
    • Smell grass
    • Identify odors and scents by location
    • Name the type of plant based on scent
    • Garden- Plant herbs such as mint, parsley, basil, lavender, etc. These are powerful scents that can be calming.
    These outdoor sensory diet activities are great for occupational therapists to use in development of a sensory diet for kids with sensory needs, using outdoor play ideas.


    Outdoor Sensory Play

    There are so many outdoor activities that incorporate play naturally while meeting underlying needs in the great outdoors! The ideas you’ll find below are naturally occurring play ideas using items found in nature, natural environments. They are outdoor activities that kids can try without any additional equipment or specialty therapy items.

    The point with these outdoor occupational therapy strategies is to support motor skill development, motor planning, visual motor skills, and overall development through the natural environment of the outdoors.

    Ideas for outdoor occupational therapy:

    • Hike
    • Play in the woods
    • Roll down hills
    • Balance beam on logs
    • Climb trees
    • Collect nature
    • Play at the beach
    • Nature walk
    • Play in the backyard
    • Climb on stumps
    • Jump in puddles
    • Driveway or pavement play activities
    • Swing on tree vines
    • Sensory play on a porch or enclosed space
    • Collect sticks
    • Leaf hunt
    • Water table
    • Move and carry rocks of various sizes
    • Hide and seek
    • Create with nature
    • Outdoor water play
    • Collect fireflies
    • Pour rocks
    • Build with rocks, stumps, sticks, small logs
    • Mix and create nature soup (mud, sticks, flower petals, grass clippings)
    • Mud play
    • Use more of the ideas in our Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards

    The outdoor world is full of sensory input that can meet individual needs of every child. The kids with sensory needs as well as those who present as neurotypical will benefit from a lifestyle of sensory play and experiences in the outdoors.

    These outdoor sensory diet activities are great for occupational therapists to use in development of a sensory diet for kids with sensory needs, using outdoor play ideas.

    As always, these activities should be looked over and utilized along with assessment and intervention of an occupational therapist, as each child differs so very vastly.

    Some of the ideas above are going to be described in more detail here on The OT Toolbox. Watch this space for more outdoor sensory play ideas based on the following outdoor play spaces:

    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 occurring 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 whohttps://www.theottoolbox.com/product/the-sensory-lifestyle-handbook/le family.  

    Get The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook here.

    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.

    How to Create a Sensory Diet

    How to create a sensory diet

    Here you’ll discover how to create a sensory diet through information on sensory diets as well as a powerful resource to set up and establish an effective sensory diet lifestyle that works for kids. We’ve shared a lot of information about creating a sensory diet. There is a valid reason. Besides the growing need for sensory support for kids with sensory processing disorder or sensory challenges, there is a real need for parents and teachers to understand exactly what a sensory diet is and how it can help address sensory needs.  

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

    How to Create a Sensory Diet

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

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

     

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

    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.

    What is a sensory diet? 

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

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

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

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

    Sensory diets can include various sensory strategies and supports that help the individual to regulate. Some additional movements, or activities can include:

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

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

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

    Why Create a sensory diet?


    There are many reasons why a sensory diet should be used to support specific needs. This resource covers the goals of a sensory diet.

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

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

    This blog post on sensory processing includes a sensory processing disorder checklist that covers many reasons and reactions that can be impacted by sensory needs.

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

    Make a Sensory Diet Template


    One important piece of the sensory diet puzzle is the successful implementation of strategies. This is the part of actually using sensory activities, brain break, movement activities, calm down corners, sensory tools, etc.

    We’ll go into how this looks in more detail below, but it’s important to remember that the sensory diet template plays a big role. Actually scheduling strategies and implementing them into day to day tasks is part of the sensory lifestyle.

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

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

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

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

    Steps to Create a Sensory Diet


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

    There are specific steps to creating a sensory diet. Let’s go through the process:

    1. Analyze/Identify
    2. Strategize
    3. Sensory Diet Template/ Apply Sensory Strategies
    4. Monitor

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

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

    Make detailed notes that describe the action, the environment, the disabilities, and the impact on function, safety, learning, social participation, etc. When taking the time to analyze sensory impact on function, it’s important to look for issues that may be impacting the individual’s functional performance.

    Make notes on things such as:

    • Actions/behaviors- how is the individual responding in situations?
    • Environment- where is the situation occurring
    • Timing- when does the behavior occurring? What happens just before the behavior or actions?
    • Co-existing considerations- what else is occurring during the behavior or action?

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

    Identifying sensory needs when beginning the sensory diet process is much like keeping track of a food diary or sleep diary. In these situations, you’ll also want to mark down every detail including how one is feeling emotionally, physically, and other considerations. Just like these types of diaries help to identify what is really going on in a food diet, a sensory diary can help to support and identify needs for creating a sensory diet.

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

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

    Step 2: Strategize/Reasoning- The next level in creating a sensory diet involves identifying the “why” behind the behaviors. Think about why the individual may be responding, or reacting to sensory input or environmental input in the way that they are. Can you come up with rationale that describes actions?

    Ask yourself questions to strategize on the “why” behind sensory-related behaviors:

    • Is it an unmet sensory need that causes a child to bolt down the hallway?
    • Is the reason the child chews on all of their clothes because they need more proprioceptive input?
    • Did the child not get enough sleep?
    • Is the routine off?
    • Was a transition done without warning or preparation?
    • Was the individual at a level of stress?

    Use this information to come up with predictions and opportunities to support the individual with specific accommodations or modifications to the environment.

    In The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook, you will find printable sensory-based behavior screening tools that can be used to identify the underlying sensory needs leading to a behavior or action.

    Additionally, resources in the book allow for strategizing to address existing sensory challenges for an individual. The best part is that the pages can be printed off and used over and over again for a single individual or for many individuals. 

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

    Scheduling sensory diet strategies is an important step. If a box of sensory supplies is offered, but no schedule put into place, the sensory diet immediately is set up for failure.

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

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

    Remember that this part of the sensory diet creation process is very fluid! There will be trials, adjustments, periods of re-trialing, and monitoring. It can seem like this stage goes on and on! The thing to remember is to persist and don’t give up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


    So often, we hear that sensory recommendations are not carried over into the home or classroom. The tips and tools in The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook uses child-led interests and daily life interactions so kids WANT to participate in sensory diet activities their bodies need…because it’s part of play!

    Get The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook here.

    Using a sensory diet in various environments

    A sensory diet is an important strategy and tool to support learning needs in the classroom environment. Here is a resource on creating sensory diets for the classroom.

    Occupational therapists can be a great resource for sensory diets that flow from the home to the school environment.

    In fact, using a set of sensory diet cards as a resource where the student pulls various sensory supports to use at specific times or during transitions in the classroom can be very helpful.

    The best type of sensory diet utilizes sensory aspects of everyday functional tasks within the activity as it occurs. This is covered specifically in the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook. But consider this: if one is outside or in the home and needs to address regulation needs, using activities and everyday objects is ideal. These backyard sensory diet strategies is one way to incorporate the outdoors into sensory needs.

    Related, a sensory diet can include recess activities as a tool to support emotional or sensory regulation needs. This resource on recess sensory diets covers this concept in more detail. Running on a blacktop surface at recess, playing with hula hoops, balls, or building blocks at a key part of the day is scheduled into the students’ schedules every day they are at school. When you think about it, each student has a sensory diet of their own in the way of recess!

    At home, recess isn’t an option, but heading outside is! The outdoor sensory diet strategies can really impact self-regulation, emotional needs, attention, and sensory processing needs.

    Another environmental consideration is the playground. A park or playground area offers sensory diet equipment and tools that can be used on a scheduled basis. Consider adding a trip to the playground to the schedule on specific days of the week. Maybe a visit to the playground is in order for Friday afternoons after the student’s spelling test and the end of the school week. Or, a playground visit can occur every Sunday afternoon as a way to wrap up the weekend. Perhaps a walk to a local park can occur each evening after dinner. It’s all about what the individual needs and what works for the family’s lifestyle.

    Another location for sensory diets can be the woods or a wooded outdoor area. This is a great way to incorporate nature into sensory needs, and should be scheduled according to availability, time available, and family lifestyle.

    Another related resource on this site is the concept of sensory diets at the beach. When we travel, there can be a lot of different or novel sensory experiences. When hot weather, wind, and scratchy sand impact sensory needs at the beach, these are all important considerations.

    Another support for travel is the sensory diet on the go! This easy to create sensory support is individualized and includes the materials and strategies that support the individual’s needs. Read how to create a travel sensory diet toolbox.