About Ayres Sensory Integration

Ayres Sensory Integration

In this post, we are going to give you the basics of Ayres Sensory Integration. If you have never heard of it, continue reading for plenty of information and resources that will help you become more familiar with this practice. Or, if you are trained in sensory approaches and looking to refresh your knowledge, we have got you covered. Learn more about the sensory system and and sensory-based activities in this resource on Sensory.

Ayres sensory integration and how this specialized sensory treatment impacts kids with sensory processing needs.

WHAT IS Ayres SENSORY INTEGRATION?

You may have heard the terms Ayres Sensory Integration, of Ayres SI. Maybe you’re familiar with the term sensory integration. But what do these terms mean?

Sensory integration has many layers, but it can be made quite simple. In fact, everyone has experienced sensory integration! Think about your senses; the way you feel things on your skin, see bright or dim light, smell a cup of coffee, or feel dizzy on a rollercoaster. Your body senses a stimulus, for example, the feeling of your shirt against your skin. After a few moments, you don’t think about how the shirt feels on your skin. You wear it all day long without feeling it touch you.

This is an example of sensory integration. That sensation – the touch of the shirt to your skin – was processed and organized by your nervous system, and the nervous system decided that it did not need to process it any more. In other words, it was integrated!

But what happens if the sensation is not integrated?

You may have heard of someone who can feel their shirt, particularly the tag of their shirt, all day long. It may bother them so much that they cut off those tags to avoid feeling that sensation.

It may be that somewhere along the sensory nervous system pathway, the signals for processing that touch sensation are blocked, or lost. Instead of being processed and integrated as, “You don’t need to feel this any more!”, it’s stuck in a processing limbo of, “what is this that I am feeling?”.

Much like how a sudden closure on the freeway means that you will have to find another way to your destination, those sensory signals need to learn where to go when their path is not clear.

Sensory integration therapy can help find a new path to that destination and turn off the signals that cause the over-response to the stimuli (in this case, the shirt).

Who is Jean Ayres? Dr. A. Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist, psychologist, and neuroscientist, developed this theory and practice in the mid 1970s. She recognized that a child’s sensory system can greatly impact how they perceive and interact with the world around them. Dr. Jean Ayres developed specific sensory integration interventions based on her research findings over the course of her career.

WHO IS Jean AYRES?

Dr. A. Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist, psychologist, and neuroscientist, developed this theory and practice in the mid 1970s. She recognized that a child’s sensory system can greatly impact how they perceive and interact with the world around them. Dr. Jean Ayres developed specific sensory integration interventions based on her research findings over the course of her career.

Since 2005, Ayres Sensory Integration (ASI) has been trademarked to differentiate this particular method from other sensory-based therapies. The term Ayres Sensory Integration, or ASI, encompasses the theory, assessments, and interventions that were developed by Dr. Ayres.

WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT Ayres Sensory Integration?

There are reasons why ASI is trademarked and other sensory approaches are not – so what makes Ayres Sensory Integration so unique? One reason why the trademark was necessary was to clarify to the public and the academic communities which evidence to correlate with ASI.

The evidence for sensory interventions were becoming increasingly mucky – it became difficult to discern if ASI worked because so many people were calling any sensory approaches ASI, even if they did not align with the principles (Parham et al., 2007).

To be considered true ASI, a trained practitioner must follow a specific protocol in their evaluation and treatment of their client. To start, the practitioner would evaluate their client using methods of naturalistic observation, conducting caregiver and teacher interviews, administering standardized testing, and performing clinical observations. After the evaluation is complete, they
will determine the ways in which sensory integration deficits may be interfering with the child’s functional performance.

Core Elements of Ayres Sensory Integration

After determining that ASI is an appropriate intervention method for a child, the trained practitioner will develop sensory interventions that fall within the core elements of the ASI approach:

  1. Ensures physical safety.
  2. Presents sensory opportunities.
  3. Helps maintain appropriate levels of alertness.
  4. Challenges postural, ocular, oral, or bilateral motor control.
  5. Challenges praxis and organization of behavior.
  6. Collaborates in activity choice.
  7. Tailors activity to present the just-right challenge.
  8. Ensures that activities are successful.
  9. Supports a child’s intrinsic motivation to play.
  10. Establishes a therapeutic alliance.
    (Parham et al., 2020)

DOES Ayres Sensory Integration WORK?

Sensory integration is an on-going research topic in the field of occupational therapy. Many recent publications have suggested that ASI can be used to improve occupational performance (Koester et al., 2014; Miller, Coll, & Schoen, 2007; Pfeiffer, Koenig, Kinnealey, Sheppard, & Henderson, 2011; Roley et al., 2015; Schaaf & Nightlinger, 2007; Schaaf et al., 2013, Schaaf et al., 2015; Watling & Hauer, 2015).

In other words, ASI is supported by research in it’s main goal: to increase a child’s participation in their daily activities.

ASI was originally developed as a measure to address the functional abilities of children with learning and behavioral concerns. The positive outcomes of ASI have since been well-documented for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as for children with learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental delay, regulatory disorder, and developmental coordination disorder.

The theory and practice has also been modified for use with other populations and age groups, too!

Who Uses Ayres Sensory Integration?

Most recent research estimates that up to 95% of children with developmental delays or disabilities have deficits in sensory functioning (AOTA, 2017). Additionally, it is estimated that sensory processing difficulties occur in 5% to 14% kindergartners, 16% of elementary students, and 10% to 12% of people of all ages with no related diagnosis (AOTA, 2017).

In short, the relevance for sensory integration is huge, due the prevalence of sensory deficits in individuals of various populations.

To find out if an individual can benefit from ASI therapy, the Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT) would be administered, per the ASI guidelines. The SIPT was developed by Dr. Ayres specifically to test whether or not ASI is appropriate for an individual, and to highlight specific deficits in sensory processing.

RESOURCES on Sensory Integration

There are many great resources available for practitioners and families alike. See the options below to discover more about the sensory system, ASI theory, and sensory-based interventions.

REFERENCES
American Occupational Therapy Association [AOTA]. (2017). Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about: Ayres Sensory Integration®. https://www.aota.org/-
/media/Corporate/Files/Secure/Practice/Children/FAQAyres.pdf

Koester, A. C., Mailloux, Z., Coleman, G. G., Mori, A. B., Paul, S. M., Blanche, E., … Cermak, S. A. (2014). Sensory integration functions of children with cochlear implants. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68, 562–569.
http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.012187

Miller, L. J., Coll, J. R., & Schoen, S. A. (2007). A randomized controlled pilot study of the effectiveness of occupational therapy for children with sensory modulation disorder. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 61, 228–238.

Parham, L. D.., Smith Roley, S., May-Benson, T. A., Koomar J., Brett-Green, B., Burke, J. P., Cohn, E. S., Mailloux, Z., Miller, L. C. & Schaaf, R. C. (2020). Development of a fidelity measure for research on the effectiveness of the Ayres Sensory Integration® intervention. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65, 133-142. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2011.000745

Parham, L. D., Cohn, E. S., Spitzer, S., Koomar, J. A., Miller, L. J., Burke, J. P. … Summers, C. A. (2007). Fidelity in sensory integration intervention research. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 61, 216–227.

Pfeiffer, B. A., Koenig, K., Kinnealey, M., Sheppard, M., & Henderson, L. (2011). Effectiveness of sensory integration interventions in children with autism spectrum disorders: A pilot study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65, 76–85. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2011.09205

Roley, S. S., Mailloux, Z., Parham, L. D., Schaaf, R. C., Lane, C. J., & Cermak, S. (2015). Sensory integration and praxis patterns in children with autism. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69, 6901220010. http://dx.doi.org/ 10.5014/ajot.2015.012476

Schaaf, R. C., Benevides, T., Mailloux, Z., Faller, P., Hunt, J., van Hooydonk, E.,… Kelly, D. (2013). An intervention for sensory difficulties in children with autism: A randomized trial. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44, 1493–1506.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/ s10803-013-1983-8

Schaaf, R. C., Cohn, E. S., Burke, J., Dumont, R., Miller, A., & Mailloux, Z. (2015). Linking sensory factors to participation: Establishing intervention goals with parents for children with autism spectrum disorder. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69, http:// dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.018036

Watling, R., & Hauer, S. (2015). Effectiveness of Ayres Sensory Integration® and sensory-based interventions for people with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69, 6905180030.
http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.018051

Sydney Thorson, OTR/L, is a new occupational therapist working in school-based therapy. Her
background is in Human Development and Family Studies, and she is passionate about
providing individualized and meaningful treatment for each child and their family. Sydney is also
a children’s author and illustrator and is always working on new and exciting projects.

Outdoor Sensory Activities for the Backyard

outdoor sensory activities for kids with sensory processing challenges.

If you are looking for outdoor sensory activities, this is the place to start. Here, you’ll find outdoor sensory ideas to address each sensory system. Also included are sensory play ideas to use in the backyard when creating an outdoor sensory diet for children.

outdoor sensory activities for kids with sensory processing challenges.

Outdoor Sensory Activities or a Sensory Diet?

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

The important thing to recognize is that there is a difference between sensory play and sensory diets. Read here for more information on what a sensory diet is and isn’t.

When therapists develop a specific and highly individualized sensory diet, it’s not just throwing together a day filled with sensory input. A sensory diet  is a specific set of sensory tools used to meet and address certain needs of the individual based on sensory need and strategizing.

Each of the sensory diet activities above should meet specific needs of the child. Every child is different so applying sensory input to one child may look very different than that of another. Parents should use the tactics below along with your child’s occupational therapist.

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

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

Outdoor Sensory Activities

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

Below is a huge list of outdoor sensory activities, but to focus on each sensory system, check out these resources:

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

Bakyard Sensory Activities

  • Slide down a hill on cardboard
  • Grass sensory bin
  • Use a magnifying glass to inspect the grass and dirt
  • Mud kitchen
  • Roll down hills
  • Animal walks with bare feet
  • Create nature “soup” with grass, flower petals, sticks, etc.
  • Pick flowers
  • Cartwheels and tumbling on the grass (barefoot or with shoes!)
  • Water Table with nature
  • Cartwheel or tumbling 
  • Target games
  • Outdoor lawn games
  • Bean bag games
  • Relay races
  • Hide and seek games
  • Simon Says games
  • Tag 
  • Bell parade
  • Kazoo sound hunt
  • Listening for birds or animals
  • Record backyard sounds and playback the recording. Try to recognize and name the sound and where it was located in the yard.
  • Fill containers with items from the backyard.  Shake plastic containers or even paper bags with the items and see if your child can name the objects.
  • Play Marco Polo in the yard!
  • Auditory backyard games like: Neighborhood Listening Scavenger Hunt, Auditory Hide and Seek, Listening Tag, Noisy Toy Positioning Game
  • Create with recycled materials and make arts, crafts, and activities.
  • Pull plastic ware out of the cupboards and sort the lids onto the containers. Mix colors with food coloring in water.
  • Blow bubbles
  • Jump rope
  • Play Kickball
  • Throw a book picnic: grab snacks, a blanket, and a pile of books and head outside.
  • Dress up with old fancy dresses and clothes from mom’s closet (then throw them in a bag and donate!)
  • Bake
  • Poke holes in a cardboard box and push pipe cleaners through the holes
  • Bowl with recycled plastic water bottles
  • Act out a favorite nursery rhyme
  • Play tag games for heavy work, spatial awareness, and body awareness.
  • Put dollhouses or play sets into a bin of shredded paper.
  • Play hide and seek
  • Climb trees
  • Watch and draw clouds
  • Tell stories where one person starts a story and each person adds a sentence to continue the story.  Write it down and illustrate your story!
  • Make and deliver lemonade to neighbors
  • Go birdwatching
  • Make creative firefly catchers and then catch the fireflies that night.
  • Play charades
  • Act out a favorite book
  • Create with finger paints (make your own with flour, water, and food coloring or washable paint!)
  • Sing songs
  • Turn on music and dance
  • Pick flowers and give them to neighbors
  • Make summer crafts that build skills.
  • Have an art show and invite friends.
  • Create a spatial concepts map
  • Spin in circles.
  • Swing side to side on a swing set.
  • Hang upside down from swing set equipment.
  • Swing on a hammock.
  • Backyard dance party.  Encourage lots of whole body movements and spinning.
  • Cartwheels
  • Tumbles
  • Hopscotch
  • Play Leapfrog
  • Mini trampoline (or the big sized-trampoline) Catch a ball while standing, sitting, swinging, rolling a ball, catching between legs, etc.
  • Hit a tennis racket at a target including bubbles, falling leaves, large balls, small rubber balls, and balloons
  • Catch butterflies in a net
  • Bubble pop, including popping bubbles with a toe, knee, foot, head, finger, or elbow  
  • Play with goop
  • Draw in shaving cream on a cookie sheet outdoors. Then squirt off in the hose.
outdoor equipment for sensory input in the backyard

Backyard Sensory Equipment

There are outdoor play items you may have already that can be repurposed to use in outdoor sensory play. These are common backyard toys or things that might be in your garage! It can be fun to re-think these items for a means of adding sensory input.

Make a bin of outdoor toys that are readily available in your garage or storage area so that sensory play experiences are at your family’s fingertips. For example, all of these items could be used in an outdoor balance beam.

  • Hoola Hoops
  • Jump Ropes
  • Balls
  • Bat
  • Tennis Racket
  • Butterfly Net
  • Baby Swimming Pool
  • Tarp or Slip and Slide
  • Water Hose
  • Scoops and cups
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Bike
  • Scooter
  • Skateboard
  • Cardboard
  • Target or net
  • Shovels
  • Buckets
  • Play wheelbarrow
  • Swing set
  • Climbing structure
  • Flashlight
  • Magnifying glass
  • Cones
  • Bubbles
  • Bean bags

Outdoor Sensory issues

Summer can mean sensory processing issues that impact kids with sensitivities or over responsiveness to sensory input. For autistic children or anyone with a neurodiversity that impacts sensory processing, summer can mean a real hatred for being outside in the hot summer months.

So what are some of the reasons that sensory kids have issues with being outside during the summer?

It can be hard to encourage outdoor play (and gain all of the benefits of outdoor play) when the summer months add a different level of sensory input. Here are some of the reasons that sensory kids are challenged in the summertime:

For kids with sensory needs, it can be overwhelming to have an open space full of sights, sounds, scents, and textures.

  • Tolerance of the cuffs of shorts or sleeves
  • Tight bathing suits
  • Sensation of sunscreen
  • Sensation of socks or other clothing in hot weather
  • Humidity changes
  • Summer thunderstorms (can change the air temperature)
  • Short clothing that brushes on legs or arms
  • Sandals or open-toed shoes
  • Crowds or places where others are in close contact
  • Wearing a mask in warmer temperatures
  • Honking horns, barking dogs, and other sounds that frequent the backyard or lawn can be too much for the child with sensory sensitivities
  • Bright sun that is at a different angle in the sky than other months of the year
  • Overwhelming smells: cut grass, lawnmower gas, sunscreen, sweat, body odors, garbage scents
  • Interoceptive issues with body temperature, increased need for water, less hunger due to heat

All of these sensory issues can occur unexpectedly and that unexpectedness of sensory input can be overwhelmingly alarming for those with autism or neurodiversity.

How to help with summer sensory overload

  • Visual schedule
  • Help the child know what to expect
  • Wear shoes instead of sandals or bear feet
  • Proprioceptive input such as firm touch to the shoulders
  • Limit time outdoors
  • Know triggers for sensory overload and plan ahead when possible
  • Oral motor jewelry
  • Communicate travel or outdoor time needs
  • Calming vestibular sensory input such as side to side or forward-front slow swinging
  • Play that involves throw and play catch with a weighted ball
  • Bucket of water to rinse hands if child is sensitive to messy hands or dirt
  • Sheltered area if child is sensitive to wind blowing on skin
  • Wear a lightweight wind jacket
  • Bring a water bottle with straw for proprioceptive input
  • Calming or alerting snacks
  • Portable fan to help with overheating if needed
  • Hat with brim to reduce bright light or intense light in eyes or on face
  • Umbrella to deflect direct sun rays and prevent overheating
  • Sunscreen with firm touch before going outdoors
  • Scent free sunscreen
  • Sunscreen lotion vs. spray sunscreen (or vice versa depending on the particular needs and preferences)
  • Sensory friendly clothing, bathing suits, goggles
  • Wear sunglasses
  • Wear headphones to reduce background noise
  • Be aware of freshly cut grass which as a strong scent
  • Wear thin gloves for tactile activities
  • Use water shoes or crocks instead of sandals

More about outdoor sensory diet activities

Sensory diets and specific sensory input or sensory challenges are a big part of addressing sensory needs of children who struggle with sensory processing issues. Incorporating a schedule of sensory input (sensory diet) into a lifestyle of naturally 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 whole 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.
These outdoor sensory diet activities are good sensory experiences to meet the needs of children with sensory processing needs or those who struggle with sensory related behaviors, perfect for a home exercise program or occupational therapy activities.

Working on building skills this summer? The Summer OT Bundle is for you!

Summer occupational therapy activities bundle

Work on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, scissor skills, and much more so that kids can accomplish self-care tasks, learn, and grow through play all summer long.

This bundle is perfect for the pediatric occupational therapist who needs resources and tools to use in summer therapy sessions, home programs, or extended school year therapy plans.

This bundle is perfect for parents, grandparents, and caregivers looking to provide developmental fine motor activities designed to help kids build skills.

  • Send kids back to school in the Fall without worrying about the “Summer Slide”.
  • Use these materials to work on areas like hand strength, fine motor development, scissor skills, handwriting, pencil control, pencil grasp, sensory play experiences, and much more. Just pull out the pages or activities you need for your child, and develop skills through play!

The Summer OT Bundle includes 19 resources that you can print and use over and over again:

Helping children develop and achieve functional skills this summer was never so easy (or fun!)

Be sure to grab the Summer OT Bundle, a HUGE resource of therapy tools and activities for all things building skills this summer.

Grab the Summer OT Bundle here.

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: Proprioception

outdoor sensory activities proprioception

You may have seen our Backyard Summer Sensory series that covers all things outdoor sensory activities.  Today, I’ve got outdoor sensory focusing o proprioception activities that are designed to get the kids moving with heavy work using items you’ve probably already got right in your backyard. These are easy ways to build sensory breaks into the day, get the kids moving with heavy work. You can see the other posts in the series, including backyard oral sensory activities, outdoor sensory activities for tactile sense, and outdoor oral motor sensory activities (yep, that’s possible to address in outdoor play!)

Proprioception activities for backyard sensory play, these are free and inexpensive sensory activities that provide heavy work right in the backyard.

Outdoor Sensory Activities for PROPRIOCEPTION

Try these outdoor heavy work activities to add input through the core and gross motor muscle groups for regulation and body awareness.

Amazon affiliate links are included below.

  • Hoola Hoop Jump- Place out several hoola hoops (or just one) on the ground.  Create a hopping obstacle course into the hoops. Jump with both feet, one foot, and then the other.  Place the hoops further away for more work. Try making a hopping memory game, much like playing “Simon” in a gross motor way. This activity provides heavy work and input through the lower body as kids jump and hop into hoops.
  • Hose Tug- Use a regular garden hose to incorporate heavy work by pulling the hose across the lawn.  Use the hose to water flowers, bushes, or even to spray at targets drawn with sidewalk chalk.
  • Shovel Carry and Dig- Use a garden shovel in an adult or kids’ size to shovel dirt, rocks, leaves, sticks, or mulch from one area to another.  Try filling a bucket with the different mediums and then carry them to another area of the yard.  Good old fashioned lawn work can do wonders for a proprioceptive input seeking kiddo!
  • Jump Rope Pull and Slide- This activity adds a bit of vestibular input to the heavy work of pulling a jump rope.  Use a piece of cardboard cut from a large box or cereal box to create a flat piece.  Have your child sit on the cardboard and hold onto a jump rope.  Pull them around or down slopes as they hold onto the rope.  You can also try this activity with the child pulling another individual on the cardboard.
  • Hop Scotch
  • Bean Bags
  • Corn Hole
  • Play Leap Frog with friends
  • Jump Rope
  • Fly a kite
  • Climb trees

more backyard sensory ideas for summer?  

The activities in this post are part of our Summer Sensory Activity Guide, where you can 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.  Check out the Summer Sensory Activity Guide today!

AND…that guide is actually a bonus item in the Summer OT Bundle. So if you are working with children this summer to improve fine motor skills, handwriting, sensory processing, and other skill areas, check out the Summer OT Bundle:

Working on building skills this summer? The Summer OT Bundle is for you!

Summer occupational therapy activities bundle

Work on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, scissor skills, and much more so that kids can accomplish self-care tasks, learn, and grow through play all summer long.

This bundle is perfect for the pediatric occupational therapist who needs resources and tools to use in summer therapy sessions, home programs, or extended school year therapy plans.

This bundle is perfect for parents, grandparents, and caregivers looking to provide developmental fine motor activities designed to help kids build skills.

  • Send kids back to school in the Fall without worrying about the “Summer Slide”.
  • Use these materials to work on areas like hand strength, fine motor development, scissor skills, handwriting, pencil control, pencil grasp, sensory play experiences, and much more. Just pull out the pages or activities you need for your child, and develop skills through play!

The Summer OT Bundle includes 19 resources that you can print and use over and over again:

Helping children develop and achieve functional skills this summer was never so easy (or fun!)

Be sure to grab the Summer OT Bundle, a HUGE resource of therapy tools and activities for all things building skills this summer.

Grab the Summer OT Bundle here.

Proprioception activities for backyard sensory play, these are free and inexpensive sensory activities that provide heavy work right in the backyard.

More proprioception activities that kids will love: 

Working on building skills this summer? The Summer OT Bundle is for you!

Summer occupational therapy activities bundle

Work on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, scissor skills, and much more so that kids can accomplish self-care tasks, learn, and grow through play all summer long.

This bundle is perfect for the pediatric occupational therapist who needs resources and tools to use in summer therapy sessions, home programs, or extended school year therapy plans.

This bundle is perfect for parents, grandparents, and caregivers looking to provide developmental fine motor activities designed to help kids build skills.

  • Send kids back to school in the Fall without worrying about the “Summer Slide”.
  • Use these materials to work on areas like hand strength, fine motor development, scissor skills, handwriting, pencil control, pencil grasp, sensory play experiences, and much more. Just pull out the pages or activities you need for your child, and develop skills through play!

The Summer OT Bundle includes 19 resources that you can print and use over and over again:

Helping children develop and achieve functional skills this summer was never so easy (or fun!)

Be sure to grab the Summer OT Bundle, a HUGE resource of therapy tools and activities for all things building skills this summer.

Grab the Summer OT Bundle here.

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: Vestibular Sense

outdoor sensory activities using the vestibular sense

This collection of outdoor sensory activities focus on the vestibular sense. Today, I’ve got another post in the Backyard Sensory Summer series that have here on the website. This series of summer activity ideas are perfect for challenging kids to get outdoors and play. The backyard sensory ideas can be used as part of a sensory diet at home, or as individual summer activities. Today, we are talking about vestibular sensory activities for summer. Grab the kids, the family, or a favorite stuffed animal toy. Here are summer ideas for kids that incorporate the vestibular sense and are perfect for the backyard.

Summer vestibular activities for kids

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.

If you’ve been following this summer activity series, then you know that I’ve been sharing sensory activities that can be done right in the backyard.  In most cases, these sensory play ideas use toys and materials that you probably already own.  Most importantly, these sensory ideas are perfect for getting the kids outdoors and playing in the backyard while meeting sensory needs.  They are easy (and fun) ideas that can be added to a child’s sensory diet this summer and every day.  Take these ideas and sensory play ideas right into Fall and all season long with backyard sensory play!

These ideas would be a great addition to all of our summer occupational therapy activities here on The OT Toolbox! 

Summer Activities for Kids

Working on building skills this summer? The Summer OT Bundle is for you!

Summer occupational therapy activities bundle

Work on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, scissor skills, and much more so that kids can accomplish self-care tasks, learn, and grow through play all summer long.

This bundle is perfect for the pediatric occupational therapist who needs resources and tools to use in summer therapy sessions, home programs, or extended school year therapy plans.

This bundle is perfect for parents, grandparents, and caregivers looking to provide developmental fine motor activities designed to help kids build skills.

  • Send kids back to school in the Fall without worrying about the “Summer Slide”.
  • Use these materials to work on areas like hand strength, fine motor development, scissor skills, handwriting, pencil control, pencil grasp, sensory play experiences, and much more. Just pull out the pages or activities you need for your child, and develop skills through play!

The Summer OT Bundle includes 19 resources that you can print and use over and over again:

Helping children develop and achieve functional skills this summer was never so easy (or fun!)

Be sure to grab the Summer OT Bundle, a HUGE resource of therapy tools and activities for all things building skills this summer.

Grab the Summer OT Bundle here.

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.

Try these backyard vestibular sensory activities for summer

VESTIBULAR SENSORY BACKYARD ACTIVITIES:

Swing painting-  Grab some paint brushes and create art while providing vestibular sensory input in a calming back and forth motion in the swing. Read more about that here. (Idea from Homegrown Friends.

Slip and Slide Relay Race- Set up a slip and slide and use a timer to time kids as they race down the slide.  Children can sit on their bottom, lay on their belly, or slide on their back for variations in positioning.

Slide on cardboard-  Grab a cardboard box or even cereal box.  Open it up using a sharp knife or scissors to create a large piece of cardboard. Kids can use the cardboard to slide down slopes.  Try various positions on the cardboard.  An alternative to this activity is using a cardboard box to create a “car” like we did here.

Picnic Blanket Roll-  Use a large blanket or comforter as a picnic blanket.  Spread it out on the grass and ask your child to lay on the blanket.  Roll them up in the blanket to add a calming proprioceptive component with deep pressure. Roll the child in a log-roll fashion while they are wrapped up in the blanket.  Then, why not use the blanket for a real picnic?

Roll down hills- Find a hill in the backyard and start rolling!

Spin in circles- This is a great activity with a family member or even a stuffed animal. Hold hands and spin. Try spinning fast, slow, to music, or even in the sprinkler.

Swing side to side on a swing set- Playing on the swings doesn’t need to look like the regular back and forth. Try swinging side to side. Ask the child to sit sideways and straddle the swing.

Hang upside down from swing set equipment- What are some other movement-based ways to play and challenge motor skills using the play equipment you already have? Climb up the slide. Swing on the belly. Create an obstacle course or play “the ground is lava”. The options are limitless.

Swing on a hammock- do you have a hammock? This inexpensive lawn item can be used in calming or facilitating side to side movements, rocking, a log roll swing, laying in prone or supine, or back and forth swinging.

Backyard dance party- Encourage lots of whole body movements and spinning. Use fast or slow movement to facilitate alerting or calming movements. Try adding a copy dance, or freeze dance play. Get the whole family involved.

Cartwheels- Tumbling or cartwheels in the lawn is a fun way to add movement right in the backyard.

Tumbles- If cartwheels are too tricky, try tumbles.

Hopscotch- Add this movement and motor planning game to the backyard. Use sidewalk chalk to draw a hopscotch board on the sidewalk or driveway. This is such a great core stability and strengthening activity for building confidence and coordination. There are options to upgrade or downgrade this activity. Use more or less hop spaces, or make them bigger or smaller.

Play Leap frog- This classic game is a great one for building gross motor skills, motor planning, core stability, visual convergence, and more with a movement based forward motion.

Mini trampoline (or the big sized-trampoline)- If adding a sensory tool to your backyard is priority, then a mini trampoline is an easy and affordable option. Kids can sit or stand to hop or bounce. Try adding other toys to make the sensory play interesting. Add water balloons, chalk, a sprinkler, or make a cozy resting place to calm down.

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

Vestibular Sensory Backyard Activities

Looking for more ideas for summer?  

Take summer play and skill building to the next level? Be sure to grab your copy of the Summer OT Activities Bundle!

Be sure to check out these other movement and sensory activities for the backyard. They are great to challenge kids in movement all summer long:

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.

How to Help Kids with Sensory Issues with Clothes

Tips for children with clothing sensory issues

Here, we’ll discuss the specific considerations for sensory issues with clothes. You’ll also find intervention strategies to support children with clothing sensitivities. The thing is that sensory processing issues for children can be highly complex and sometimes puzzling to those who do not have these difficulties. We see children that refuse to wear socks or shoes. Or we see children who will not put on pants in the dead of winter. Other kids can’t tolerate the seams of shorts or the fasteners of bras. How do you support individuals with sensory sensitivities? Let’s talk about strategies to address clothing sensitivities.

Sensory issues with clothes

This post addresses and discusses considerations and a few possible solutions for clothing sensitivities to provide insight and areas to investigate in order to provide a child with the best possible sensory experiences with dressing and clothing as possible. The considerations are not all encompassing, but do provide valuable information in pursuit of understanding the possible reasons for clothing sensitivities for a child.

Sensory issues with clothes

Sensory issues with clothes and other sensory challenges can interfere with school, community, and home life for children who struggle with sensory processing on a daily, hourly, or even minute by minute basis. Sensory issues can be random, sporadic and happen one time, but not another despite similarities in circumstances.

A child can also have sensory sensitivities and not be diagnosed with a disorder per se, but even sensitivities have a real impact on daily functioning. Check out these clothing red flags for common sensory issues that come up again and again.

A common sensory issue reported by parents are their child’s clothing sensitivities. This involves more than the child who always wants to wear the same shirt because it has their favorite logo on it or it is their favorite color as this is more about style preference. It’s dealing more with a child who has real issues donning clothing and refuses to wear an article of clothing based on the way it feels causing the child to cry and scream and not be able to proceed with the task of dressing. 

Using certain clothing preferences to address clothing sensitivities include sensory friendly clothing options.

All of us have separate sensory systems that help us register, discriminate, and process sensory input. When there is a clothing sensitivity, this is dealing with the tactile (touch) sense and how the information from that sense is sending information to our brain to process. These may show up as tactile defensiveness in some.

We have fabrics we like as they are cozy and provide us comfort and we have fabrics that are scratchy and prickly causing anxiety and keeping us on edge not allowing us to focus on much of anything else other than getting it off. Some individuals with serious sensory issues register this input as harmful and even dangerous making them want to flee or do anything to get that feeling away from them. An important thing to remember is never force a child to don something that they perceive as painful or harmful. A child’s dramatic responses, such as mentioned above, can make home life chaotic and frustrating.

Stating the obvious, dressing is a necessary part of daily living and clothing is required for a child to engage in school and community life and it helps for clothing to be worn at home even though it is not completely necessary there. With some children who do have intense clothing sensitivities, they find their home is a free place to go without clothes.

If you are a parent, these considerations can help you investigate and pinpoint the possible problem with clothing or dressing for your child. These considerations can give you valuable information to either share with your child’s OT practitioner or to pursue an assessment with an occupational therapist. Occupational therapy practitioners can provide interventions specifically directed for your child and their needs as every child is different and requires a skilled set of eyes with knowledge of your child and their needs to provide the best possible interventions and opportunity for your child’s successful daily life engagement.


Sometimes considering simple clothing anatomy for sensory sensitivities can be a good place to start, but there are other areas of clothing and the tactile (touch) sense that need to be explored a little more directly. We’ll look at both in this post.

Related: Sensory issues that impact fine motor skills can make fastening buttons and zippers a difficulty for many children.

Tips for children with clothing sensory issues

Sensory issues with Pants


Consider: length of shirt sleeves and pant legs. The feeling of pant legs and sleeves can cause aggravation to the child’s extremities. Maybe the sounds of fabric while walking such as when wearing denim or corduroy or even the feeling of the leg fabric rubbing together while walking is enough to irritate.

Consider: elastic waistbands vs. zippered and buttoned pants as they may work better for the child. Elastic can provide more flexibility and comfort for some children. Does the waistband roll down or bunch up or are there hidden adjustable waist band apparatuses? Adjustable apparatuses can be cut out by an adult if necessary.


Consider: if there are tags or buttons sewn into the seam of pants of shorts. A tag at the back of pants can cause irritation. These can be removed by cutting out or purchase tag-free clothing.

Consider: certain textures may be more irritating to the skin or even possibly pulling arm or leg hair. If older, shaving legs can help. If the texture feel is the difficulty, purchase clothing with more soft and natural materials.

Sensory issues with shirts


Consider: The length of shirt sleeves. The feeling of sleeves can cause a tight sensation in the arm pits or around the neck, elbows, or wrists, causing aggravation to the child’s extremities. Clothing can feel too tight in the trunk.

Consider: length of shirt tails as they can be drafty if short, especially when sitting.

Consider: if the clothes are too tight or too loose. Do they sway or shift when they move? Does the fabric bunch up in the arm pits or at the wrists from being too big? Purchase clothing with the fit that is preferred for size and pressure, maybe they like tight vs. loose.

Consider: graphics on shirts and get one-dimensional graphics if necessary therefore no sequins, gems, puffy pieces, etc. are impacting the child.

Consider: if the seams in clothing are large or thick with too much fabric inside the clothing causing discomfort. Check this before you purchase clothing items. Purchase seamless clothing or turn clothing inside out as appropriate.

Consider: the pulling of hair as a shirt is pulled over the head or being too tight of a neck hole causing irritation. Purchase button up shirts vs. overhead shirts.

Consider: some clothes may be more uncomfortable to wear due to the feel of waistbands, cuffs, or collars. Explore if they are too tight, too loose, ribbed or simply hemmed. Maybe a certain type is preferred over another. Purchase no collared clothing or lightly hemmed cuffs vs snug-fitting, ribbed cuffs.

How to help your child with clothing sensory issues

General Sensory Considerations with Clothing

Sensory issues with clothes can look different for every individual. But, there are some common similarities that make helping those with clothing sensitivities more comfortable and functional. Try these general considerations:


Consider: some clothing may be hotter or even colder to wear.

Consider: how clothes fit and adhere to the body when sitting vs. standing. Also, check regarding static cling in different seasons and purchase cling free dryer sheets to help when drying clothes.

Consider: layers of clothing to keep warm rather than wearing a jacket.

Consider: the smell of the clothing. Is the smell of the detergent, fabric softener or dryer sheet too strong for the child to tolerate? Purchase odorless detergent, softener or dryer sheets.

Consider: the color of the article of clothing, if they’ve had a bad experience with a certain color, it could be recalled for every article of clothing that color.

Sensory Socks and Shoes

Issues with wearing socks or shoes is a common concern for those with sensory challenges.

Consider: checking sock seams and the position on the toes. How do the socks fit? Are they a good size, too tight, too loose, too short, or too long? Have the socks stretched and become ill-fitting? Purchase seamless socks or wear them inside out.

Consider: if socks are smooth or have fuzz ball lent on them. Are they nylon or cotton fabric, thick or thin? Purchase socks that do not gather fuzz balls as they are washed.

Consider: if toe nails are scrapping the fabric when donning. Do the shoes “eat” the socks when walking causing them to ball up under the heel? Cut the toe nails and purchase socks that do not get pulled under the heel.

Consider: shoe comfort such as width, size, and how high the backs are. Are the shoes too tight or too loose? Purchase shoes that have an open heel.

Consider:  if the tongue is twisted or shifted. Is there anything inside that could be poking or irritating the foot?  Make sure to put laces through the slots on shoe tongues to keep them straight, if this is part of the shoe design.

Understand that shoes fit and feel different with and without socks and even with thick or thin socks.

Sensory Issues and Underwear

Consider: the seams in the underwear, especially in the crotch. Are the genitals comfortable? Purchase underwear without seams or fewer seams.  

Consider: if they fit too loose or too tight. Maybe they prefer more tightness like boxer briefs or maybe they prefer more looseness like regular briefs. Is the waistband too high, too low, too tight or too loose on the stomach? Is the hip design too high or too low?

Consider: if they bunch up when pants or shorts are donned. Does the underwear ride the groove between the buttocks when walking or moving? Do they harbor hygiene odors?

Consider: if the child has thigh sensitivity and underwear is possibly pulling leg hair such as with boxer briefs.

Sensory Issues and Bras

Sensory issues in teens can show up in different ways than the younger years. Some considerations include the need for a bra. For kids that previously have struggled with tight or scratchy sensations with clothing, wearing a bra can be difficult. Here are some things to consider:

Consider: the fit of the bra. Is it too tight and causing discomfort from the straps, rings/sliders, under band, or underwire as evidenced by skin markings and redness? Purchase bralettes or bras that do not have these features. Maybe an athletic bra would be better.

Consider: if they are sensitive to the feel of the hook closures against the back when leaning on a surface. Do the straps brush the arm as they slide off of the shoulder causing some irritation? Does the fabric feel uncomfortable such as with lace that tends to be scratchy?

Sensory Pajamas

Sleepwear can cause a lot of issues for some children. Pajamas can be tight and compressing, which can benefit other children who prefer and benefit from compression garments. Others, however, can feel too much pressure that impacts sleep. Here are some things to consider about sensory issues and pajamas.

Consider: the fit of sleepwear. Is it too tight, too loose, too hot, too cold, too scratchy, or too silky? Is the texture of the material such as fleece, silk, nylon, cotton, spandex, etc. cause irritation or does the sound of it against the bed sheets cause sensitivity?

Consider: if wearing p.j. bottoms, do the legs of the pants ride up the leg while moving in bed causing bunching and sensitivity? Do the shirt sleeves shift up the arm when sleeping making them uncomfortable causing bunching and creases that rub or mark the skin?

Consider: if buttons cause discomfort when lying on the stomach. Do collars or tags irritate? Do ribbed cuffs or seams cause irritation?


Investigate the fabric and other issues of the bed sheets and covers. Explore the sounds, feel, temperature, fuzz balls on the fabric due to washing, smell of detergent, softener, dryer sheets, static cling, etc.

There are many ways to address these sensory sensitivities. Sometimes any number of the above solutions can help. Allowing a child to shop for their own clothing and make their own choices while acknowledging and respecting their desire and need for certain tolerated textures can help with sensory issues.

But for those with more intense sensitivities the best bet for success is looking at a sensory diet tailored to their direct needs. If you are a parent, contact an occupational therapist for assistance. They are available to assess, treat, and consult regarding your child’s specific sensory needs. Often times, sensory sensitivities can be significantly reduced or even completely eliminated with proper treatment.

In the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook, we cover various options to address sensory issues in children and teens. You’ll find in this comprehensive resource, strategies to implement a motivating and meaningful sensory diet that is integrated right into day-to-day activities and tasks in order to create a lifestyle of sensory solutions.

Read more about the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook here.

How to support children with clothing sensitivities

If you are an occupational therapy practitioner, below are some activities or intervention ideas which can help support a child with their tactile sensitivities. Be sure to go through the considerations listed above to investigate where clothing sensitivities are stemming from in regards to specific clothing. This step can help with finding clothing styles and types that meet the needs of the individual child.

1. Explore a variety of fabrics on the skin by using fabric swatches – increase time as tolerated.

2. Desensitize skin with lotion rubbing prior to donning clothing.

3. Use whole body deep pressure activities.

4. Present a variety of textured materials by dressing a doll with various textured clothes.

5. Consider using an OT brushing or pressure protocol.

6. Massage with a towel vigorously prior to introducing new textures.

7. Rub feet with lotion or towel prior to donning socks or shoes.

8. Provide textured material exploration with sensory bins

9. Provide textured floor mats for feet.

10. Explore textures using stuffed animals of different textures.

11. Suggest tight-fitting swim or biking shirt or shorts, spandex clothing or workout attire under clothes.

12. Use vibration to the extremities and back/neck as tolerated even allowing child to do this – sometimes the child will choose to do this themselves.

13. Use firm pressure activities such as rolling a therapy ball up and down the body (avoid the face).

14. Use a squeeze machine or body sock.

15. Roll child up in a bedsheet (not the face) like a taco.

16. Use firm pressure to the top of the head or up and down the arms/legs.

17. Give hugs.

18. Rub lotion on body prior to dressing as dry skin can be more easily irritated than moist skin.

19. Use a compression shirt.         

20. Create a tailored sensory diet. You’ll find more information on how to create a sensory diet here.

Sensory lifestyle handbook- How to create a sensory diet

Utilize the motivating strategies in the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook to integrate a sensory diet right into the daily life activities of each child, in a way that works for the whole family.

Click here to grab your copy of the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook.

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!

Virtual Sensory Room

Virtual sensory room

This virtual sensory room has been on my “to-do” list for a while. It’s a free slide deck that adds all the benefits of a calming sensory space in an online version. You can use this free virtual calming room as a sensory tool in teletherapy sessions, in the home, and in face-to-face classroom or therapy sessions. Let’s take a look at this virtual sensory room space and all of the calming tools it includes.

Virtual sensory room that is a virtual calming room space for kids in teletherapy or face to face therapy, classroom, or home.

Virtual Sensory Room

Adding sensory diet tools to an online platform isn’t always an easy concept. Especially in a virtual space, the calming benefits of a sensory room can be difficult to integrate the senses of proprioception, vestibular input, and oral motor sensory input.

Many of the free online sensory videos out there are mindfulness videos, virtual lava lamps, and auditory videos like waves or rainforest sounds. But the virtual sensory spaces sometimes omit calming heavy work input and proprioceptive feedback that offer the calming and self-regulatory benefits of heavy work.

That’s why I wanted to create this virtual calming room.

Virtual sensory room for kids

Virtual Calming Room

In this virtual calming room, you’ll find the following sensory items that kids can click on and access videos:

  • Fidget Spinner
  • Water bottle
  • Hoberman breathing sphere
  • Sensory jar
  • Plasma globe
  • Kaledescope
  • Rubic cube
  • Bubble wands
  • Lava lamp
  • Slime
  • Calming sounds headphones
  • Koosh Ball
  • Glitter jars
  • Fish tank visual
  • Online relaxing coloring activities
  • Sound machine
  • Yoga mat
  • Kinetic Sand Bin
  • Bubble wrap popping activity
  • Heavy work exercises
  • Light tube
  • Nature grounding exercises
  • Waterbeads sensory bin
  • Brain breaks
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Sequin pillow
  • Light tube
  • Kids crafts

When you click on the sensory objects in the sensory room, you’ll be directed to different online sensory tools. These include:

  • Guided meditation videos
  • Slime videos
  • Yoga exercises
  • Calming sounds videos
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Craft ideas to involve the hands in fine motor resistive work
  • Grounding exercises
  • Calming visual images
  • Relaxing vision and auditory input
  • Brain breaks
  • Calming videos

All of these are links to videos, exercises, and resources to promote calming self-regulatory input for kids of all ages. You can add these tools to a sensory diet or use them in Zones of Regulation activities.

Free sensory room slide deck

Want to add this online sensory room to your therapy toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below and you can add this tool to your Google drive. It’s just one of the many free slides available here on The OT Toolbox.

NOTE- Due to an increase in security measures, many readers utilizing a work or school district email address have had difficulty accessing resources from the delivery email. Consider using a personal email address and forwarding the email to your work account.

Free Virtual Sensory Room!

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    Add heavy work with these heavy work exercises to incorporate many themes into therapy and play.

    heavy work cards for regulation, attention, and themed brain breaks

    Click here to grab these heavy work cards.

    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 Meltdowns

    Overcoming sensory meltdowns

    Overcoming sensory meltdowns can be a real challenge. For parents in a household where sensory challenges are common, having an understanding of what’s really going on with self-regulation and sensory processing is even better. Today, I have information on sensory overload meltdowns as well as a powerful tool for addressing this sensory need in families, so that the child struggling has resources and strategies available to them. Understanding meltdowns is one of the first steps in addressing sensory challenges.

    And, I am so excited to announce that one reader will win access to a course on sensory meltdowns, and receive access to valuable information, strategies, and actionable tactics that you can implement right away to address those sensory break downs. This giveaway is part of our annual Therapy Tools and Toys Giveaways (Giveaway now closed) and I can’t wait to share more on this sensory course below.

    Sensory meltdowns, information on self-regulation and sensory processing, as well as questions that parents have about meltdowns.

    Sensory Meltdowns

    I’ve shared before the difference between a sensory meltdown vs a tantrum…but that defining line can be hazy when it comes to sensory overload.

    I’ve also shared many meltdown tips and tricks to address sensory meltdowns in children, as well as coping tools and sensory strategies that can help children.

    There are also many sensory diet tools and resources here on this website, which can be valuable resources for the child with sensory processing challenges.

    But all of these strategies, resources, and tools can be inconsequential if you are missing an important piece of the sensory puzzle.

    Understanding what’s really going on behind a meltdown is the key component to helping children who struggle with sensory overload.

    There’s more; Once you’ve got a handle on really understanding a meltdown and the specifics on what might cause them, it’s important to know how to help the child that does launch into meltdown mode.

    Because, even with all of the understanding in your back pocket, there will still be those moments where a meltdown is inevitable. So, having the resources and tools available to help a child debrief after a meltdown is crucial.

    Debriefing with your child after a meltdown is such an important step for both of you. Having the ability to compose oneself following a meltdown and really understand what might have caused that overload empowers your child so that they can discover their own self-regulation strategies. What an empowering concept, right?

    Not only that, but getting an understanding along with your child of that sensory meltdown gives you both specific strategies and tactics to help overcome those sensory meltdowns the next time they might occur. You can define and discover their triggers. 

    All of this makes sense, right? But if working as a pediatric occupational therapist has taught me anything, it’s that addressing feelings of overwhelm with sensory processing take some time.

    Parents often have questions about sensory meltdowns. Understand sensory meltdowns and resources to help.

    Sensory Questions

    There are so many common questions that parents have about sensory processing and sensory meltdowns. Below are listed some common sensory questions that parents have. Sometimes just knowing you are not alone in your questions and concerns is helpful! So, those questions that oftentimes come up include:

    Parents often times feel overwhelmed or stressed with how to respond to their child’s meltdowns. If this sounds familiar, you might be questioning if your child’s behavior is sensory or if it’s defiant behavior. 

    Parents wonder if the behaviors their child has is a temper tantrum or if it is a response to sensory overload and having a meltdown.

    Many times, parents see meltdowns that seem to come out of nowhere. You can’t seem to figure out what the triggers are. Where do you even start?

    Or, maybe you know your child’s meltdowns are sensory related, but nothing you’ve tried seems to work. You wonder if maybe you’re Googling the wrong things or if there is something you’ve missed.

    Parents often feel like their child is just trying to get attention, and that it’s behavioral rather than sensory related.

    Another question that parents often have is regarding the aggressive behaviors they see from their child. What can cause a child to act out so physically with hitting, spitting, head banging, biting, scratching, and yelling? These actions are physically and emotionally exhausting for both you and your child.

    Still other questions that parents have regarding meltdowns is how to better understand their child and help them feel accepted?

    Parents often wonder how they can better recognize the signs of sensory overload so they can prevent it from happening in the first place.

    A big question parents have is how they can stay calm in the moment when their child is in the midst of a meltdown. How can they help their child without “losing it” themselves.

    Sometimes, just knowing that others have the same questions is so helpful.

    Overcoming Sensory Meltdowns

    If any of these questions sound familiar, I’ve got a resource for you. The thing is that sensory overload is one of the leading causes of sensory meltdowns, but it is far from the only cause. And, actually, there are sound principles that can help children in the midst of a meltdown. There are tools you can have in your back pocket so you can address meltdowns when they are happening, and can shorten the duration and intensity of a meltdown. You can even help your child to recognize what’s going on when a sensory meltdown occurs.

    If you are looking to get the answers to better understand exactly what’s going on behind meltdowns and how to get to the root of these challenges, so that your child can thrive, then you will want to check out Overcoming Sensory Meltdowns.

    This solution is a course called Overcoming Sensory Meltdowns.

    This course can help you feel confident and overcome meltdowns with proven sensory integration tips, tools, and strategies to help your student self-regulate and give you both a toolkit of ways to minimize sensory related issues and even catch them before they escalate.

    Overcoming Sensory Meltdowns is a course created by a certified occupational therapy assistant and a mother of 7. Together, they’ve created real, actionable strategies to help prevent and diminish breakdowns. This course contains countless takeaways that you can apply to your life right now.

    There are 21 video lessons, full written transcripts, over 40 pages of printable resources, and much more.

    The course covers all of this:

    • What You Need to Know about Sensory Meltdowns
    • Is it Sensory or is it Behavior?
    • Sensory Meltdowns vs. Tantrums
    • What Does a Sensory Meltdown Look Like?
    • Causes of Sensory Meltdowns
    • Sensory Overload and Meltdowns
    • Comorbidities
    • Preventing Sensory Overload
    • Preventing Sensory Meltdowns
    • Preventing Sensory Triggers
    • Staying Calm Yourself
    • Strategies for Dealing with Sensory Meltdowns
    • Aggression, Defiance, and Violence
    • Safety of the Child, Others, and Property
    • Meltdowns in Public
    • Meltdowns in the Classroom
    • Working with Professionals
    • Talking to Family Members and School about Meltdowns
    • Debriefing with Your Child
    • Additional Resources

    Click here to get your hands on the Overcoming Sensory Meltdowns Course so you can give your child the tools they need and prevent sensory meltdowns and have a calmer home or classroom.

    Questions about Sensory Meltdowns?

    Check out the blog comments below to discover common questions about about sensory meltdowns.

    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.

    Free Classroom Sensory Strategies Toolkit

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      Fall Leaves Printable tic Tac Toe Game

      Fall leaves printable tic tac toe activity for occupational therapy home programs

      Getting this fall leaves bucket list has been on my to-do list for a few weeks now. Here in western Pennsylvania, fall leaves are just about at their peak colors. They are just starting to fall, and that means there are lots of colorful, crunchy leaves to explore and play in! As occupational therapists, we know the power of play. That means we know the power of using fall leaves as a tool to build strength, balance, sensory experiences, heavy work, and movement! Leaf activities are just part of Fall and all that the season brings in the way of fall fun! Use the free printable for occupational therapy home programs, or just a cheap fall bucket list of fall activities!

      Fall Leaves Activities for a fall bucket list that builds skills! This fall leaves printable is a downloadable tic tac toe game that kids can use in occupational therapy activities.

      Fall Leaves Printable

      A lot of the leaf activities on this printable are activities that I’ve shared previously on this website. You can find the links to these ideas here, so you can read more about the “why” behind these activities and to understand the different ways to build development in kids.

      This fall leaves printable is a tic tac toe printable page. Use it to encourage movement, sensory exploration, fine motor skills, and gross motor skills. The images are small and just outlines, so kids can color in the pictures as they complete each activity, making it a great way to build fine motor strength, coordination, and pencil control.

      Each fall leaf activity uses just leaves from outside, but if fall leaves aren’t available in your area, colored paper leaves work just as well.

      Fall leaf tic tac toe activities encourage movement, so use this as a great occupational therapy home program or even one to use in OT teletherapy.

      Leaf activities for occupational therapy and to build skills in fine motor development, sensory play, gross motor skills. Use fall leaves in therapy activities!

      Fall Leaf Activities

      Here are the fall leaf activities described on on this leaf printable. If you need more descriptions or a better understanding of how these fall leaf activities help kids build skills, be sure to save this page so you can come back to it.

      Leaves for Scissor Skills– Improves scissor accuracy, bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordintion, fine motor precision.

      Leaf collage art– Use real leaves to make a craft that builds bilateral coordination, heavy work proprioceptive input, and scissor skills.

      Fall Proprioception Activities– Jumping in piles of leaves, raking leaves, and carrying a load of leaves in a bucket, wheelbarrow, or arms adds calming heavy work for the proprioceptive sense!

      Fall Vestibular Activities– Run, dive, jump, swoop! Catching fall leaves provides input to the vestibular sense. These activities can be organizing and help kids regulate behaviors, emotions, and their sensory system.

      Leaf Balance Beam- Do you know the power of a balance beam? The best news is that you don’t need fancy expensive equipment to replicate those benefits! Use leaves to make a homemade balance beam with all of the skill-building!

      Leaf Hole Punch Activity– Grab a hole puncher and a handful of leaves. Those fine motor skills are about to grow! This activity builds eye-hand coordination, hand strength, arch development, separation of the sides of the hand, visual motor skills, and more.

      Leaf Matching Activity– There are a lot of ways to develop visual processing skills like matching leaves during the Fall season.

      Leaf Activities For therapy

      Pre-Writing Lines: Pre-writing activity with real leaves– Use real leaves to work on eye-hand coordination, visual motor skills, and pre-writing lines with hands on fine motor work.

      Bilateral Coordination: Leaf Craft- Use real leaves to make a craft that builds bilateral coordination, heavy work proprioceptive input, and scissor skills.

      Craft for Older Kids:  Sewing Skills Craft– Use a needle and thread, wire, lacing cord to thread around leaf shapes. We used plastic canvas, but you could use cardboard, cereal boxes, or even laminated paper.

      Hand Strength- Leaf Ten Frames– Use a hole puncher with leaves to work on hand strength and hands-on math.

      Sensory Play- Nature Water Table– Use a bin, water table, or bowl to explore Fall’s colors and textures and challenge the senses.

      Tactile Sensory Activity- Sensory Painting– Use leaves, corn husks, and grasses for sensory painting. Then, practice handwashing!

      Heavy Work Activity- Play Dough Press– Use natural materials and play dough to add heavy work for the hands. This is a great visual perception activity, too.

      Eye-Hand Coordination and Problem SolvingFall Tree Crafts– build eye-hand coordination and problem solving with a sensory experience to make these fall trees.

      Scissor Skills Activity- Fall leaves scissor activity– Use leaves to work on line awareness, bilateral coordination, and visual motor skills.

      MORE Sensory Processing Activities for Fall

      Leaf Auditory Processing Activity– Use leaves to work on listening skills, auditory discrimination, and auditory challenges.

      Fall Fine Motor Activities

      Fall Visual processing Activities

      Fall Tactile Sensory Activities

      Fall Vestibular Activities

      Fall Proprioception Activities

      Fall Leaf Printable

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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 contact@theottoolbox.com.