As an OT I get the opportunity to visit many schools in South Florida. Teachers ask me all the time how to implement sensory components in their classrooms. Here is a list of a few suggestions:
1- Try to plan activities that incorporate as many sensory components as possible. Ex: finger paint on textured surfaces.
2- For children who need to calm, use deep pressure such as pressure with your hands to his/her shoulders.
3- For children who need increased arousal, have them do a few jumping jacks, wall push ups etc… or use light touch from your finger tips or a feather to awaken their senses.
4- For children who touch other peers during circle time, consider sitting them against a wall or bookshelf for extra grounding and trunk support, give them a fidget toy to hold.
5- Touching others can be an indication that the child needs tactile input to his hands. You can brush the child’s hands, have him play with playdoh/other resistive mediums, play hand clapping games, crawling or wheelbarrow walking,
6- You can begin all table-top activities with a little “chair exercise” program that allows all the children to get their state of arousal at the same level. Ex: prior to commencing a handwriting task. Sing a song with the children that wakes up the arms, legs, stretches etc…
7- Consider having a “treasure box” with a variety of sensory toys. You can send a child to pick a sensory toy that helps them calm and become centered/organized. Ex: Put stress balls, fidget toys, body brush, lotion, etc…
8- Make a “bean bag snake” using a sock and dried beans. The over-aroused child can put it on his shoulders or lap to help calm during circle time or at table-top.
9- Another great way to calm is to give a child heavy resistive work to do ex: carry heave books to the table, push/pull heavy cart.
10- Outdoor activities are an all around wonderful sensory experience.
Here’s a few more tips:
1- Set up your classroom in stations and make sure you have a quiet area where kids can calm and regroup if needed when class get too loud.
2- Make sure the quiet area has lots of book, heavy blankets, pillows. Bean bags, earphones.
3- Provide fidget toys such as tactile balls, “stress” balls.
4- Use visual schedules at the beginning of class that “maps” out the children’s day. This helps kids transition more easily from one activity to the next and can keep them more organized.
5- For a child who has difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next, allow him/her to hold on to an object that they like (aka. A transitioning object) This helps them “keep it together” during the transition. You can also assign a task to the child such as “helper” (ex: he holds the cards you will be using and brings them to circle time)
6- Use songs to help children transition such as “Clean up…clean up…”
7- Make sure your schedule allows for movement breaks as well as table-top activities.
8- During circle time. Keep the children that have a harder time keeping still next to you or make sure you give them something to hold like a puppet. Or give them a fidget toy to hold on to or even a weighted lap pad.
Beautiful, fun and easy activity for children of all skill levels.
You will Need:
- White card stock paper
- cutouts from magazines (people animals etc…)
- Thin black marker
- Large Stencil in the shape of a balloon (I created these from construction paper)
- stick glue
- Tempra paints in several colors
- Round sponge brush or just use your fingers
Find cutouts of people, animals and interesting items in magazines. Cut them out.
Paste one of these small pictures at the bottom of the white paper.
Cut out the shape of a balloon on a different piece of construction paper.
Use painter’s tape to stick the balloon shaped stencil on top of the white card stock that has the magazine picture on it. Make sure the stencil covers the magazine picture so that paint will not touch it.
Have children dip their thumbs in different colored paints and stamp the inside of the stencil. Our younger kids just painted with their fingers.
Once dry, remove the stencil to reveal what looks like lots of balloons. Use a thin black sharpie to draw ballon strings so that it looks like the magazine item is holding the balloons.
You Will Need:
- Liquid water color
- Ice trays
- Popsicle sticks
PREPARING THE COLORFUL ICE:
Put 3/4 cup of cornstarch in a bowl and add a few drops of liquid watercolor. Mix.
THEN Add 1/2 cup of water. (Use a ratio of 1 part water to 1.5 parts cornstarch). Mix.
Pour into ice cubes and put a popsicle stick in each cube. Put in the freezer overnight.
I have done this activity several times, with children of all abilities and all ages. I have to admit this…it looks like a beautiful, fun activity but the kids really do not enjoy it as much as I thought they would!!!!
Place a blank piece of paper in a tray and let children paint freely!
I even tried covering a piece of paper with oil before painting with the ice but still no luck! )Let each child brush oil over a blank piece of paper before painting with the ice cubes.
Not giving up on this one just yet!!! The results are too pretty!
I think I will try it outdoors in the summer as a group project on a large mural!
Here is a really fun activity that mixes art and science!
You Will Need:
- Magnetic wands (available on Amazon)
- Metallic items (washers, bolts, screws, paper clips)
- Tempra paints
- White Card stock paper
- Painters tape
Stick a piece of paper to the table for each child. Prepare shallow paint dishes with different colored paints and place metallic items in each of the containers of paint.
Have children pick up the metallic items using the magnetic wand and drop them on the paper.
Drag the metallic items across the paper using the magnet.
The kids were mesmerized by this activity!
I saw this idea on line at playfullearning.net and decided to give it a try with my Messy Art group. I love activities that combine a variety of senses. The smell of the flowers and the bright paint colors is a great way to welcome inSpring. It was a great success with my little ones. We even features this project at our first Art Show!
You Will Need:
- Fresh Flowers
- Tempra paints
- Paper plates
- Card stock paper
Begin by providing each child with a piece of card stock paper and fresh cut flowers. Let them play with the flowers, smell them, pull the petals.
Put one color of paint in each paper plate and spread it out. (Don’t put too much paint)
Have children dip their flowers in the paint and stamp them across their paper, or twirl them or use the flower as a paintbrush!
While the paint is still a little wet, use one of the paint colors and squeeze out one line vertically down the edge of the page.
Use a ruler to drag the paint across the paper. If you feel you need more paint to drag all the way across the page, add another vertical line down the middle of the page.
Simple and beautiful!
You Will Need:
- Sandcastle molds
- 3 cups of salt
- 3 teaspoons of Water
- Liquid water colors or food coloring mixed with water
- Thin paint brushes and small eye droppers
Mix the salt and water well, until it appears damp and crumbly.
Pour it into the sandcastle mold a little bit at a time and press hard to compact it. Continue adding the salt mixture and press down until you get to the top.
Allow it to dry completely. (We left for one week based on our class schedule)
Flip it over carefully.
Paint it using watercolors or diluted food coloring using a paint brush or eye droppers. Be gentle and don’t paint over and over in the same spot. It will make the salt melt.
Once painted, allow the structure to dry another 12 hours.
The kids absolutely loved this project!
You Will Need:
- Washable Paints in blue, red and yellow
- Sponge brush
- Covered Table with paper or garbage bag
I wanted to do a messy activity with the children that allowed them full control of the paint. Many times, I try to get them to follow one or 2 simple steps to an activity but this time I wanted to allow the creative flow. We paired up children two by two and painted on 2 different primary colors on one each one’s hand.
They then shook hands with each other to reveal a whole new color! The children loved it.
Once that step was completed, they went wild painting freely on the covered table, mixing as many colors as they wanted, with or without paintbrushes. We had them place a piece of white paper on top of their paint mix to make a stamp of their beautiful expression.
I tried this activity that I found on http://www.refinery29.com/diy-paint-project with one of my 10 year-old students with ASD. The hardest part was putting the tape, however the rest requires minimal skills. It was an absolute success. It makes a beautiful gift just on time for Valentine’s Day!
You Will Need:
- Acrylic Paints in bright colors
- White Acrylic paint
- A paintbrush
- Wide Painters Tape
You will need to do this activity in 2 parts since the first part has to dry completely before completing the second part.
First, begin by having children paint the entire canvas in stripes.
Use different colored paints and let it dry completely.
Then cut 2.5 inch pieces of painters tape and cover the dried canvas in a chevron pattern. Push down well on all corners.
Paint the entire canvas with white acrylic paint. You can choose to do 2 coats and let dry completely. Next time i’d like to try this with silver or gold paint!
Peel off the tape to reveal a beautiful art piece!
You Will Need:
- Plain Yoghurt
- Liquid Kool Aide
- Food coloring (optional)
- Heart Cutouts White Card Stock
- Trays (optional)
- Sponge Brushes (optional)
Valentine’s Day is around the corner and we wanted the kids to have fun painting hearts and really not worrying about the final product. These hearts definitely have to be thrown out after the activity!
First prepare the edible paints by mixing yoghurt and a few drops of Kool-Aide. For brighter colors you can also add in a few drops of food coloring. If you use vanilla yoghurt, the children will most likely spend their time licking their hands and fingers. (it is what happened the first time I tried this activity). It’s great when you want picky eaters to explore a new food. This time I used plain yoghurt and most children did not even attempt to taste it!!!! It’s your choice.
You begin by placing a tray in front of each child, a heart cutout and a sponge brush. The children in my messy art class like to touch the supplies even before hearing the instructions so I only give out the paints once everyone is sitting.
The kids used sponges and their fingers to paint the heart. These edible paints were quite a success. It exposed the children to the scent of yoghurt, the cold touch of this medium and the smoothness on their fingers.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I hear teachers and parents who call me for advice to help a child that can’t sit still in the classroom. They ask me to create a Sensory Diet for this child (i.e a set of activities and tools incorporated several times a day in the child’s routine). I do believe in the benefits of a Sensory Diet however, I am VERY aware of its limitations as well. This is by NO means the magic bullet! A Sensory Diet is NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR AN ACTIVE OUTDOOR LIFESTYLE! One that provides children with the opportunity to run, jump, roll, climb, fall etc… (all important components of developing a healthy vestibular and proprioceptive system) I in fact believe that providing them with a Sensory Diet sets up these children for failure and greater frustration to the child AND caretakers! When a Sensory Diet falls short (which it almost always does), we then raise our hands to the sky and we say…”We’ve tried everything!” as though this child is now hopeless.
Children need to MOVE in order to LEARN and furthermore, they need to be OUTDOORS in NATURE, a natural environment where they touch, smell, taste, observe their world.They do not need to be entertained but rather learn to use what is out there in nature to play, create and use their imagination! Otherwise, what we begin to see are children that don’t know how to play alone, keep themselves busy, they fidget, tune out, disrupt the class by talking or getting up and they are singled out as having an issue.
When I observe classrooms, I often wonder how is it that the children who “behave” are not the ones that are singled out! They ARE CHILDREN! They are SUPPOSE to move, test boundaries, become excited and express it with their bodies! What we need in the schools (and at home) is NOT more academics, more homework more sitting (or even standing) to learn. We do not need to incorporate a Sensory Diet 3 times a day for 15/20min (an added burden to teachers and busy parents). What we need is for children to play and learn OUTSIDE as much as possible! They have a lifetime ahead of them for academics but only a short time to be children!
I encourage parents to push for longer recess, more frequent PE, classroom lessons that incorporate real life experience such as going outside or field trips and hands-on teaching methods.