10 Super Stellar Sensory Activities

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

In their new book, Sensory Processing 101, the authors describe the 8 sensory systems. These are:
  1. The auditory system (sense of hearing) 
  2. The olfactory system (sense of smell)
  3. The oral sensory system (sense of taste)
  4. The vestibular system (how we sense where our bodies are in space)
  5. The proprioceptive system (our sense of the way our bodies move)
  6. The tactile system (sense of touch)
  7. The visual system (sense of sight)
  8. The interoceptive system (general sense of our body’s physical system, such as hunger).
These sensory systems work to take in information from the child’s surroundings and send it to the nervous system, which processes it and generates a response or reaction. Sensory processing, then, is the way the body receives, analyzes, and responds to the information received from the environment. The authors say that, “Thoughtful, guided exposure to playful sensory experiences is the best way to promote healthy development of the sensory systems.”

From Sensory Processing 101, I’ve chosen 10 of my favorite sensory activities that will help your child develop these systems well. There are many more to choose from in the book so be sure to check it out!

Activity 1: (Oral Sensory System Activity) Mouthercises:

Demonstrate each of these sounds and movements and ask your child or children to imitate.
  1. Buzz like a bee.
  2. Make a clicking noise with your tongue.
  3. Pucker up and make loud kissing noises.
  4. Open your mouth wide and say “AAAHHHH!”
  5. Press your lips together tightly and say “MMMMMMM!”
  6. Blow up your cheeks big like a bubble and then use your hands to “pop” the bubble.
  7. Stick your tongue out as far as you can.
  8. Have a silly face contest.
Activity 2: (Auditory System Activity) Blindfold Navigation

Set up a simple, safe course to navigate. Take turns being the leader and the follower. The follower gets blindfolded and the leader gives verbal directions to move around the course, such as “take 3 steps forward and turn right.” You may want to start practicing without the blindfold first, and make sure this activity is always supervised by an adult.

Activity 3: (Visual System Activity) Doodle Guessing Game

Cut out pictures from magazines or use photographs. Gather dry erase markers and clear plastic sheet protectors. Place a picture and a clear plastic sheet protector side by side on a table. Tell the child to find a specific object in the picture.

For example, if it’s a photo of children playing on a playground, ask your child to find the slide. Give him a marker and ask him to outline or circle on the sheet protector where he thinks the object would be if the sheet protector were placed on top of the image. Then place the plastic sheet protector on top of the image and see how the circles match up with the objects.

Activity 4: (Olfactory System Activity) Smell and Feel

For this activity, you’ll need empty containers, cotton balls, scented oils, and objects to match each scent to, such as a lemon and an orange, and so on. Add 1-2 drops of oil to a cotton ball. For very young children, start with familiar scents, like orange and berry. Place one cotton ball in each container, and place the real objects on the table in front of your child. Talk about the items on the table. Then blindfold the child. Give her one of the scented containers with a cotton ball inside and ask her to feel her way around the table to find the matching object.

Activity 5: (Auditory System Activity) Repeat My Rhythm

Tap a simple rhythm on the table and ask your child to imitate it. Then let your child tap the rhythm and you try to imitate it. Start with just a few beats and get increasingly more complex.
Get creative and use household items to create a beat!
  • wooden spoons
  • pots and pans
  • plastic bottles
  • pens and markers
Activity 6: (Vestibular System Activity) Donkey Kicks

Start in a standing position. Lean over and put both hands and feet on the ground. Make sure nothing is behind you! Keep your hands on the ground and jump with your legs kicking behind you.

Activity 7: (Proprioceptive System Activity) Hot Lava

Scatter pillows around the floor. The floor is lava and the kids must jump on the pillows to stay safe. For added fun, mom or dad can be the “lava dragon” who chases them around!
And of course when there are pillows, there will be a lot of fun to be had!

Activity 8: (Proprioceptive System Activity) Bubble Wrap Stomp Art

You’ll need washable tempera paint, large paper, and various sizes of bubble wrap. Squirt the paint on the paper in drops or lines. Cover with bubble wrap and let your child jump all over it with bare feet. Slowly pull off the bubble wrap to see the results.

Activity 9: (Visual System Activity) Mirror Mirror

Have kids pair up (or you be the partner) and designate someone to be the leader of each set of partners. Each set of partners should stand face to face. When the leader changes position, the partner has to mimic the position. The leader continues changing position with the partner mimicking. Switch partners and repeat.

Activity 10: (Tactile System Activity) Mess-Free Finger Painting

This activity is great for children who are hypersensitive to tactile input. Fill a plastic freezer bag with a few drops of two different colors of paint. Tape the bag to the table on top of a white piece of paper and let your child paint without the mess.

Check out Sensory Processing 101 for more great activities plus check lists, reference guides, and even an index of behaviors! These playful activities not only help your child develop healthy sensory systems, but they’re a great way for you to play and connect each day.

Have fun!

As published at Creative Child

For more of my Positive Parenting articles featured in Creative Child Magazine, click here.

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