Children who are considered “sensory seekers” are those who have a higher neurological threshold for sensory input. They seek more sensory input in order to feel “normal” and regulated. Given the sensory cup example from the amazing OT Butterfly, the sensory seeking child has a very large sensory cup and they need more sensory input to fill that cup.
Signs of a Sensory Seeker
Here are some signs your child may be a sensory seeker. Now, some of these behaviors are typical of toddler age children, however as they get older and continue to excessively exhibit these behaviors, they may be seeking extra sensory input.
- Chews on objects or clothing
- Dumps toy bins, rummages through them aimlessly
- Loves spinning in circles, running, and is constantly moving
- Rocks, sways, or wiggles when seated
- Seeks out opportunities to be upside down
- Loves watching spinning objects or colorful, moving objects on screens
- Likes making certain sounds over and over again, such as humming or repeatedly flushing the toilet
- Has an unusually high tolerance for pain
- Seeks out activities that involve pushing, pulling, or dragging
- Uses too much force for a task, such as slamming doors or when throwing balls
Jumps a lot
Fails to clean food/saliva from mouth
- Leans on furniture, wall, or people for support
- Bumps into people
- Lacks body awareness and personal space
9 Activities for Your Sensory Seeker
Here are 9 activities that are great for your child who has a large sensory cup and seeks extra sensory input.
1. Heavy work
Heavy work always works! Providing resistive input to the muscles and joints sends calming, organizing input to the nervous system. Think pushing, pulling, carrying, hanging!
2. Crunchy/Chewy Snacks
Foods like carrots, celery, pretzels, crackers, and goldfish provide that extra crunch! Gum, gummy foods, licorice, and fruit snacks provide that extra chewiness! Both crunchy and chewy foods give the receptors in the mouth and jaw the extra sensory input they may be seeking.
Linear, rhythmic swinging is calming and regulating to the nervous system. Have you child sit or lay in the swing and swing them back and forth.
4. Fidget Tools
Fidget tools provide extra input to the hands and help the brain weed out unnecessary sensory input. Fidget tools are great for busy little hands that like to move and touch everything. They can also ease anxiety and improve focus. Check out the DeveloPLAY Box for the best new fidgets delivered to your doorstep each month, hand picked by a pediatric OT.
5. Therapy Ball
A therapy or exercise ball can be used to provide extra vestibular input by having your child roll back/forth on the ball while laying on their stomach. It can also be used to provide deep pressure (proprioceptive) input by rolling it on top of your child while they are laying on the floor.
6. Sensory Bins
The options with sensory bins are endless! You can make edible, messy, dry, wet, and themed bins using rice, beans, noodles, pom poms, sand, water beads, packing peanuts, jello and more! Sensory bins provide tactile input and kids can put their hands and feet inside!
7. Weighted items/Compression
Weighted items such as weighted blankets, lap pads, or stuffed animals provide extra proprioceptive input to the body which helps calm and organize the nervous system. There are many great options out there, even aromatherapy weighted stuffed animals such as Warmies. You can also give you child hugs, deep squeezes, and massage. Wearing compression garments such as these can help give the same sort of input throughout the day.
8. Sucking/Blowing Activities
Sucking a thick liquid through a straw, blowing pom poms across the table using a straw, or blowing musical instruments or noise maker toys can provide extra sensory input and help with attention, too!
9. Scheduled Movement Breaks
Schedule movement breaks throughout your child’s day. It may be helpful to use a timer to help you stay on track. Try to get them in at least every 2 hours!
*Each child has unique sensory preferences and needs. Talk to your child’s OT for specifics regarding your child.
Check out DeveloPLAY for the best sensory and motor toys! DeveloPLAY delivers a NEW box of handpicked sensory toys and tools each month, right to your door.
Each toy is chosen by an occupational therapist and each box is unique and guaranteed to bring fun, smiles, and the promotion of healthy sensory child development.