Sensory Diet Activities For Children Who Have Sensory Processing Disorder 

What is a Sensory Diet? 

To understand what a sensory diet is, we first need to understand sensory processing disorder (SPD).

Simply put, SPD is when the sensory input received is not processed or organized accurately, resulting in the sensory information being inaccurately interpreted by the person. Leading them to not respond appropriately to the sensory experience.

Likely you've come across the phrase ‘sensory diet’ while reading about sensory processing disorder. You’ve probably figured out a sensory diet is not a food diet, but an activity diet.

A sensory diet consists of performing activities that provide specific types of sensory input to help a child regulate and learn how to process sensory input more effectively.

Sensory diets are unique to the individual and their needs. Because of this, there will be some experimentation along the way to find exactly what works for your child and situation.
 It is important to connect with an Occupational Therapist trained in sensory integration so you can learn how to most successfully include a sensory diet in your child’s day. 

Types of Sensory Input 

We have 8 sensory systems; they all contribute to our daily functioning and engagement with the world. Some of these systems are more ‘known’ and others may be new for you. 

1. Tactile-what you feel (touch). 

2. Visual-what you see. 

3. Auditory-what you hear. 

4. Gustation-what you taste. 

5. Olfactory-what you smell. 

6. Proprioception-body awareness. This is the ability to know where you are without using your sight. If you close your eyes and touch your nose successfully that’s because of your proprioceptive system. 

7. Vestibular-where you are in space, this input comes from movement and head position. Your vestibular system lets you know if you are upright or hanging upside down. 

8. Interoception-how you ‘feel’. This is input that lets you know you are hungry, thirsty, need to use the restroom, that your heart is beating fast, that you are hot or cold, etc. 

It’s the input we receive from these 8 systems constantly during our day that our brain is receiving and interpreting. Some people may be under-responsive to input, others may be over-responsive.

Sensory Diet Olfactory Activities

- play with scented play dough 
- scratch and sniff scented stickers
- wear essential oil diffuser necklace
- make sensory scented bottles
- chew scented bubble gum
- play with scented fidget toys
- guess the scent game
- play with scented rice sensory bin
- write with scented pens
- blow scented bubbles
- bake and cook
- use scented sensory paints
- use scented markers

Gustatory Sensory Diet Activities

- vibrating toothbrush
- blowing bubbles
- whistling
- drinking through a straw
- blowing through musical instruments
- eating crunchy snacks
- blowing up balloons
- exploring food temperatures, tastes and textures
- chewing gum
- exploring edible sensory bins
- chewing sensory chew necklace 
- chewing sour candy
- blowing a pinwheel

Sensory Diet Visual Activities

- sensory bottles
- color matching games
- light table activities
-  visual schedules 
- marble mazes
- light up toys
- spinning toys
- kaleidoscopes
- catching a ball
- I spy games
- bean bag toss
- stringing beads
- liquid motion toys
- drawing pictures
- dot to dot worksheets
- water play
- shadow puppets
- bubbles
- firgets 

Sensory Diet Auditory Activities

- use noise reduction headphones 
- listen to music
- play clapping games
- walk and listen to nature
- play an instrument
- listen to audio books
- use a sound machine
- shake a rice sensory bottle 
- sing in a microphone
- play matching sound games
- play speaking and listening games
- storytelling
- play with sound puzzles
- dance to different music
- play telephone games
- practice heavy work activities 

Sensory Diet Proprioceptive Activities

- rough and tumble play or play wrestling
- tug of war with rope or fabric
- crawling through tunnels and boxes
- pulling or pushing a cart or wagon
- catching and throwing a weighted ball
- wheelbarrow walking
- scooter board activities
- squishing between pillows
- squeezing stress balls
- joint compressions 
- exercise (push ups, yoga, sit ups)
- rolling out play dough 
- hanging from trapeze
- pulling apart resistant toys or objects
- gross motor activities
(obstacle courses or stretching)

Sensory Diet Vestibular Activities

- swinging in a hammock 
- jumping on crash pad or trampoline
- bouncing on a yoga ball or teeter totter
- rolling up in a blanket
- spinning in a chair or sit n spin toy
- rocking on a rocking horse
- hanging upside down off couch, from monkey bars or from trapeze bars
- playing on toys with wheels
(roller blades, wagons, trikes or scooters)
- playground on playground equipment (slides, teeter totter, merry-go-round)
- playing gross motor games
(soccer, basketball, tag or hopscotch

Sensory Diet Tactile Activities

- brushing different textured brushes over the skin
- drawing with chalk on the body
- massage with oils, lotions and powders
- brushing for sensory defensiveness 
- rubbing different fabric textures against the skin
- drawing in sand or salt
- sensory play (water, sand, slime play dough, clay)
- finger painting
- sensory bins (rice, beans)
- face and body painting
- bubble bath and swimming
- body tattoos or stickers on the body
- deep pressure 
- gardening and plating flowers
- toys with vibration
- playing in the mud
- cooking and baking

Sensory Diet Break Ideas For Children

- using a weighted blanket
- ball pit
- crawling through a sensory tunnel
- water play
- dancing
- using a body sock
- yoga 
- blowing bubbles
- jumping on a crash pad
- climbing
- sensory bottles 
- drinking with a straw
- tossing a weighted ball
- sensory swing 
- jumping on a trampoline
- bear walks
- using a scooter board
- obstacle course

Sensory Diet Proprioceptive Heavy Work Activities 

- carry heavy items
- climbing activities
- swing from a trapeze bar
- tug of war
- scooter board activities
- push and pull boxes
- walk up a ramp or incline
- housework (vacuuming/mopping)
- pull a friend or heavy items in a wagon
- play wrestling
- squeeze sensory fidgets 
- drink milkshake through a thin straw
- carry books in backpack
- tie TheraBand around the front of a chair
- wheelbarrow walks
- fall into bean bag chair or crash mat
- pillow fights
- bounce on a yoga ball
- play catch with a heavy ball

Benefits Of A Trampoline For Kids With Sensory Processing Disorder

- increases proprioceptive and vestibular function
- improves behavior 
- development of gross motor skills
improves balance 
- relieves stress and anxiety 
- builds confidence 
bouncing is great exercise
- promotes feelings of happiness
- reduces impulsive behaviors
improves body awareness
- supports visual processing
improves coordination and posture
calming and alerting
improves core strength
-self regulation
releases feelings through movement 

Benefits Of Mindful Activities for Children

- increases emotional regulation
- decreased depression
- better memory
- cognitive improvements
- stronger relationships
- better physical health
- reduces anxiety and stress
- better focus and attention
- improve sleep
- better moods
- increased self esteem
- better decision making
- improved social skills
- increased feeling of calm
- improved academic performance
- increase compassion and kindness

DISCLAIMER: I am not an Occupational Therapist. I am an adult who has Sensory Processing Disorder, a sensory parent and a Grandma. The information on this website is not medical advice and does not replace the information that your child's therapists gives you. These are just ideas and information that I have learned myself over the years of being a parent and an adult living with SPD. If you are concerned for your child, please always seek medical attention through a family doctor, pediatrician or therapist. This website is for suggestions and informational purposes only. Each child is different and what works for one child may not for another because all children have different needs. Please always consult with a professional.

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