Sensory Integration is the process your central nervous system goes through when it takes in information from your body’s senses, processes that information, and then responds accordingly. Our bodies take information in through eight different sensory systems: auditory (sound/hearing), olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), tactile (touch), vestibular (movement), proprioception (input from muscles and joints), and interoception (internal sensors indicating physiological conditions).
When we look at how to support children with sensory processing dysfunction, it is important to assess your home environment and offer sensory “tools” that provide your child with the necessary sensory activities/input to help keep them regulated throughout the day. These sensory tools can be used as part of a “sensory diet” of activities done proactively, and reactively.
WHAT IS A SENSORY TOOL BOX?
A sensory tool box is a collection of sensory strategies that will be your go-to source for sensory activities at home or at school to help your child with sensory regulation. The contents of the sensory tool box will vary depending on your child’s needs, but it’s important that whatever you choose targets some of the major sensory systems: vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile, auditory, olfactory, visual, gustatory, interoception. Multi-purpose sensory tools will allow for more flexibility of the activities you can do while still containing them all in one “box!”
TOP 10 HOME SENSORY TOOL BOX IDEAS
Spinning - You’ll notice I didn’t tell you what to buy for this activity -- there are many options that are perfect for your sensory box, but it honestly depends on what works best in your home. If you’re lucky enough to have a free doorway or ceiling bolt to hang a swing, that’s ideal. Check out Harkla's indoor hanging pod swing! But if have to rely on smaller options for your sensory tool kit, look into a sit-n-spin, dizzy disc, or a Bilibo. Spinning provides rotational vestibular input that a lot of kids need to reorganize! It’s usually best to keep the rhythm and speed of the spinning predictable, and remember to change directions (good rule of thumb is 10 revolutions in each direction). Follow up all of this movement with our next go-to sensory tool!
Scooter Board - A four-wheeled scooter board can be used in a multitude of ways. By including this tool in your sensory break box, you are allowing for proprioceptive and vestibular sensory input opportunities while building core strength and challenging balance skills. For some great scooter board activities, check out this great Therapy Fun Zone list!
Body sock - A body sock is a lycra pillowcase that serves a few sensory purposes when your child crawls inside. When your child is overstimulated, the body sock can provide a sensory deprivation or quiet personal space to help him calm down. Because the lycra fabric is super stretchy, kids can push and pull the fabric with resistance in any direction, which provides added proprioceptive input to their muscles and joints! You can use a body sock in more active ways as well - check out this link for more fun ideas.