Three Occupational Therapy-Based Activities For Children With Sensory Processing Disorder

If your child has been diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder, your pediatrician will likely recommend working with an occupational therapy professional. Such a therapist will help teach your child to perform the tasks of daily living, from brushing their own teeth to getting dressed, in a way that's compatible with their unique needs. But in most cases, the occupational therapist will only meet with your child a few hours a week. To accelerate your child's development, it's important for you to keep working on occupational therapy-based exercises with them when the therapist is not there. Here are three specific activities that work well for many children with sensory processing disorders.

Food Preparation

Whether your child struggles with auditory, visual, or tactile processing, helping you to prepare food can help develop their processing skills. You can have your child help you assemble ingredients for a salad in a bowl, stack cheese, meat, and crackers, or stir together ingredients to make cookies. They'll learn more about each ingredient as they touch it (allow them to use their fingers). They will also have to use their auditory skills to listen to your instructions, and their visual skills to copy an "example" food you assemble for them to copy. 

Food is something that even kids identify with strongly, so they will usually be motivated to help you prepare their snacks, even if it's a struggle for them at first. As you continue allowing them to help you make food, you'll likely realize that they become better at overcoming their sensory deficiencies with practice.

Nature Walks

Many children with sensory processing disorders are easily overwhelmed when over-exposed to stimuli. A walk in nature will allow them to experience many stimuli, but in a quiet and calm environment. Start by walking down a short path with them for just 10 minutes at a time. Point out the birds, squirrels, and other animals you come across, and let them listen to the sounds of nature, too. As they become more comfortable with the stimuli they encounter, slowly make your nature walks longer and longer.

Sand Box Play

Playing in the sandbox allows your child to immerse themselves fully in the sensory experience of play. They can feel the sand on their feet and in their hands, use their visual creativity to build sandcastles and other formations, and listen to your instructions as you guide them. If you do not have space for a sandbox in your yard, you can find small, tabletop sandboxes designed to be used indoors. Occupational therapists use these often, so yours may be able to recommend a place where you can buy one.

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