What is Sensory Seeking?
I have a favorite picture of my son from when he was about four years old. It was taken in June, but he is dressed in long pants and a hoodie, with a fuzzy scarf around his neck. The caption I posted on social media said, “This is how a sensory seeker dresses on a warm day!” My son has always sought out sensory input. When he was a baby, he would only fall asleep if he was tightly swaddled. When he got older, he ran everywhere, never walked. He loves messy play. And he enjoys having blankets wrapped around him, and wearing soft scarves to rub his hands over.
Simply put, a child who is a sensory seeker looks for extra input, and needs more sensory input in order to regulate their system. You may notice that sensory seekers display behaviors such as jumping, running, bumping into people or objects, chewing on nonfood items, seeking tight hugs, and frequently touching things.
To learn more, check out Allison’s fabulous post that teaches all about sensory seeking! In addition, the book “Raising a Sensory Smart Child” (affiliate link) really helped me to understand my son and my sensory-seeking students.
Calming Activities for Sensory Seekers
Incorporating activities for sensory-seeking students into the school day can help them to regulate their systems and prepare for work demands. There are many calming touch activities that can be used for sensory seekers. However, I try to avoid touching and squeezing activities with my students (other than hugs and high fives). Here are some non-contact ways for sensory seekers to regulate and calm during the school day.
Activities made with materials such as dry rice, dried beans or seeds, raffia, or kinetic sand (affiliate link) are a fun way for students to engage their senses. The feeling of the materials and the repetitive actions of scooping and dropping sensory items provides a calming sensation to the system. These sensory visual recipes are a great way to get students involved in making their own calming activities!
The yoga ball is a great tool for the classroom! Bouncing on the ball provides proprioceptive input for the muscles and joints. If a student is able to balance on a yoga ball during work periods, they can help a student focus by allowing them to bounce and as needed for input.
Another way to utilize a yoga ball for sensory engagement is by having the student lie across the ball and roll back and forth for vestibular input.
Heavy work activities are tasks that involve pushing and pulling on the body. They provide proprioceptive input to the muscles and joints, which gives a calming sensation to sensory seekers. Some examples of heavy work are cleaning tables or the board, pushing toys or carts, rolling chairs across the room, and carrying items from place to place.
Swinging is one of the most common calming activities for our special education students. Some students would spend all day on the swings if they had the chance! The back and forth motion of the swing provides calming vestibular input to students. Also, pushing someone on the swings is another way to provide input!
Following Directions Games
My students love the game Cranium Hullaballoo! (affiliate link) It is a following directions game, where players have to move in certain ways to different pads For example, they may need to crawl to a red pad, hop to an animal, or tip-toe to a food. This is a great activity because it is fun, but it also cultivates following directions and Similarly, playing games that require following directions, like freeze dance or Red Light Green Light, can help students to develop their focus while also providing them with sensory input.
Including these calming activities during the school day can be helpful. Doing an activity before starting a work period can help students regulate so they can focus during work time. These sensory visuals are another helpful tool that can help students advocate for their ends.
What kinds of calming activities do you incorporate during the school day? Leave a comment with your ideas!