If you are familiar with occupational therapy you may have heard of the term “sensory diet.” While I believe a scheduled sensory diet can be beneficial for some children, I also am passionate about all children experiencing sensory health through living a sensory rich life. The STAR Institute defines sensory health as “our responses [to sensations] are mostly proportionate, adaptive, and functional.” Processing information around us gives our life meaning. It allows us to connect to other people and our environment. Living a life that offers various sensory experiences supports our sensory health. Offering a sensory-friendly environment is one of the best ways to build essential connections that prepare your child for kindergarten.
Understanding Sensory Needs
Sensory processing is our ability to receive input and respond to that input. An example of processing sensory input is touching something hot and pulling away from that touch. Each person can experience the same sensory input and have different responses. We can listen to the same loud music and one person would prefer to have noise canceling headphones and the other person may feel okay.
Sensory needs also greatly impact our emotions and overall well-being. How we experience our environment can positively or negatively change our emotions. It is important to have an understanding of your child’s unique sensory system in order to fully meet their needs and experience emotional regulation. Our environment can impact our ability to feel safe, organized, and regulated. Creating a sensory-friendly environment allows your child to experience the world around them in their own unique way.
Designing Sensory-Friendly Spaces
When it comes to setting up their environment it’s important to keep in mind their sensory preferences. A child can be more tactile seeking than another child. One child can seek a lot of vestibular and proprioceptive input. While some children avoid certain textures, sounds, or smells. If you are curious about your child’s unique sensory needs you can use this free checklist from Sensational Brains to learn more. The recommendations below are broad recommendations and may not be beneficial for every child. The purpose of these are to create an environment where the child can interact with various sensory experiences to facilitate sensory health. Your child does not need every recommendation to experience a sensory-friendly home.
Light and sound machine
Clean and organized
Wiggle seat on chair
Visual supports to label where things go
Toys with various textures
Toys that make different sounds
Selecting Sensory-Friendly Toys and Tools
Providing your child with a sensory-friendly environment also mean providing them with toys and tools that target various sensory systems. Below are a few of my favorite items for each sensory system.
Bean bag chair
Any playground equipment
Collaborating with Kindergarten Preparation
Sensory-friendly homes contribute to your child’s kindergarten success. If their sensory system has been given opportunities to interact with various stimulation their responses will be more proportionate, adaptive and functional. When their sensory system is organized they are able to take in new information and learn in a more efficient manner. The journey to sensory health is life long but if we are aware of how our environment is affecting our sensory system we are more capable of making necessary adjustments.
After this blog post I encourage you to do a quick assessment of your home. Is it sensory-friendly? Does it offer opportunities to interact with different sensations? Then I encourage you to do the quick home checklist for your child’s sensory system. See what types of input they prefer and do not prefer. If you are wanting to learn more about this topic and ways to build a strong foundation for kindergarten success I encourage you to join my waitlist for “The Confident Kindergartener.” I dive deeper on this topic, activities to support development, discuss all areas of development and skill progression, and support you in raising a confident and independent child.