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Sensory Play
By: Renata Bursten, Dragonfly Staff


It's good for body and mind!



Children normally receive information from many sensory channels at once.

We know about five "outer" senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing. We know about several "hidden" senses too; vestibular (inner-ear) uprightness and balance, prococeptive (muscle-joint feedback), kinesthetic (sense of body placement in space,) and awareness of the pull of gravity.

Developing the ability to receive information on many channels simultaneously and interpret it accurately provides fertile ground for sensory integration play time ideas!
,Children who have problems with Sensory Integration (SI) cannot reliably receive, organize, and interpret sensory experiences, especially when the sense "data" is arriving via more then one channel at a time. Some conditions which commonly affect SI processing are cerebral palsy, autism, pervasive developmental disorder, brain damage, general developmental delay, some types of learning disability, fetal alcohol syndrome, or fetal alcohol effects.

Imagine a child who is playing with a Wiggly Giggly ball with mom. The child sees the ball rolling towards them and is able to estimate speed of travel and angle of approach. They hear the noises being produced and they note the change in the speed. The volume of the sound correlates to the speed of ball. The child processes this information and can then position their hands to intercept the ball without having to look at their hands.

A child with SI processing problems may have trouble intercepting the ball because it is difficult for them to know where to put their hands (Kinesthetic Channel,) judge the speed of the ball (Visual Channel,) or understand mom saying "catch the ball!" (Auditory Channel)

SI issues may cause delays in the development of language. The child may seem clumsy and accident-prone, they may have difficulty learning to interpret facial expressions of emotion, and may have difficulty developing the ability to read and write.

Luckily, the brain's ability to form new pathways around damaged areas means that SI problems can improve and even resolve. Repetition of sense stimulating activities during play time actually helps the brain to find new ways to recognize and interpret sensory information.

Tips and Techniques:

1. Play with many toys having different textures, weights, movements, sounds and colors.

2. Use movement from swings, bouncing balls, Physioballs, and Eggs to help develop balance, awareness of body position in space, and movement awareness.

3. Play with toys that have pictures and recorded sounds to match. Pause between sounds to give the child plenty of time to make a solid relationship with the picture. When possible, augment the picture / sound relationship building process with real life examples that can be touched.

4. Look for toys that give multiple sources of sensory stimulation. Use balls that make sounds, toys that light up and make music, or any other multisensory combination.

5. Toys and activities good for developing good Sensory Integration.

To focus on early multiple sensory processing try:

Skwish, Woogle, Striped Bobo Ball, Magic Chime Ball, Musical Fantasy, Musical Glow Lamp, Rock and Rattle Mirror, Sea-through Pat Mat, Balls In A Bowl

Practicing precision hand and finger placement and visual processing, try:

Springaling, Bead Mazes, Pound A Ball, Sound Puzzle Box, Beads In A Row Activity Box

,To focus on later multiple sensory processing try:

Wikki Stix, Texture Dominoes, Sensory Touch Board, Wiggly Giggly Ball,,Noah's Ark

Interpreting and understanding sounds:

Soundtracks, Animal Soundtracks, Photo Sound Lotto, Listen and Do, levels 1 and 2

Developing balance, gravity, position in space, and movement awareness try:
Adapted Swings, Pon Pon balls, Physioballs, and Physio Eggs, Floor Basketball Game, A Beam In A Bag

Interpreting facial emotions and social situations try:
Moody Bear Puzzle, Emotion Cards, Why? Because Cards, What's Wrong Cards, What Would You Do? Cards.
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What Is It? Tactile Discrimination Game

Kinesthetic awareness is an important part of healthy sensory integration. Challenge your child to use the sense of touch only and identify different objects with the What Is It? Tactile Discrimination Game. Try dividing the objects by theme. Good examples are: objects from nature, dishes and cutlery, or grooming aids. To make the game easier, try offering fewer choices and supply a picture of the objects under the cover. Can your child tell the toothbrush from the hairbrush?

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