Parenting with a Sensory Approach


I’ve been an occupational therapist for over 10 years and sensory seeking kids are so much fun to be with! They love trying new activities, they put their whole heart into playing and they find new ways to do things all the time!


I’m also a mom of 2 little boys; who love to explore and play! “Boys will be boys” and “he’s just being a boy” are a couple phrases many of us have heard through the years. Play is important for kids because play is the number one job of being a kid and that is how kids learn; through play!  Research shows that kids learn better after recess. Research also has shown that kids learn best by doing; in fact, many adults learn by doing as well!  Incorporating sensory input in your child’s day will help them regulate their bodies so they can function, learn and grow!


Occupational therapists specialize in sensory processing and can give you references, home programs and a sensory diet that will incorporate sensory input into your child’s day to keep he or she regulated.  We want kids to play; but when the sensory need keeps your child from functioning; that’s when they need to see an occupational therapist.  Some questions to determine if you have a child can benefit from occupational therapy are as follows: Is your child constantly getting up and down from the table while eating?  Does your child climb to the top of their toy kitchen and jump?  Do they use too much force with their peers/siblings?  Does it take hours for them to fall asleep at night?  These are just a few questions that can let you know if your child needs occupational therapy.


Out of normal routine, many of our kids are seeking sensory input due to the regular input they get through play being different due to different routines.  Below are some ways to incorporate sensory input into your child’s day, even while we can’t go to the community playground or participate in extracurricular/sport classes.

-Dance to music, teach them sing-alongs with hand/body motions.

-Animal walks; frog jump, bear walk, crabwalk, elephant stomps, log roll and wheelbarrow walk.

-Pull/push/load/unload the laundry basket, wagon, toy shopping cart, toy stroller or toy lawn mower.

-Dust/sweep/mop/vacuum/wipe the windows.

-Help wash the car.

-Put couch cushions on the floor or angled on ottomans to jump and climb on with supervision.

-Crash into a bean bag chair.

-Tactile play with: shaving cream, Orbeez, play in the mud, make slime, play with kinetic sand, regular sand, finger paint and play in a bin of dry noodles.

-Rocking chair or rocking horse.

-Play at a water table where kids can pour water from one container to another, play with ice and use the water hose to add more water.

-Let kids use toy hammers to nail golf tees into foam or to hammer some ice outside.

-Puzzle Runs.  Put puzzle pieces on one side of the room and the puzzle on the other side of the room; have kids run to pick up a puzzle piece and run to put the piece in.  Can also have kids do animal walks instead of run.

-Have your kids try drinking yogurt through a straw, eat chewy and crunchy foods.

-Make bath time more sensory with shaving cream, scented bubbles, loofahs and lotion after the bath.

-Use a vibrating toothbrush and high-flavored toothpaste.

These are just some ideas your occupational therapist can give you to help your sensory seeker get his or her needs met.  At ABC Pediatric Therapy Network, an occupational therapist can help you and your child whether they just need a few strategies to make the day easier or if they need a full home program and a sensory diet to meet their sensory needs and regulate their bodies.

For more ideas and strategies to help your specific child succeed, please visit