The world is full of sounds, smells, colors, and crowds, which is why it’s so much fun to explore. However, for kids with anxiety, sensory processing issues, ADHD, or autism, all that noisy hustle and bustle can quickly get overwhelming.
Thankfully, there are plenty of smart sensory regulation strategies that parents can implement to encourage neurodiverse children and preteens to self-soothe, balance their emotions, and feel centered. We share a few of our favorites to help your kids find their chill!
Does Your Child Have Trouble with Sensory Processing?
Children have different personalities, dreams, and ways of relating to the world, so it makes perfect sense that they have different needs, too! The Child Mind Institute, a national nonprofit, remarks that some kids can get either too much or too little stimulation from senses like sound, touch, taste, sight, and smell. They might also struggle with balance, coordination, and proprioception (a fancy term that refers to a sense of body awareness), as well as integrating sensory input—for instance, it might be hard for them to take notes while paying attention to their teacher at the same time.
Ways to Soothe the Senses and Calm the Mind
While neurodiverse children might face occasional obstacles at school or at home, their likes, dislikes, and sensitivities are perfectly normal and not something to “overcome.” With the right sensory regulation strategies and thoughtful sensory solutions, sensitive children will pick up new skills, learn fun games, and discover new talents.
Any activity that’s designed to stimulate the senses is one of the most reliable sensory regulation strategies. Not only is engaging a sense like touch an integral part of boosting coordination and development, it’s also a healthy way to redirect emotions and improve focus.
This is especially important when children are expected to sit quietly for long periods of time—in classrooms, waiting rooms, in restaurants, and during online learning sessions via videoconferencing platforms like Zoom or Teams.
A clever way to encourage discreet sensory play is with a hair tie like Smunchies, made from soothing fabrics and filled with squishable, squeezable materials that are perfect for fidgeting. Not only are they a joy to play with, but learning to use hair ties promotes independence around grooming and encourages focus by keeping hair out of the way. In fun colors and patterns, Smunchies double as a sensory regulation tool that can be worn and carried on your wrist AND a trendy accessory for a budding fashionista!
Dance it Out
Physical activities have been shown by Sensory Integration experts to help with balance, improve the sensory system, and help children achieve a state of calm. Dance is an especially unique medium since, as children gradually acquire mastery of movements, positions, and techniques, they gain a profound sense of confidence and control over their body.
From warm up to cool down, whether they opt for ballet, jazz, tap, or hip-hop, children of all ages can all benefit from the sensory regulation strategies that they will encounter in well-designed dance classes.
Set Up a Smell Station
If you’re looking for a silly and fun way to help a small child feel grounded and safe while learning healthy sensory processing, a unique idea is to play around with scent. You can set up a “smell station” with your child anytime they need a fun way to relax!
Things you’ll need: a blindfold, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of honey, different types of fruit and cereal, or any food that has a strong and familiar scent.
Step 1. Put the blindfold on your little one (make sure to keep their nose and mouth uncovered!).
Step 2. Ask your child to guess what they’re smelling as you hold up different items.
Step 3. For every correct guess, choose a fun reward. Whether it’s a bite from an apple, stickers, or extra cuddles, kids will have the best time with sensory regulation strategies that set them up for success.
Take a Walk on the Wild Side
A fantastic way for the entire family to spend time together while engaging all of your child’s senses is to spend an afternoon in the great outdoors. Exploring the scents, colors, textures, and even the varying temperatures of nature hones concentration and creativity. In the meantime, navigating paths, stones, and streams improves balance, strength, and motor skills—not to mention, it’s just good exercise!
Ask your child to point out animals and plants or invite them to imitate the calls of birds and the movements of trees. As one of the most effective sensory regulation strategies, a hike or leisurely walk in the woods has also been shown to improve mental health, alleviate depression, and boost physiological well being. So, get out there!
Happy, Healthy Kids are Our First Priority
Since every child has unique talents and needs, there’s a variety of inventive and fun sensory regulation strategies to choose from. We designed Smunchies scrunchies to help contribute to kids’ well being and sense of calm with cheerful colors and soothing materials that are satisfying to squeeze and play with. Plus, Smunchies look awesome on your child’s wrist and hold hair like it’s their job (because it is).