You might have heard the terms “sensory strategies” or “sensory processing”. But what does that really mean and how does it help?
First, sensory processing is a general term for how our brains receive, interpret, and respond to the sensory information around us. We are constantly engaging in sensory processing. Every day, every minute, every second.
Our senses are like our portal to the world around us.
We see the sweet smile of our child, smell the aroma of cookies baking in the oven, or hear the sound of relaxing music.
Other times, we see the pile of dishes, smell the aroma of a dirty diaper, or hear the sound of fighting in the other room.
The second scenario invokes very different feelings and responses than the first.
Our senses have the power to produce calm (seeing the sweet smile), promote us to take action (cleaning the dishes), or cause stress (hearing the fighting).
Two Calming Senses
Of our senses, there are 2 that tend to be calming to almost everyone. These are deep pressure and heavy work.
Deep pressure is a specific type of touch that is firm and calming. Think about how we swaddle babies or feel after a nice massage.
Heavy work, or proprioception, is another calming sense. It is processed by our muscles and joints and helps us understand where our bodies are in space. Heavy work activities involve pushing & pulling, like swimming, jumping, and hanging on monkey bars.
These two senses can help with attention, focus, and calming.
Are there times of day or moments when your child is hyperactive and can’t sit still?
Are morning routines, virtual school days, getting home from school, or bedtime routines hard times of day?
If so, deep pressure and heavy work could help!
Two Calming Sensory Strategies
Playing outside is one of the best ways for your child to get this input, but sometimes that isn’t possible.
Here are two quick ideas to use in your home, as part of morning, virtual school, afterschool, or bedtime routines.
Pillow Presses (deep pressure)
Have your child lay on their belly on the floor. Then, place a pillow on their back and apply downward pressure. Start gently. Then, ask if it is “too soft”, “too hard”, or “just right”.
If you have an exercise ball at home, you can also roll the ball along their back while pressing down. Once you are done with their back, move to their legs.
Household Helper (heavy work)
A great way to provide the pushing & pulling input for your child is by having them help around the house. An easy way to do this is using a laundry basket.
They can put books, cans of food, toys, or blankets in the basket. Then, they can push and pull the basket around the house. It can be a time when they get to be a household helper by collecting items around the house and returning them to their rightful place. Or you can turn it into a shopping game!
Both of these activities are great because they also promote the connection between you and your child, which is usually calming for kids too!
Want More Information?
Check out the Pediatric Therapy Partners, LLC website for an email sign-up with a free resource called, 4 Calming Sensory Strategies to Use at Home.
If you ever have concerns about your child’s sensory processing, regulation, or attention, be sure to talk with your child’s pediatrician. You can also talk to an occupational therapist who is trained to identify how your child is processing and responding to sensory input.
About the Author – Amanda Wiles