This post may contain affiliate links.
If you’ve spent much time on Pinterest looking for a sensory activity (or ten thousand) for your child with autism, then I know you’ve seen the headlines: Best Sensory Activities for Kids with Autism or Ultimate Sensory Play Activities. But have you have ever asked yourself, How is this mess helping?
I don’t mind admitting that I did.
I read that Sensory Play is crucial.
It’s a huge deal.
But what exactly is Sensory Play?
How does it help?
And why is it so important?
I swear, I drive myself crazy with the why’s!
See, I’m not doing any activity with my son until a therapist or developmental pediatrician tells me to do it and explains to me why it’s important. Then I do extensive research and drive myself and my family members insane until I fully get it.
So, Sensory Play.
Here’s the deal.
Sensory Play is any activity that engages your child’s senses: touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight, and hearing.
It allows children to make their discoveries using their natural curiosity and knowledge.
Now, sensory activities benefit ALL kids-but they are especially helpful to kids on the autism spectrum.
Many kids with autism have trouble dealing with everyday sensory stimulation.
Stuff that you and I may not even notice like the noises coming from the coffeepot, dishwasher or dryer.
The touch of a person’s hand or hug, the texture of a clothing tag or material, or the way a particular food feels in their mouths can cause them to go into sensory overload.
As you can imagine, this causes a lot of anxiety and what looks to us like behavior “problems.” Sometimes, it may lead to meltdowns.
Sensory play allows your child to experiment with different objects and textures on his own terms.
Sensory Play activities give us the opportunity to watch and learn more about our child in a relaxed setting-so that we can be better prepared for that playdate next week and the first day of school.
When your child engages in sensory play, he is gaining valuable hands-on information about the world around him. Sensory Play can help your child with so much more than just touch, feel, and sound anxieties.
Sensory Play helps kids with autism in so many ways!
Social Skills: Kids learn to share, plan, and negotiate
Fine Motor Skills: Developing when they pick up small objects
Gross Motor Skills: When they have to jump or run or squat during an activity
Pretend Play: When your child uses objects during play
Self Control Skills: These are picked up when your child learns and respects the rules during play
You can focus on language development while you play with your child by describing every step you take. Point out the colors of the chickpeas! Count them. Talk about their texture. There are so many opportunities here! And what’s great about this type of play is that your child will get to learn new words in what therapists call a meaningful context. Let me break that down for you. My son understands what rice is a lot better in “real life” than on a flash card.
Sensory play activities with other kids helps with social interaction by giving the opportunity to learn turn-taking and requesting. Parents are good too, but try to include other kids!
Sensory activities like making slime or sorting dyed beans stimulate all five senses and actually helps calm a child with autism.
They definitely have a calming effect for my son. He also loves this sleeping bag I bought for him a few weeks ago. One day I was playing with him and I rolled him around in it like a human burrito. He loved it! Now it’s a thing we do almost everyday to calm him down or just plain play.
Now, if you read only one thing here let it be this:
You must play with your child for Sensory Play to “work.”
You’ve gotta get in there and get your hands dirty! Here are 32 Activities Sensory Play Activities for Kids with Autism to get you started!
Look at this as an invitation to get inside your child’s world.
Do you understand how valuable that is? To be able to see things as he does?
Well, let me tell ya, it’s priceless.
And Sensory Play activities are usually pretty cheap!
I bet you’ve got most of the makings for an excellent Sensory Bin or table at home already. If you don’t, a quick trip to the dollar store will handle it!
You’ll need a storage tub, a massive shower curtain liner to use as a drop cloth and some sorting tools.
Some people use their measuring cups from the kitchen, and that’s fine!
I like these because they are made for kid’s little hands!
Now, get down on the floor and get ready to play.
Chances are your child won’t want to play when you will. But hey, that’s just parenting a kid -that’s not always autism.
I have two “typical” girls. They don’t ever want to do anything when I want them to.