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10 Sensory Integration Activities for Your Homeschool Day
Homeschooling a child with sensory processing disorder (SPD) can be difficult enough, but when you’re trying to incorporate sensory integration activities into your homeschool day without feeling like you’re doing “therapy” all day, it becomes even more challenging! These are some of the ways we include sensory integration activities in our day without a lot of effort.
- Mini trampoline. This has been a good investment for our family, and it wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be! Sometimes I have my daughter jump a certain number of times before we start on a lesson or activity. Other times I allow her to jump while we do a lesson. She jumps and answers orally while I sit or stand nearby.
- Play dough. Although it used to drive me crazy that she was busily sculpting something while I was reading aloud to her, I quickly learned that my daughter actually focuses better when her hands are busy. She is engaged, responding to questions appropriately and asking relevant questions of her own. We keep a good stock of play dough on hand, along with toothpicks, plastic knives, and other items that can be used as she creates elaborate play dough sculptures. Sometimes she just rolls balls of dough and squeezes them. That works too.
- Kinetic Sand. After swearing I wouldn’t pay that much for a box of sand (there’s more in the box than you think because the bag is vacuum sealed), I broke down after my daughter played with it every single time we went to the store that sells it. I did, however, wait until I had a good coupon to use. Both of my girls (both the one with SPD and the one without) play with the sand often, and it is especially nice for running their fingers through while listening to me read aloud or while reading themselves. Like the play dough, it gives them something soothing to do with their hands and helps them focus better.
- Water beads. Depending on what brand you buy, these beads are called different things. What I’m referring to is the beads that start off teeny tiny but expand into slick transparent “marbles” when you soak them in water for a while. They provide a great sensory experience (you could even make a sensory tub using them as the filler) and can be used in much the same way as the Kinetic Sand.
- Shaving cream. We use shaving cream to practice writing and spelling. I buy the inexpensive brand and spread a layer over a cookie sheet. Then my daughter practices letter formation or spelling by “writing” on the cookie sheet with her finger, forming the letters in the layer of shaving cream. She gets some academic practice and sensory input all at the same time!
- Rice and beans. I keep storage bags full of rice and beans (or lentils) in the crate I have designated our “therapy box.” I use the rice and beans in several different ways. Sometimes I spread a thin layer on a cookie sheet and use them like the shaving cream. They can be used as fillers in sensory bins. Occasionally, I glue them to one of her lessons (like the one where we created an “S” path through a drawing of a park) to create sensory input as she traces them. You can also dye the rice for use in your sensory boxes, if you like colors.
- Scented markers. My daughter doesn’t really like writing in pencil. She much prefers pen or markers. Although I insist on pencil in certain situations, a lot of the time I let her use her preference. I bought a set of scented markers a while back that satisfy her need for color and give her some sensory input. She has a strong sense of smell and a need to explore odors, so this is a good way for us to get some lessons done and satisfy that need at the same time.
- Exercise ball. We have a couple of large exercise balls that my daughter often uses as her “chair” while she works on her lessons. It keeps seated because she can bounce while she works, so it satisfies her need for movement while providing sensory input. (I do have to make sure she uses the ball appropriately so she doesn’t get hurt.)
- Modeling clay. I use modeling clay a little differently from the play dough. Modeling clay is much more difficult to form, which requires my daughter to work on her hand strength to mold and sculpt it. We use the clay to form letters, numbers, outlines of shapes, and other things that she has difficulty writing, drawing, or recognizing. After I make sure she has formed the object correctly, we store it to use during our lessons. She traces them with her fingers, holds them and feels the curves and lines, and turns them in space, trying to create some motor memory for the proper orientation and formation.
- Pets. My kids insisted on adding pets to this list, and it’s true that we use them for soothing sensory input. On difficult days, we find a willing cat to pet. The warmth, soft fur, and gentle purring do wonders toward relieving stress and helping my daughter relax.
Bonus: Take a chore break. If you have a child who needs heavy work to help with sensory integration, take a chore break! Have them vacuum a room or two, push or carry full laundry baskets to or from the laundry room, give the kitchen floor a good mopping, or any other activity you can think of that will help you get your house clean(er) and give them the opportunity to push or pull something around the house!
Want more great homeschool ideas?
If you’re looking for more great homeschooling ideas for special needs students, typically developing students, and much, much more, check out The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas! It’s 560+ pages of homeschool ideas on 103 topics by 55 homeschool moms! (And I wrote two of the chapters!)
How do you work sensory integration activities into your homeschool day?
- Special Needs Homeschooling is Not “School at Home”
- Ultimate Guide to Sensory Integration Activities
- Multisensory Homeschooling for Children with Special Needs
- I Can’t Homeschool Because My Child Has Special Needs
- Planning Homeschool for the Struggling Learner
- Aslan’s Academy – Homeschool Curriculum 2012-13
- Aslan’s Academy Curriculum Choices for 2013-14
- Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2014-15 (4th and 6th grades)