Creating a sensory diet for your child

It is strongly recommended that you seek the advice of an occupational therapist or other SEN advisor before implementing a sensory diet, but below are some tools to help establish your child’s needs and a variety of safe strategies and materials you can use at home while you are awaiting further assessment.

So first off, we need to establish the area our child is struggling with and which areas they are particularly hyper- or hypo- sensitive to.

Below are two tools, with links, which you can use to establish your child’s preferences.

The first was published in Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Biel & Peske

To download and print a copy please use this link: Sensory Checklist Biel & Peske

Our second resource was published by Robert Cox for Life Recovery Consulting

To view & print please use the following link: Life Recovery Consulting

Once you have established your child’s needs, you can start to implement strategies and establish a sensory diet that works for them.

Understood.org helps to explain how a sensory diet could look throughout the day and what it may involve:

“What might an example sensory diet look like?

A sensory diet is made up of a group of activities specific to your child’s needs. These depend on your child’s sensory issues. Let’s say your child is what OT’s call low arousal (meaning sluggish). Her routine might include:

  • 20 jumping jacks
  • Bouncing on a therapy ball 20 times
  • Holding a Zen bug yoga pose for 10 seconds

Your child will repeat this circuit of activities a set number of times. Each session should last 10 to 15 minutes (the effects can last for hours). Once your child’s routine is set, she’ll do it two or three times throughout the day.

What activities might be included in a sensory diet routine?

Your child’s OT will observe her to see what sensory input she seeks or avoids. The OT takes those preferences into account when coming up with a routine. Here are some standard activities they draw on to create a sensory diet:

  • Jumping jacks or lying on the ground and doing snow angels
  • Somersaults
  • Log rolling (rolling back and forth)
  • Swinging on swings
  • Climbing ladders and sliding down slides at the playground
  • Hopping up and down
  • Push-ups (which can be modified to pushing off the wall or on their knees)
  • Bouncing on a therapy ball with feet on the ground while clapping
  • Rolling on a therapy ball on their belly, forward and backward
  • Rolling a therapy ball on their back while they lie on the ground to “make a sandwich”
  • Yoga poses like downward dog or happy baby (also known as Zen bug), holding a position for at least 10 seconds
  • Facing a wall and pushing as hard as possible (variations include standing sideways and pushing against the wall with a shoulder, or pushing while sitting with the back against the wall, holding positions for at least 10 seconds)
  • Heavy work activities at home with supervision, like sweeping/dry mopping, dusting, vacuuming, lifting and carrying grocery bags from the car into the home
  • Animal walks such as crab walk (on all fours facing sky) or bear walk (on all fours facing ground)

A sensory diet may also include other activities that target specific sensory issues. One technique, the Therapressure Protocol (you may hear it referred to as brushing), can be very helpful to some kids. But it requires specific training from an OT and is not something parents can do without professional guidance.

In addition to physical activities, a sensory diet may incorporate other sensory experiences that help your child feel “just right.” These could include using fidget toys or weighted blankets, or chewing crunchy foods throughout her day.”

Here are two more examples provided by Healthline

For a child who seeks out rough play, has trouble calming themselves, and chews on objects

  • 8 a.m.: Have a chewy breakfast or snack, like a bagel or granola bar.
  • 9 a.m.: Carry a crate of books to the school library.
  • 10 a.m.: Hold the heavy library door open for the class.
  • 11 a.m: Squish with a beanbag chair.
  • 12 p.m.: Lunchtime with chewy options and water bottle with bite valve.
  • 1 p.m.: Do wall pushes.
  • 2 p.m.: Play with crash pad.
  • 3 p.m.: Walk with weighted backpack.

For a child who can’t sit still and constantly touches and fidgets with objects

  • 8 a.m.: Use fidget toy on the bus.
  • 9 a.m.: Jump on trampoline.
  • 10 a.m.: Play with tactile sensory bin.
  • 11 a.m.: Sit in rocking chair for reading time.
  • 12 p.m.: Bounce on a yoga ball.
  • 1 p.m.: Swing at recess.
  • 2 p.m.: Play-Doh time.
  • 3 p.m.: Sit on a yoga ball while doing homework.

*Have you had success in implementing a sensory diet for your child? Which strategies did you find particularly effective?

More resources:

Basic sensory diet ideas NHS

Sensory diet treatment, what you need to know

Beginners guide to a sensory diet

OT Sensory Processing Assessment for Caregivers

Peta Maria Slaney

SEN advisor. Mum. Writer. Spoonie. Shakespeare buff. INFJ. Bibliophile.

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