Sensory Play For Children

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Liz Howard & her 2 sons
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By Liz Howard at Sensory Toy Warehouse

Benefits of Sensory Activities
Sensory Play For Children

Help to unlock their full potential… Sensory Toy Warehouse is a treasure trove simply bursting at the seams with exciting and inspiring sensory toys, resources and equipment, providing opportunities for actively engaging babies and children in sensory play, which is an essential opportunity for development, growth and learning.

All learning takes place through our senses. Sensory toys and activities help children with special needs to develop whilst having fun, as they are enjoyed more than the standard toys designed for children who find pleasure from imaginative play. From sensory-seekers craving stimulation, to tactile defensive individuals who avoid touch and different sensations, sensory play generates a child’s sense, helping them to process information, and awareness of their body and the world they live in.

Whether to satisfy sensory seeking behaviour, stimulate a withdrawn child who has shut down in order to cope, or calm an overwhelmed individual who has gone into sensory overload and meltdown, sensory play experiences can help an individual to deal with stress. Sensory experiences can help to promote a sense of calm and relaxation, they can motivate, reinforce positive behaviour, or redirect negative behaviour.

Sensory toys that respond to the slightest sound or touch give great feedback and encourage communication skills. They can be effective in engaging the individual, encouraging participation, interaction and connection. Children who love to fidget will love the input they experience from our tactile toys, enabling them to focus, process, and learn. Sensory toys invite opportunities to engage different motor movements and skills, which can be beneficial in the playful challenge of learning control, and importantly self-control.
A more balanced state of mind and body can make a profound and positive difference in how a child experiences the world, enhancing skills, promoting confidence and self-esteem, and providing the well-being needed to learn, play, socialize, and perform everyday activities, and essentially lead to a more fulfilled, worthwhile and happier quality of life.

A Sensory Diet
”What is a sensory diet?”… A sensory diet is a term used for sensory integration activities that can help a child or adult get in tune with their sensory needs, enabling them to focus, process, learn, and often also providing general physical comfort. A more balanced state of mind and body can make a profound and positive difference in how a child or adult experiences the world, enhancing skills, and providing the well-being needed to learn, play, socialize, perform everyday activities, and live up to their full potential.

All learning takes place through the senses… We all know our 5 senses; sight (vision), sound (auditory), touch (tactile), taste (gustatory) and smell (olfactory), but we actually have 7 senses. Movement (vestibular) and body awareness (proprioception), are just as, if not more, important for children and adults with special and additional needs. You will find the categories in our shop are listed according to the 7 senses, enabling you to search for a product which will specifically benefit the sense you wish to address, whether it be to encourage increased tolerance, or to satisfy a demand or need for sensory input.

The magic ingredients for a sensory diet... Sadly, there are no magic ingredients for a perfect sensory diet, as each and every one of us is wired differently, and we’re each totally unique in our sensory intolerance and preferences, to a matter of degree. Therefore a sensory diet has to be developed through observation, practice, and a certain amount of trial and error, learning to work with the individual’s over-sensitivities and under-sensitivities to each of their 7 senses, until they are in tune to their unique sensory needs, which will develop a balance of the level of stimulation at which they function best, and empower them to tackle all of life’s different challenges. Finding acceptable ways to develop their own ability to tolerate and integrate sensory stimuli should be done working with a professional. However there are many sensory activities and exercises that can be done at home, so you can learn to carry out their sensory diet, and they in turn can learn to recognise their own sensory needs. Much patience is needed, whether to satisfy sensory seeking behaviour, stimulate a withdrawn child or adult who has shut down in order to cope, or calm an overwhelmed individual who has gone into sensory overload and meltdown.

We all get bored, so keep things fresh by trying different activities, and using different toys and products. Try to develop empathy to how the individual experiences their unpredictable and chaotic world, and what they’re struggling with. It is quite normal for a person to get annoyed and distracted, both about their environment and their own body’s response. Never force anyone to do an activity, slowly work toward tolerance of it. Sensory Integration work can also benefit many children and adults who are agitated, anxious, distracted, and irritable, and who appear to have behaviour issues.

“What is the difference between Over-sensitive and Under-sensitive behaviour?”… Typical over-sensitive and under-sensitive behaviour to the sense of touch, sight, sound, movement, taste or smell can be recognised in children and adults by one or all of the following:

Over-sensitivity: Too loud, inappropriate high arousal, tendency to ‘fight or flight’, block out/withdraw/ tune out/shy away, avoids physical touch and tactile input, unsociable.

Under-sensitivity: Passive, slow reactions, not active, no arousal or register, excessive physical contact, licking, touching, inappropriate or too forceful, biting, hitting, touching everything, breaking things , craving attention.

However, please be aware that behaviours from both sensitivities can differ greatly at times, and even appear to be the opposite of what they are! Confused?... Please speak to your professional who will have years of experience in identifying specific sensory needs.

Special Needs & Conditions

We appreciate that sometimes it can be incredibly difficult to know which sensory items are suitable for someone with special needs or conditions, especially if you don’t know their sensory preferences and tolerances. There’s a staggering array of diagnoses, ranging from physical, medical, behavioural, learning and developmental issues. You may not know which sensory products they already have, what they need, or what is appropriate. Whether you’re seeking sensory products for a specific condition, purpose, diet or individual - each of our products has been specially selected for its specific sensory qualities and benefits. If you really don’t know where to start - we’ll do our best to help you!

Keep in mind, that as each and every one of us is wired differently, and we’re each totally unique in our sensory intolerance and preferences, to a matter of degree, a sensory diet has to be developed through observation, practice, and a certain amount of trial and error, learning to work with the individual’s over-sensitivities and under-sensitivities to each of their 7 senses, until they are in tune to their unique sensory needs, which will develop a balance of the level of stimulation at which they function best, and empower them to tackle all of life’s different challenges. Much patience is needed, and we all get bored, so keep things fresh by trying different activities, and using different sensory toys, products and activities.  Never force anyone to do an activity, slowly work toward tolerance of it.

What is “Special Needs”?

"Special Needs" is an umbrella underneath which a staggering array of diagnoses can be wedged. It can range from medical issues, behavioral issues, learning difficulties and developmental issues.  Please see our separate page on Special Need Conditions.

About Sensory Toy Warehouse
Here at Sensory Toy Warehouse we have a whole array of information, ideas, tips, and subjects to offer you, all collated from our years of specialising in sensory work and products.  We hope you may find some of these helpful in your quest for information and answers.
Please do keep in touch - as we always love to hear from you - please share with us your own experiences, ideas, and tips - so that together we can build an online sensory community for everyone, and make a difference.

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