October is National Sensory Awareness Month and I’m so excited to welcome Ilana Danneman as our guest author today. Ilana is a mom, Physical Therapist and Creative Director of FunAndFunction.com. I remember a distinct conversation I had with my own PT about the CRAZY meltdowns my son had regularly – all right after school. She told me my son was holding everything in all day, trying so hard to follow the rules and then would lose control as soon as that bell rang. We had meltdowns in front of the school, meltdowns on the bike path home from school, and meltdowns in the van before we even made it home. My PT suggested an After-school Sensory Diet and that is what Ilana is going to share with us today – great ideas for your own child’s After-school Sensory Diet.
Your child comes home from school and although you sent Tame Tom to school, they’ve sent you back Aggressive Aaron. What was a sweet child going off to a great school day is now a cross between a dragon and the Tasmanian Devil. You know you shouldn’t but you grab for the ice cream cone just as a temporary calmer, which you know you will regret in 30 minutes — but you’re desperate! What you need is a Sensory Diet for your child and a tranquilizer for yourself.
Is your child a sensory-seeker, an under-responder or an over-responder? Well, here’s the good news, we have some tricks and tips that will appeal to all sensory types (and you don’t need a masters degree in sensory typing to use any of them). These tips just take a bit of planning and the conviction to take care of everyone’s sensory needs in that afternoon hour right after school. You may feel a lot better yourself too!
Try these After School Tips for a smoother, calmer and happier post-school day:
1) Install a simple swing in your home. It’s not hard to do and a few minutes of swinging after school will do a world of good. If you have a backyard and a swingset….all the better! But, an indoor swing will give you year round swinging benefits.
2) Have a “crash” area ready with pillows, beanbag chairs or a crash mat. Sometimes your kids will just need to “hit the floor.”
3) Set up an obstacle course. You don’t need to be a physical education teacher to do this. Just grab some large objects (chair, stool) and some belts, hool-a-hoop (if you have one) and just about anything that is moveable. Have your kids go over, under and around. The coordinated activity is great for calming down.
4) Play catch! Eye-hand coordination is fantastic for engaging the body with the brain and once that’s achieved, you will see a calmer more organized child. Use a tennis ball, playground ball or baseball. Choose something according to your child’s ability.
5) Have a box set up with sensory items (a Break Box). In this box include a lap pad, fidget toy, chewy item, etc. You can change the objects out and even grab things from around your house. Allow your child access to the box either before or after school.
6) Set up an indoor playground in your basement with inflatables, a Cozy Canoe, Air-Lite Ball Pit or other gross motor items. You can make this into a Chill-Spa Room or an Action Room!
7) Offer your child a crunchy, mouth-moving snack that really gives the jaw a great workout. Your child gets a lot of sensory input through their mouth. Carrot sticks, celery sticks, apple slices or ice pop are great options.
8) Weigh them down. Have some weighted blankets or weighted lap pads available. Roll around and squish your kids up in them for some great motor activities.
9) Introduce heavy work. After-school chores are great for a heavy work-out. Have your child take out the garbage, sweep, wash dishes or clean up the yard.
10) Last, but not least: sports, art and cooking are all great sensory soothers and a perfect wind-down for after school. All three involve the brain and body, and particularly the hands, providing a great heavy-hand workout to reduce stress and improve organization, coordination and creativity.
Ilana is a physical therapist as well as the Creative Director and Product Developer at Fun and Function. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.