99 Sensory Activities For Any Child-Term Life

Casey Halper, an Occupational Therapist who works at our school, recently gave a seminar to parents to teach us about sensory balance and activities for a sensory savvy schedule throughout the day. Many kids are now diagnosed with sensory integration issues, but the more I learn about this, the more I find that sensory issues are something that we all face and can all benefit from exploring. For instance, I now realize that my engine tends to run too low and I need to work harder at energizing myself throughout the day. I have actually become more sensitive to when I am running low and have incorporated some of the activities below to help keep my energy up. I find this whole thing really interesting because I never really thought about actually trying to manipulate my energy level this way, and certainly for kids it can be invaluable as sometimes any kid can be too hyped up or having trouble getting going. I thought it would be cool to put together a list of sensory activities. While these activities all revolve around sensory stimulation, I think they are just great all-around activities for any kid, and a great list to pull up when you are stuck at home and need ideas for how to pass that last hour in the day or when you need a calming or invigorating activity when your child is stuck in a bad mood. These sensory activities are perfect for any kid from toddlers on up and some are even good for babies.

If you are interested in other sensory topics check out our posts on sensory savvy snacks and OT recommended toys or visit our Special Needs Guide to see all of our special needs posts. Sensory activities fall into different categories. Perhaps the most useful one for self-regulation is Proprioceptive Input. That’s a fancy word for “heavy work” that engages your joints. These activities make you feel grounded and can be calming for a high-running child or invigorating for a low-running kid. This first batch of activities create Proprioceptive Input:

  1. Jump (on a mini-trampoline, from a chair to a sofa, on the bed, etc.)
  2. Wheelbarrow walking or races
  3. Donkey Kicks
  4. ABC Pushups (Push-up plank position, touch chest with hand and say a letter of the alphabet, all the way up to the letter Z. Each letter said, the student changes the hand that touches the chest)
  5. Bear walk
  6. Crab walk
  7. Play leap frog
  8. Tummy time push ups (for babies)
  9. Toddlers can push their own stroller, the laundry or grocery cart
  10. Have your toddler or child carry a backpack full of their own toys and books
  11. Hammer ice cubes in a plastic bag (then use them for lemonade!)
  12. Pillow Fight
  13. Stuffed animal catch
  14. Hanging from a chin-up bar
  15. Bouncing on hopping ball
  16. Tug-of-war
  17. Hopscotch
  18. Wrestling
  19. Tickle fight
  20. Drumming
  21. Banging on pots and pans
  22. Have a parade and march
  23. Wiping the counters
  24. Sweeping
  25. Swiffering
  26. Dustbusting
  27. Unloading the washing machine and the dryer
  28. Taking out the trash
  29. Water balloon catch
  30. Beanbag catch
  31. Push-o-war (put palms against each other and push as hard as you can)
  32. Animal footsteps (Child lays down and chooses and animal and using your fingers or hands try to make it feel like that animal walking over back and limbs. Vestibular Input (swinging and spinning) is intense and long-lasting sensory input. It should be provided in doses and parents should watch and be sensitive to how their children react and help them learn to manage this type of input to keep them even.
  33. Swinging: Try different types of swinging to see how it feels (tire, rope, belly, etc)
  34. Spinning
  35. Run in circles
  36. Hang upside down
  37. Swing your child around from their arms or legs
  38. drag them on a sheet or blanket
  39. Rock in a rocking chair Tactile Input. Many kids are overly sensitive to tactile input. Tags, pant buttons, getting wet, or even the feeling of foods in the mouth can drive some kids batty. Doing these activities can help children get used to tactile stimulation gradually and can be fun for all kids.
  40. Make a kid sandwich by pressing down on him between two pillows or couch cushions
  41. Make a kid burrito by rolling her tightly in a blanket
  42. Roll out the cookie dough by rolling a big ball firmly over the back and limbs
  43. Make your own sandbox with a bowl full of dry beans or styrofoam peanuts.
  44. Pour salt on a cookie sheet and paint with your fingers.
  45. Spread beans out in a baking tray or pan and make a construction site for trucks.Bury small toys in rice and have them do an archeological dig
  46. Go on a texture walk
  47. Have a texture scavenger hunt at homeIn the bath: Some sensory defensive kids hate getting wet, but these activities make bathing more fun for all kids:
  48. Add food coloring to the water
  49. Ladles, cups, strainers, squirters, funnels
  50. Play with shaving cream
  51. Soap crayons or bath paints
  52. Rub with different textures while in the bath, a smooth or nubby washcloth, a loofah, a nail brush.
  53. Put shaving cream on a placemat to squish around
  54. Mix cookie dough or cake batter with hands
  55. Make play dough
  56. Make a touch book of different textures from your home
  57. Put single items in paper bags and let kids try to guess what they are
  58. play with face paints
  59. Repot the plants
  60. Use a vibrating toothbrush
  61. Sip seltzer
  62. Lick lemons Some kids need extra oral-motor activities, but they tend to be calming for everyone.
  63. Crunch ice
  64. Use chewelry
  65. Make smoothies and suck through a straw
  66. practice chewing gum and blowing bubbles
  67. Use crazy straws Breathing is especially important for kids with low muscle tone, but we can all use to exercise our lungs and benefit from the therapeutic effects of breathing deeply.
  68. blow whistles
  69. Make and blow pinwheels
  70. blow feathers off your hand
  71. play soccer by blowing a cottonball across the table scoring if you can blow it off the other person’s end.
  72. Have a cottonball race.
  73. Make bubble mountains in a bowl with a straw and soapy water
  74. Blow gently on each other’s faces (see who can blow the longest) Visual, Olfactory (Smell), and Auditory Stimulating Activities:
  75. Sit quietly and listen to nature. (You can also use nature sounds recordings)
  76. Play a listening game. Sit very quietly and try to guess the sounds you hear.
  77. Let them play with the stereo dial to experiment with loud and soft sounds.
  78. Play by candlelight
  79. Turn off the lights and play flashlight tag
  80. Shadow puppets
  81. Build a fort or tent
  82. Hide under a blanket and read by flashlight
  83. play catch with a balloon
  84. Do mazes or dot to dots
  85. Trace your body or hands
  86. Wear sunglasses Smells
  87. Explore how your child reacts to different smells. If you find some are soothing or alerting, get lotions, soaps, or candles to help regulate mood.
  88. Using a blindfold have them guess different smells. (peanut butter, maple syrup, apples, etc)
  89. Try giving a child a strong flavored candy or gum before trying a new food at dinner.
  90. Eat sensory savvy snacks
  91. Tickle Fingers (trace fingers lightly over the skin)
  92. Put on lotion
  93. Pet the cat
  94. Butterfly kisses (eyelash kisses)
  95. Give each other massages
  96. Make extreme faces
  97. Practice blowing out birthday candles on playdough cakes
  98. Put dollops of different colored paints in a baggie and squish around to mix the paints.
  99. Create a sensory savvy spot (beanbag chair or pile of pillows with soft lighting, soothing items such as books and stuffed animals, music with headphones and a snack)

Most of these activities are taken from Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Integration Issues by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Penske. This is the best book I have found on practical advice for parents on sensory issues and I think a really valuable book for ANY parent.

Most kids that I know tend to have at least one situation that makes them, well, pretty much freak. In addition to tons of advice on dealing with sensory issues, Raising a Sensory Smart Childhas great tips and advice for how to be sensitive and help children negotiate whatever their particular tough spot is, whether it’s bath time, brushing hair, getting dressed, loud noises, as well as sleeping better. This is a book worth having on every bookshelf.