During the winter kids are indoors more often, which can wreak havoc for parents trying to keep them occupied. For children with special needs or a Sensory Processing Disorder, time inside the home can be over-stimulating, which can cause such behaviors as fighting with siblings, refusing to eat and the inability to stay calm. Avoid behavior overload with these three indoor sensory play activities.
Making a Picture Schedule: Routines promote positive sensory play, which is critical when your kids are stuck indoors. Maintaining a consistent nap time, snack time and playtime allows your children to be more focused during play activities, which can lengthen their engagement and decrease complaints of being “bored.” Use picture schedules, calendars and visual or auditory timers to help them predict what is next in your home schedule.
In feeding therapy, I have my pediatric clients make their own picture schedule by cutting out pictures from magazines and newspapers so they feel like they are a part of the routine. Start by organizing the picture schedule into categories such as snack time, playtime, mealtime, family time, screen time and quiet time. Then select a few pictures from each category and build your picture schedule! You can use a magnetic board, dry erase board or the Play Mat to organize the daily schedule. For an added bonus have your child write down the categories (see picture).
Making a picture schedule is a fun sensory activity for the whole family! I’ve had parents get involved by cutting out their own pictures (taking a bath, drinking coffee, reading a book, etc.) and adding those pics to their child’s visual schedule. Parents report that they now have their own uninterrupted ‘quiet time’ because their child knows where they are and what they are doing. Big win for mom and dad!
Indoor Snowball Fight: If your kids need to get their wiggles out, this is the game for them! The Indoor Snowball Fight (SnowtimeAnytime.com) is a sensory game that includes 6 soft and safe snowballs that crunch like a real snowball. This is great for indoor play (in an area without breakables, of course) and the game includes fun and challenging ideas like throwing snowballs blindfolded! I also like to use the snowballs as decorations when the kids are all worn out. They display well on mantels, in playrooms or in a decorative basket for the winter holidays. I also use them in feeding therapy for a fun sensory break after trying new foods. Enjoy a frostbite-free snowball fight with your kids!
Water Beads: These versatile beads provide the ultimate sensory experience and they can be used in schools, therapy settings and for indoor home use! When you purchase the beads (autismcommunitystore.com) they come dry, but they expand when they are put in water! Since I provide in-home therapy, I transport the beads in a zip lock bag and then transfer them into a large container. Note - these non-toxic beads are a choking hazard, so I only use this sensory toy with older children or with constant adult supervision.
My clients love to use the beads for a sensory break; diving their hands into the beads relaxes them! Since the beads come in a variety of colors, I turn down the lights and use a flashlight to examine the beads for a multisensory educational experience. I also add plastic dinosaurs or pretend food and have the kids search for them with their hands (or utensils) to make this game more exciting. The beads shrink back down to their original size when they dry up!
How do you keep your kids occupied during the winter months? What are some of your family’s favorite sensory games and activities? Do you use a picture schedule in your home? Let us know how your child enjoyed these indoor sensory play activities! #sensory #play #winter #ezpzfun
Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz