Sensory Diet Plans for Toddlers & Preschoolers
Planning a Sensory Diet for your Toddler or Preschooler
Proprioceptive input (sensations from joints, muscles and connective tissues that lead to body awareness) can be obtained by lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy objects, including one’s own weight. A child can also stimulate the proprioceptive sense by engaging in activities that push joints together such as pushing something heavy or pull joints apart like hanging from monkey bars.
Make a body “burrito” or “sandwich.” Firmly press on your child’s arms legs and back with pillows or make a “burrito” by rolling her up in a blanket.
Push and pull. A toddler or preschooler can push her own stroller, and may even be able to push a stroller or cart filled with weighted objects such as groceries.
Carry that weight. Your child can wear a backpack or fanny pack filled with toys (not too heavy!).
Vestibular input (the sense of movement, centered in the inner ear). Any type of movement will stimulate the vestibular receptors, but spinning, swinging, and hanging upside down provide the most intense, longest lasting input. If your child has vestibular (movement) sensitivities, please work closely with a sensory smart OT who can help you recognize and prevent signs of nervous system overload.
Have your child swing. Encourage her to swing on playground swings, trying various types of swings and movements, such as front to back and side to side.
Have your child spin. Have him spin using a Sit n’ Spin, Dizzy Disc Jr., or office chair. Let her run in circles, and ride a carousel. Hold your child’s arm and spin in a circle as he lifts off the ground, or play airplane by holding one of his arms and the leg on the same side of his body as you spin in place (only if he does not have low muscle tone).
The tactile sense detects light touch, deep pressure, texture, temperature, vibration, and pain. This includes both the skin covering your body and the skin lining the inside of your mouth. Oral tactile issues can contribute to picky eating and feeding difficulties.
Experiment with food and drink. Let your child drink plain seltzer or carbonated mineral water to experience bubbles in her mouth (you can flavor it with a little juice or with lemon, lime, etc.).
Encourage messy play with textures. Have her play with foamy soap or shaving cream, and add sand for extra texture. Have her fingerpaint, play with glitter glue, mix cookie dough and cake batter, and so on. Let your child use the playground sandbox or create your own at home, filling a bin with dry beans and rice or other materials and small toys. Cover and store the bin for future use.
Use child-friendly modeling material such as Play-Doh, Model Magic, and Sculpey (the classic Play-Doh Fun Factory provides excellent proprioceptive input as well). Never force a child who is unwilling to touch “yucky” substances. Let him use a paintbrush, stick, or even a toy for cautious exploration.
Provide dress up opportunities. Dress up in fun costumes to get used to the feel of unfamiliar clothing.
There are a few more things you will need to consider when planning a Sensory Diet for any age group. Click here for more information.
Click Here to look at a sample of a Sensory Diet.
BUY Raising a Sensory Smart Child and learn more about helping your child who has sensory processing issues.
Click Below for more information on sensory specific age groups
Each child has a unique sensory profile.
Playground time is important for a sensory diet.
Sensitivity to smells is common.
Swinging provides vestibular input.