Toys For Sensory Diet Fun

I am always asked about Sensory Diet and what my friends and readers can do to regulate their kiddo at home.

As funny as it sounds, I don’t even think about Sensory Diet anymore—it is so ingrained in what we do—that now there is a sensory component in virtually every part of our day.

I thought I would put together a list of things that we use (or have used before) on a regular basis as part of our Sensory Diet.

I mean things we REALLY REALLY use every day.

Things that you can use every day.

Things that your kids will like and actually want to do.

And things that hopefully don’t make a giant mess, hence making life better not just creating more work for you. :)

Gabriel was very oral when he was younger. He needed to chew on something constantly. He had a billion things in his mouth all the time. Small toys, cars, or blocks, and sometimes he would just lick whatever was around him—chairs, TV, etc.

Since that was a little odd looking, we had lots of mouth toys and objects that were OK for chewing on. We tried teething rings w/o water (that didn't last long since he had teeth by then), straws, things on the end of a pencil, some vibrating things and much more. No good.
Gabriel's shirt was CONSTANTLY wet at the neck and the wrists. His backpack was chewed up on every end and he had a habit of eating zippers.

That is when we found Chewlery. See the little girl chewing her necklace in the photo above? Yep, that is it. For Gabriel we used the bracelet version more often since we learned that when you chew the necklace all the time, since it is shaped like an old school phone cord, it holds the spit. Ewww. It would make his shirt awfully wet. The bracelet was very cool and since it comes in about every color, it was still "normal" enough for him to wear even though he was a boy.

When Kindergarten came, we moved to gum. Which has been awesome, but sometimes I feel like he is addicted to it so I do try to limit the amount of gum he can chew in a day by offering alternatives for mouth input like a straw, ice cubes, Popsicles, whistles, bubble blowing and blow pens just to name a few.

We also used the Theraputty a TON when Gabriel was in preschool and through Kindergarten. This was a big ingrained part of our routine.

Theraputty is a playdoh/silly putty type material that is used by therapists to help increase the strength in your hands. You absolutely need to ask your OT what "color" or strength is appropriate for your child to start with.

We learned about this from our OT and bought some for home. Our OT taught us the trick of using the Lite Brite colored pegs to hide inside the putty. Then, Gabriel had to find them all, then hide them all himself for the next kid. It is a very creative way for kids to use those small motor skills to dig, push and pull the putty around looking for their little treasures. For us it was used primarily as a "waiting game" for know, when I am making dinner and he has to wait. Or I am talking to some one and he has to wait. Theraputty keeps his mind and his hands busy.

We loved our Theraputty--and I highly recommend talking to your OT about this as it is much more fun and lasts longer than Playdoh. Playdoh is TOO easy to manipulate. Oh, and Theraputty is awesome to cut with scissors. Another terrific way to work out those small motor skills.

Another thing we have had for what feels like ever is a heavy blanket--or weighted vest, or weighted lap pad. Something that is full of beans or pellets that can provide the added pressure Gabriel craves. This is something that Gabriel needs and is so useful.

We take it to the movies to help with sitting still, we use it in the car on long trips, or when he has to wait a long period of time, we use it after a long day to help relax and to wind down while watching a TV show. It has been great for us.

I am also a big fan of the Zoob blocks (pictured on the side bar). The push and pull it takes to get them together and apart is fantastic work for little hands. They are like ashoulder joint--ball and socket.

I also love that they are not as complex to manipulate as Legos (don't require only the pincer grasp, hence uses more of the entire hand/arm to pull and push) and still cooler than Duplos.

Each tub comes with instructions to make some seriously neat and challenging things too--like dinosaurs, helicopters, a crown, a bicycle and more. This has been a great lesson in motor planning and even my hubby will play Zoobs with the boys.
Our Zoob expertise has really grown and taken off. All three boys love these things.

You knew there would be a trampoline on my list, so here it is. : )

This is the must-have of the must-haves.

Every person I know with an SPD kiddo has a tramp. You probably do too.


Do you have this trampoline? Hmm... I didn't think so.

Why is it so cool?

Well, it has the option of counting the jumps for your child. Think, "Hey son, go do 100 jumps" when he is 3 and can't count that might not work. With this trampoline it will count out loud for him, from 1-100 or from 100-1. Add to that it can play music. Challenge your kiddo to jump until the music is over or beat hims high score" jumping past a certain number. This trampoline can do so much more than your average tramp.....But no, it doesn't make coffee. But good question.

Why is the electronic part important?

I think it is important because it provides motivation, novelty and fun. All things that your sensory diet is in desperate need of for it to be successful.

I think that the design is fabulous as well. The triangle lends it self well to the theory that only one kid should be on at a time, and the bike-like handle bars are easy to hold onto and very intuitive for even the littlest jumper.

Another fun way to move is to spin, which brings us to the fabulous Egg Chair. I know tons of people who have these and we actually have two (don't want giant fights to break out).

The benefits are great. Not only can it be used as a place to escape, to pull the shade down over your body and virtually disappear, Gabriel also uses it for a place to spin. Spinning is fun.

Gabriel spends time reading in our Egg Chair, or playing with his lions, or just watching TV with a cozy place to keep his body tucked into. This has proven way better than our Bean Bag (although we do still use that, but Gabriel can't keep himself out of the cover--unzips the bag, climbs in with the beans--big mess).

Gabriel took gymnastics last fall and became a huge fan of the pull up bar. We bought a version that goes in our door way and we keep it there all the time as an option for him come rain or shine (or 100+ degree RIDICULOUS Seattle weather).

It has become a huge part of our routine. As a matter of fact we use it to hang on just as much as we do to actually pull up. All that time Gabriel has spent on the monkey bars really seems to pay off.
A friend of mine was here with her 5 year old SPD son earlier this week, and that kid was a bigger monkey than Gabriel is--which is saying a whole lot. My guess is that our kiddos spend so much time climbing anything they can get their hands on that they become extra strong. That sure is the case here anyway.

We have included some stretching exercises using the door frame to round out Gabriel's "heavy work" before school. This is what we do: Pull up bar to hang for the count of 10-20, then drop and push the door way, shake it out, hang again for the same count, drop and stretch our arms both forward and backwards, then the pull up bar, drop, push and shake it out. Three times to hang with stretching in between and we are off to school. It has been a fantastic addition to our sensory toys and even better for our Sensory Diet.
We also are in constant need of ways to stimulate our sense of smell in a positive way. I have recently bought a number of scented markers, and they now have scented colored pencils, but the good old fashioned scented markers I had as a kid are still my favorite.

It is not uncommon to find my darling boys with multi-colored noses after creating a masterpiece. My favorite is probably still the Red--Cherry. Oh, and we all hate Black--Licorice. Eww.

Another really cool thing to have on hand is Bubble Wrap.

Just the regular old wrap-your-stuff-to-ship stuff they sell at the post office.

We have been bubble wrap fanatics for years. Every time my husband gets anything shipped, we always save the bubble wrap for the boys.

The funny thing is that when I went to see Carol Kranowitz (author of the Out Of Sync Child) speak last fall in Tacoma WA, she was a HUGE fan too! Who knew?

Having bubble wrap on hand can be the best sensory activity and it is incredibly engaging for kids without sensory issues as well (great for play dates!).

You can roll on it, jump on it, pinch it, roll it and wring it out, hop on it, slide on it and about a million other things too. The possibilities are just endless.

And every one gives you the satisfying popping sound too.

Which brings me to my new found gadget: Electronic Bubble Wrap.

Yes, you heard me right. Bubble Wrap with batteries.

This little bit of genius allows you to pop away any time you like with a very similar feeling and sound to actual bubble wrap.

It is small enough to be in a pocket, or attached to a backpack and quiet enough to use during class.

The best part is after every 100 pops or so it gives you a bonus sound like a bell.

So cool. A reward for popping away.

OK, those are my favorites right now. There are so many more that I could put on here that are actual Occupational Therapy tools that I know many families have at home and love, but they are just too advanced for me.

These are things that all of my kids enjoy, use and are easy to access and do not require excessive parent participation or vigilante like supervision.

We never did inside swings or hammock, nor did we do the ball pit or some of the other fantastic options available now. I do not have the kind of energy required to be an OT. I'll leave that to the professionals. (Thanks Kelly!)

I have dozens of more things I could post, so I may do a second version of this posting if it gets a lot of readers.

I hope if you are in Seattle you are enjoying Air Conditioning somewhere. I big shout out to Stuart for my air conditioning--Thank you so much and WE LOVE YOU!



T.J. said...

wow-excellent post! Thanks for putting so much into this post. GREAT ideas, and I can't wait to look into that electronic bubble-wrap!

Kelly said...

wonderful post..... I especially like the egg chair.... going to get one of those.... great place to regulate.

Kari George said...

There were only a couple of things I hadn't thought of (the scented markers and Chewlery). We use another kind of chew jewelry that works for us, so that's what matters. And...yes, we have both the electronic bubble popper and the cool trampoline. For Christmas, we will have family get the boys both an egg chair. I couldn't believe how expensive they were when I checked them out at Ikea! YIKES...$80 a piece!!

I would love to see a second edition when you have spare time...OK, I wonder when that actually happens, huh?

Take care and enjoy your dad in town this weekend!

Kari George said...

Great post Hartley! I was so proud of myself that I knew everything except two things (the scented markers, which I have 'forgotten about' and the chewlery, which we just use chew tubes for). And...yes, we have both the electronic bubble wrap AND the cool trampoline at our house! I'm going to ask family to get both boys an egg chair for Christmas! We had the opportunity to play with them twice and they just LOVE them! However, I was astonished at their price when I went to check them out at Ikea (YIKES...$80)! So, Christmas it is!!!

I would love to see the second edition of this post know, in your spare time (YIKES, when will that be?).

Take care and have a great weekend with your dad in town!

Kari George said...

Oh...and one more thing...thanks for removing the verification process at the end of gets me everytime!

GFCF Mommy said...

Really great post! I need to look into the electronic bubble wrap! I love all your SPD tips. We live in that world too, funny how it becomes second nature after while!

Jennifer said...

Thank you so much for some great ideas! I am so going out and buying the bubble wrap key chain! Thanks again for all the great tips.

Dova said...

I just came across your blog and I know I will be back. A few things I have tried and lots of new things to try, but always nice to know that there are others like us out there. Thanks for making my search for answers a little bit easier ;)

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic post with some very useful items, which i will be trying. I found another site yesterday with spacial needs item which is if it helps anyone

Marita said...

Great post. Lots of nodding my head along going yep, yep, yep. My girls are getting too tall for the egg chair which is sad. I wish I could get one in an adult size.

Heidi's special ed teacher when she was 3yo gave her scented markers for Christmas, Best Gift Ever.... well it was until the following year when Mum gave Heidi a massive tin full of buttons :D

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