Ask an OT: Sensory Activities (Part 2)

Recommended sensory activities

It was fun to get some feedback from the first addition of "Ask an OT." I hope this series can be a useful resource. The three questions below were messaged to me in response to the original post. The fabulous Kalya Paradis, OTR/L composed the responses below.  

Again this content is not meant to be a substitute for personalized medical advice from your MD or OT, but hopefully will be useful in generating further conversations.  

Any recommendations for calming music? Is there a particular style that would be soothing for a sensory kid?

Hi again! Any calming music advertised in stores or online may work well, depending on the child’s preferences. Some people like using classical music.  Another trick is to use tribal music, since it has that repetitive beat! If you are looking for more specialized programs you can also try the baby birth-36 months from the Listening Program. To try the other highly structured Listening Program CDs you need to find a certified provider. Therapeutic listening also has some CDs for purchase without specific training required.  

Any info on dietary changes that might be helpful? Should we be staying away from dyes?

Looking at how a child’s diet may be impacting them is a great idea! Final decisions on a child’s diet are really up to the parents, but there is a lot of information out there on how food may be affecting our children and us. Food dyes have been associated with hyperactivity in kids, however the findings are controversial. These diets can be hard to implement 100%, so I might be on the look out for an all or nothing attitude and just try to minimize food dyes and see how it goes.

Here are some helpful articles that touch on food dyes and hyperactivity, as well as other health concerns:

If you care to dive deeper into some evidence…

Do Artificial Food Colors Promote Hyperactivity in Children with Hyperactive Syndromes? A Meta-Analysis of Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trials

  • This is a meta-analysis, meaning it analyzes and combines several studies on food dyes and hyperactivity. This meta-analysis found a correlation between artificial food colors and increased hyperactivity but calls for more evidence before making medical recommendations.

Center for Science in the Public Interest: Food Dyes Rainbow of Risks

  • The summary and overview sections are helpful; note Red #40 in particular has been associated with hyperactivity.

What kind of "tools" might be helpful- trampoline, body sock, weighted blanket, etc.

There are definitely a lot of sensory tools out there! I’ll start by giving some favorites. For relaxation I personally like the body sock, resistance tunnels and weighted blankets. You can also get any sort of silly putty for your child to knead through (i.e. red plastic eggs). Hiding objects such as pennies in the putty for a child to find is a nice fine-motor task that doubles as a deep pressure (aka proprioceptive) input activity.

Trampoline’s are a fun way to get vestibular input, though not always considered to be the safest way. A great alternative would be to purchase big therapy ball. 

Children can sit on the therapy ball with support at the hips from an adult and bounce up and down. They can also roll back-and-forth or even finish a book or puzzle as they lie with their tummies on the ball and hands on the floor out in front of them. These activities give kids vestibular and organizing deep pressure input, among other therapeutic benefits such as strength building. Big therapy balls are also nice to use for those tummy-time squishes and a plethora of other fun games/exercises!

For other ideas, check out

Don’t be afraid to be creative and make your own tools! For example…

Sarah Lyon, OTR/LComment