Below, you'll find some activities ideas to help provide sensory calming input to our bodies.
Proprioception is our sense of where our body is in space and in relation to the world around us. We get proprioceptive information through our muscles and joints when we do activities that involve pushing, pulling, lifting or resisting. Proprioceptive input has a calming effect on our bodies.
Using a static bike or rowing machine
Jumping on a trampoline
Throwing a ball at a target or through a hoop
Wall push ups (push on wall with both hands as if to push the wall away)
Chair push ups (place hands on the side of seat and lift self away from the seat)
Hitting a punch bag
Simple yoga, Pilates or martial art videos online
Monkey bars or hanging from a push up bar
Mow the lawn
Carry the full laundry basket downstairs
Making the bed
Tear up/squash recycling
Deep Touch Activities
Closely linked with proprioception is deep touch input which also helps calm our systems down. This is different from light tickly touch which can be alerting and uncomfortable for some young people.
Wearing lycra clothing under everyday clothes
Hand or foot massage
Wrapping up in a heavy blanket
Big bear hugs from a trusted adult
Using a massage roller
Vestibular is our sense of movement. There are two types of movement; linear which is calming and rotational which is alerting. Generally you want slow rhythmical linear movement for calming.
Go on a swing
Sit in a rocking chair
Lie in a hammock
Rocking gently on a gym ball
Chewing, sucking and blowing can also have a calming effect on the body.
Chewing gum or chewy sweets
Drinking from a sports bottle
Drink a smoothie through a straw
Creation of a space to retreat to when a situation becomes too difficult and the young person needs to reduce the environmental demands. The space should contain items that help them calm and regulate. Here are some suggestions but keep in mind the young person’s likes and dislikes and whenever possible create the space with them. The space itself can be created using a pop up tent, using room dividers or just a corner of a room. Only provide objects that the young person is safe to access without close supervision.
A bean bag chair
Headphones with music or white noise
Fibre optic lights
Small ball to bounce
Favourite soft toy
Sensory bottle/mindful jar (have a look on sites such as Pinterest)
Depending on the young person’s level of understanding and their ability to follow instructions these activities may also be helpful. Note most of these activities will need to be practiced first at a time when the young person is calm and receptive.
Deep breathing exercises (see examples below)
Mindfulness activities - have a look at:
Some general sensory based ideas that will depend on the young person’s preferences as to whether they are calming or not.
Cooking or baking
Take a bath or shower
Drink a glass of cold water or juice
Drink a hot drink
Place a cold gel pack on forehead or back of the neck
Place a warm wheat pack in lap or across shoulders
Deep breathing examples
Diaphragmatic or ‘belly’ breathing
Lie on the floor or sit up straight with your feet supported
Put one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly
Breathe out all your air, until your belly pulls in slightly
Imagine you have a balloon underneath your belly button that inflates as you breath in and deflates as you breath out
Breathe in through your nose and fill your lungs as much as you can. Feel your belly expand, like a balloon blowing up
Breathe out slowly through your mouth. Feel your belly go back in, like a balloon deflating. Say “haa” as you breathe out
Breathe in slowly through your nose while counting to 3
Breathe out slowly through your mouth while counting to 6
Repeat steps 7 and 8 until you feel relaxed
Keep your shoulders as relaxed as possible; they should not rise as you breathe in
It’s important that a child practices this when they are in a relaxed state. Once they have got the hang of it they can use it when they are stressed. It can be helpful to practice this at bedtime for children who have trouble falling asleep.