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Sensory Calming Techniques for Young People

Below, you'll find some activities ideas to help provide sensory calming input to our bodies.

Proprioceptive Activities

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 Activities

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

Oral Activities

Chewing, sucking and blowing can also have a calming effect on the body.

  • Chewing gum or chewy sweets

  • Blowing bubbles

  • Drinking from a sports bottle

  • Drink a smoothie through a straw

Retreat Space

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

  • Stress ball

  • Headphones with music or white noise

  • Eye mask

  • Fibre optic lights

  • Small ball to bounce

  • Heavy blanket

  • Soft blanket

  • Favourite soft toy

  • Hand massager

  • Chewing gum

  • Ear plugs

  • Lava lamp

  • Sensory bottle/mindful jar (have a look on sites such as Pinterest)

  • Fidget toy

Cognitive Activities

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:

Additional Activities

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

  1. Lie on the floor or sit up straight with your feet supported

  2. Put one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly

  3. Breathe out all your air, until your belly pulls in slightly

  4. Imagine you have a balloon underneath your belly button that inflates as you breath in and deflates as you breath out

  5. Breathe in through your nose and fill your lungs as much as you can. Feel your belly expand, like a balloon blowing up

  6. Breathe out slowly through your mouth. Feel your belly go back in, like a balloon deflating. Say “haa” as you breathe out

  7. Breathe in slowly through your nose while counting to 3

  8. Breathe out slowly through your mouth while counting to 6

  9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 until you feel relaxed

  10. 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.

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