example of sensory rich activity - bubble mountain

The Best Kept Secret for Helping Your Children Thrive During Challenging Times

Sage Kearney

December 10, 2020

To say we are all operating under a higher degree of stress is a fair statement, would you agree? Uncertainty of the future..feelings of grief or sadness for things or experiences that we’ve lost..frustrated that we are all crammed inside our houses together..there is a lot going on in our world these days. Even if you aren’t feeling more stressed than usual, there are so many changes happening & we are constantly having to adapt to a new normal which can wear you down.

So how can we continue to put our best foot forward? Well keep reading because I’m spilling the beans & sharing what I do in the gym to help my clients be their best selves in hopes that you can apply this same strategy to your everyday lives. By the end of this post you will be able to help your children thrive in times of change & challenge by incorporating this into your everyday lives.

Sensory Rich Activities

The oh so elusive this that I was referring to is sensory rich activities. In my practice I use sensory rich activities all the time to support my clients as they are constantly being challenged to reach their goals. These same activities can just as easily be incorporated into your daily routines & prove beneficial to your family life.

A sensory rich activity is any activity that involves multiple sensory systems. Ideally we want to shoot for 3 sensory systems, but more than two will do. Our system includes eight senses. There are our five basic senses – sight, touch, sound, smell, & taste – with the addition of three other senses that have emerged the past few years in the medical field – movement, muscle awareness, & interoception.

Although all of the senses are important, we only really focus on seven of the senses (excluding interoception) when creating sensory rich activities.

Now that I’ve spilled the beans & we know what makes an activity sensory rich, let’s talk about what makes them so powerful (& why the heck you should prioritize incorporating them into your routines).

3 Key Benefits of Sensory Rich Activities

Build nerve connections in the brain

These nerve connections are needed for higher level learning, completing complex tasks like homework & learning new skills, problem solving, language development, & more.  

Promote emotional regulation

When we engage our senses and move & use our muscles, our body releases serotonin & dopamine, which are key hormones that our limbic system uses to regulate our emotions.

Maximize attention when doing hard work

When we participate in sensory rich activities, specifically ones  that involve sight, we are using the same part of the brain that is used for attention & focus. In turn, that builds more nerve connections that can then be available to use during tasks that require attention & are more challenging.

Examples of Sensory Rich Activities

Now that we’ve talked all about sensory rich activities, let’s brainstorm some activities together.

Remember, a sensory rich activity is one that uses multiple sensory systems at once. For example, when we play with scented play dough we are using our muscles, our sense of smell, and our eyes all at the same time. When we dance, we are moving our body, using our muscles, and listening to the music. When we take a straw and blow down a pyramid of stacked cups, we are using our eyes, using our lip muscles to blow, and we are hearing the cups fall. 

If you already have some activities that your children really enjoy, you could also think about adding a few experiences to beef up the sensory aspect of it. For example, if your child enjoys playing video games, you could have them sit on a bouncy ball or have them lay under a weighted blanket to give their muscles more input. Obviously an off-screen sensory rich activity is preferred, but sometimes it’s about baby steps & meeting your child where they are.

You officially know my secret to keeping everyone happy & able to be their best selves. Now I’m not saying that incorporating sensory rich activities will take care of all your problems & you won’t have any challenges – I wish it was that easy! But incorporating these activities can save you a few headaches when employed correctly.

To help you apply what you have just learned about sensory rich activities, I’ve created a workbook filled with 4 weeks of sensory rich activities to make it easy as pie to take the next step & start incorporating sensory rich activities into your daily life.

I went ahead and planned out twenty sensory rich activities for you to experiment with over the next four weeks, supplies list included! All of these activities are really easy to implement & adjust based on your child’s interests and your available resources. I use a bunch of these same strategies in my practice on a daily basis, so I know you’re kids are going to love them. Grab your workbook here!

Sensory rich activities build nerve connections in the brain, promote emotional regulation, & maximize attention when doing hard work.

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