Sensory and motor interaction provides for the foundation for a child’s growth, development and learning within the world around them. Sensory stimulation/feedback and motor go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. The motor system drives the sensory stimulation and sensory stimulation/feedback drives the brain. It is critical for these skills to improve and develop to aid in behavior and academic learning. Often times, children struggling with learning or behavior have inadequately developed sensory and motor systems.
Sensory skills involve using these senses of smell, touch, vision, hearing, balance, proprioception (awareness to know where your body is in space), vestibular (inner ear), and taste. All these senses work together for overall sensory functioning.
Motor skills include coordination of both sides of the body (bilateral coordination), muscle strength and tone, gross and fine motor skills, vestibular balance and posture, visual tracking and coordination, rhythm and timing, and dominance.
What activities can I do to help my child develop sensory motor skills?
Sensory motor play can be incorporated in fun play based activities each day! Sensory activities involve sensory stimulation. Activities for sensory motor play can be simple or complex based and should be varied to provide multiple sensory experiences.
Activites for Sensory Motor Play:
- Jumping-jumping on different surfaces such as a trampoline, on the ground, from floor to couch, on a bed, etc.
- Crab walk-letting their hands touch different surfaces (mulch,grass,road) and working on core strength
- Tummy time (for babies) allows gross motor for pushing up on their hands AND for the child to experience different textures on their hands (carpet, bedding, grass, etc)
- Playing catch with a variety of objects with different textures. Catch can be played with stuffed animals, oranges, balloons, clothes, Frisbees, etc.
- Nature walks/spotting-nature exploration for touching leaves, grass, dirt and spotting colors, flowers, etc . working on visual tracking and searching
- Hanging upside down-to increase spatial awareness and vestibular skills
- Rolling your child in a blanket or climbing through fabric tunnels
- Helping bake cookies-feeling the cookie dough as they make cookie balls or putting sprinkles on the top of the cookies for different texture play.
- Sand boxes for play with digging and feeling the sand on their hands OR feet.
- Sensory boxes with rice or beans for the child to reach in and find objects hidden in the beans or rice or scooping with a spoon in the beans or rice for fine motor skills.
- Playing with shaving cream in the bathtub or at the kitchen table. Drawing in the shaving cream or having toys like cars roll through the cream for different sensations.
- Playing with play dough and hiding small beads or coins in the dough to have your child “find” while manipulating the dough for harnessing fine motor skills
- Playing with finger paints for exposure to new textures
- Playing with food and making pictures with macaroni/pretzels/sprinkles, coloring with food color dyed whipped cream, and licking lemons for silly faces to experience sensory sensations with touch.
- Blowing whistles, bubbles, pinwheels or having a cotton ball race with blowing for breath support and control.
- Playing with flashlights for treasure hunting around the house for hidden objects” for visual awareness and visual tracking.
- Making shadow puppets for fine motor skills and exposure to visual changes with lights.
- Doing dot to dot puzzles or mazes to increase visual tracking skills.
- Putting on lotion to experience different sensations on the skin with varied scents.
- Petting animals at a petting zoo or pets around the house to exposure to soft textures such as fur.
- Go on a texture walk, collecting things that are smooth, things that are bumpy, things that are soft and so on.
- Play water balloon toss to increase coordination AND exposure to a different texture in play.
If you are concerned with your child’s development, please feel free to call our office and speak with one of our licensed therapists at 704-821-0568.