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The Sensory System and YOU: Helpful Tips for Parents

Ever wonder why your kids are bouncing off the walls and their behaviors are up and down? Their sensory systems are craving some engagement!

Children learn through their senses and it’s important in their play to help build physical coordination, emotional maturity, social skills, and self confidence. KSB Occupational Therapist, Callie Toaso, has put together a three-part sensory series around the proprioceptive, vestibular, and tactile systems which allows children to explore new environments and maintain regulated and attentive behaviors.

The Proprioceptive System

Your proprioceptive system uses your muscle and joints to know where our body is in space. It lets us know how hard to throw a ball or how to coordinate bringing a cup to our mouths. This “sixth sense” is also used for calming and regulating the sensory system. If you’ve seen children “crash” after a long day at the park, you know their proprioceptive system was hard at work!

Here are some heavy work activities that engage the proprioceptive system and helps provide the needed physical activity for kids to grow:

  • Animal Walks (crab walk, frog leaps, gorilla walks, bear crawl, bunny hops, whale swims)
  • Helping with yard work
  • Obstacle course (can be done inside or outside)
  • Walking/running
  • Push up/sit up competitions
  • Blowing bubbles or straws (works on heavy work through oral motor skills)
  • Washing the car
  • Yoga

Want a fun activity to do with your kids? Create a Sensory Path! Click here for a short video with ideas.

The Tactile System

Your senses include smell, sight, hearing, taste and touch along with your proprioceptive and vestibular system. Through these systems, children learn how to process information within their environment and build the skills needed to participate in daily activities.

Your sense of touch, or your tactile system, helps us understand our world around us and feeling secure. We feel not only with our hands, but through our feet, legs, arms, back, and face and use these to process different sensations like temperature, pain, pressure, and texture. Using your tactile system involves getting messy, which allows children can explore their surroundings and understand it better. Here are a few fun activities to get their tactile system involved:

  • Bubbles
  • Shaving cream
  • Water beads
  • Chalk
  • Painting
  • Gardening
  • Sensory bins
  • Playing in sand, dirt or with playdough

The Vestibular System

One of the lesser-known sensory systems is your vestibular system. It stems from your inner ear and helps you understand where your head is in space, as well as your balance and spatial orientation. It also plays a major role with attention and focus! That’s why some kids struggle with focusing during schoolwork tasks because they are seated. Incorporate a few of these activities within your schedule to boost your child’s vestibular processing skills and increase attention before starting schoolwork:

  • Jumping on a trampoline or with jump rope
  • Bouncing on a therapy ball
  • Balancing on uneven surfaces or balance beams
  • Swinging on hammock, porch swing, or playground swing
  • Biking or scootering
  • Rolling down hills, summersaults, cartwheels, etc.
  • Hanging upside down
  • Playing tag with quick changes in direction