Creating a sensory diet for your child

It is strongly recommended that you seek the advice of an occupational therapist or other SEN advisor before implementing a sensory diet, but below are some tools to help establish your child’s needs and a variety of safe strategies and materials you can use at home while you are awaiting further assessment.

So first off, we need to establish the area our child is struggling with and which areas they are particularly hyper- or hypo- sensitive to.

Below are two tools, with links, which you can use to establish your child’s preferences.

The first was published in Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Biel & Peske

To download and print a copy please use this link: Sensory Checklist Biel & Peske

Our second resource was published by Robert Cox for Life Recovery Consulting

To view & print please use the following link: Life Recovery Consulting

Once you have established your child’s needs, you can start to implement strategies and establish a sensory diet that works for them.

Understood.org helps to explain how a sensory diet could look throughout the day and what it may involve:

“What might an example sensory diet look like?

A sensory diet is made up of a group of activities specific to your child’s needs. These depend on your child’s sensory issues. Let’s say your child is what OT’s call low arousal (meaning sluggish). Her routine might include:

  • 20 jumping jacks
  • Bouncing on a therapy ball 20 times
  • Holding a Zen bug yoga pose for 10 seconds

Your child will repeat this circuit of activities a set number of times. Each session should last 10 to 15 minutes (the effects can last for hours). Once your child’s routine is set, she’ll do it two or three times throughout the day.

What activities might be included in a sensory diet routine?

Your child’s OT will observe her to see what sensory input she seeks or avoids. The OT takes those preferences into account when coming up with a routine. Here are some standard activities they draw on to create a sensory diet:

  • Jumping jacks or lying on the ground and doing snow angels
  • Somersaults
  • Log rolling (rolling back and forth)
  • Swinging on swings
  • Climbing ladders and sliding down slides at the playground
  • Hopping up and down
  • Push-ups (which can be modified to pushing off the wall or on their knees)
  • Bouncing on a therapy ball with feet on the ground while clapping
  • Rolling on a therapy ball on their belly, forward and backward
  • Rolling a therapy ball on their back while they lie on the ground to “make a sandwich”
  • Yoga poses like downward dog or happy baby (also known as Zen bug), holding a position for at least 10 seconds
  • Facing a wall and pushing as hard as possible (variations include standing sideways and pushing against the wall with a shoulder, or pushing while sitting with the back against the wall, holding positions for at least 10 seconds)
  • Heavy work activities at home with supervision, like sweeping/dry mopping, dusting, vacuuming, lifting and carrying grocery bags from the car into the home
  • Animal walks such as crab walk (on all fours facing sky) or bear walk (on all fours facing ground)

A sensory diet may also include other activities that target specific sensory issues. One technique, the Therapressure Protocol (you may hear it referred to as brushing), can be very helpful to some kids. But it requires specific training from an OT and is not something parents can do without professional guidance.

In addition to physical activities, a sensory diet may incorporate other sensory experiences that help your child feel “just right.” These could include using fidget toys or weighted blankets, or chewing crunchy foods throughout her day.”

Here are two more examples provided by Healthline

For a child who seeks out rough play, has trouble calming themselves, and chews on objects

  • 8 a.m.: Have a chewy breakfast or snack, like a bagel or granola bar.
  • 9 a.m.: Carry a crate of books to the school library.
  • 10 a.m.: Hold the heavy library door open for the class.
  • 11 a.m: Squish with a beanbag chair.
  • 12 p.m.: Lunchtime with chewy options and water bottle with bite valve.
  • 1 p.m.: Do wall pushes.
  • 2 p.m.: Play with crash pad.
  • 3 p.m.: Walk with weighted backpack.

For a child who can’t sit still and constantly touches and fidgets with objects

  • 8 a.m.: Use fidget toy on the bus.
  • 9 a.m.: Jump on trampoline.
  • 10 a.m.: Play with tactile sensory bin.
  • 11 a.m.: Sit in rocking chair for reading time.
  • 12 p.m.: Bounce on a yoga ball.
  • 1 p.m.: Swing at recess.
  • 2 p.m.: Play-Doh time.
  • 3 p.m.: Sit on a yoga ball while doing homework.

*Have you had success in implementing a sensory diet for your child? Which strategies did you find particularly effective?

More resources:

Basic sensory diet ideas NHS

Sensory diet treatment, what you need to know

Beginners guide to a sensory diet

OT Sensory Processing Assessment for Caregivers

How to help our children with anxiety: using workbooks

Many of our children struggle with anxiety; especially if they have SEN or disabilities. The anxiety has only been heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic and the many disruptions to their lives. I’m often asked for recommendations of emotional literacy resources and workbooks to help with anxiety. Here are a few of the favourites- let me know if you’ve used them or there’s any others you have found particularly helpful.

P x

No Worries! Mindful Kids: An activity book for children who sometimes feel anxious or stressed

No Worries! is an interactive self-care activity book for children aged 7+ to colour and doodle their way to happiness, calm and confidence.

The encouraging and simple activities and exercises tackle anxiety, sadness and stress; children will enjoy using their creativity to combat negative feelings, work out why they feel worried and how to put stress back in its place through writing, colouring, doodling and drawing.

Featuring the charming and quirky illustrations of Katie Abey, a UK-based illustrator. Her quirky pictures will keep the reader entertained and focused as they work through the book, or simply dip into the pages for ten minutes of calm colouring.

CBT strategies to help kids ages 6 to 10 stand up to anxiety and feel calm

Worrying all the time can stop kids from having fun with friends, hobbies, sports, or school. The CBT Workbook for Kids helps them get back to doing the things they love. The ideas and activities inside use proven, up-to-date cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies to help manage―or even change―worried thoughts and feelings.

This CBT workbook is an emotional toolbox for any anxious child, full of methods to help lower anxiety. First it helps them figure out what’s going on in their heads, and then it gives them tools to change it. Fun quizzes, drawing challenges, and fill-in-the-blank exercises show them new ways to look at each worry.

The CBT Workbook for Kids includes:

  • Helpful skills―Learn techniques for expressing feelings, dealing with anger, staying focused, and making smart decisions.
  • Relaxation strategies―Discover everyday calming methods, like creating a morning routine, asking for help, and facing fears a tiny bit at a time.
  • Experiences from other kids―Each chapter in this CBT workbook has stories about how other kids might experience anxiety, too.

Helps kids take a deep breath, face their fears, and win with this CBT workbook!

Conquer anxiety and calm your body and mind–a workbook for teens ages 13 and up

Anxiety is a difficult emotion to manage, and the added stressors of teenage life can make it feel impossible to overcome. But you have the power to handle it–you just need the right tools. Unlock your ability to conquer anxiety with this therapeutic workbook. The exercises teach you practical, effective techniques to tackle worrying in the moment―so it doesn’t ruin your day and run your life.

You’ll find out how to identify the types of anxiety you’re experiencing–general anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks, or phobias. Using strategies from cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness practices, you’ll learn how to manage your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. With helpful examples of real scenarios teenagers face at school, home, or with friends, this book is your secret weapon against anxiety in any situation.

The Conquer Anxiety Workbook for Teens lets you:

  • Soothe your mind―Learn how anxiety plays tricks on your mind, and find out how to be more realistic and confident while correcting “thinking errors” and old beliefs.
  • Understand your body―Discover immediate calming strategies like body scanning, taking charge of your anxious alter-ego, creating a self-care routine, and more.
  • Write in the book―This workbook has lined space to invite you to answer questions, try thoughtful exercises, and take quizzes right on the page.

Release stress and worry while you nurture your mental health with the Conquer Anxiety Workbook for Teens.

Big Life Journal (ages 7-10)

Big Life Journal helps children develop strong Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and growth mindset skills through inspiring stories, colourful illustrations, and engaging guided activities.

In this illustrated journal, children discover:

  • how to believe in themselves
  • how to face challenges with confidence 
  • mistakes are opportunities to grow 
  • they can achieve anything when they’re persistent

Are there any others that are your particular favourites? Let me know in the comments 🙂

P x