Sensory Kit Activities


Sensory Activities for the Sensory Kits

Sensory Carnival 2022

1.  Tactile/Smell Activity:  Touch helps us learn about our world.  Touch can be soothing or irritating. It tells us about different qualities of things, helps us localize touch, helps us be more precise with our motor movements, and helps protect us by alerting us quickly to something that causes pain (think hot stove).  Many children love to get messy and some do not.   Try making your own cloud dough!  This recipe just uses 2 common household ingredients and is super simple to make. Your kids will love mixing it and playing with the finished product.  Even those kids who don’t tolerate getting messy may like it!  You will need:

Mixing bowl

Measuring cups



Scented conditioner

Food coloring, optional

Measure 1 cup of cornstarch and place in the bowl.  Mix in ½ cup of conditioner.  Suave conditioner has some great scents like cherry and strawberry but any conditioner will work.  Add a few drops of food coloring if desired.  Mix with the spatula until dough begins to form.  Then have your kids finish kneading the dough together.  If your child is tactilely sensitive, place the dough in a zipper seal bag and continue kneading it.  Now it’s ready for play!   Talk with your child about the sensory qualities of the dough.  Is it soft or hard?  Crumbly?  Cool to the touch or warm?  How does it smell?  Do you like the way it feels on your hands?  Try hiding some small beads in it for your child to find (over the age of 3 years please!).   

2.  Proprioception and Vestibular Activity:  Proprioception is the sensory information from receptors located in our muscles and joints that tells us about how our body is moving. This then helps us know where we are (without having to look), helps us decide how much force and speed to use, and helps us maintain balance.  It works together with our Vestibular system to allow us to move through space.  

Our Vestibular system is located in our inner ear.  It is essential to help us maintain balance, postural control, spatial orientation, muscle tone, and alertness.  Our visual system is closely connected with it as well.  When our head moves, it gives us information about where we are in space and how fast or slow we are moving (am I upside down, sideways, or moving forward?).  

Jump and Move:  Place the colored Velcro dots on the floor about 2 feet apart.  They will stick to the carpet.  If you do not have carpet, you may want to secure them to the floor with some low stick tape.  Practice jumping from one to the other. Try increasing the distance between the dots.  How hard do you have to push with your legs to jump?  How do you not fall over?  Can you jump high?  Try moving in different ways to between the dots.  Can you somersault?  Hop on one foot?  Jump backwards?  Spin in a circle around the dots?  Try closing your eyes!  

3. Taste Activity: Taste is a familiar sense to most of us.  Did you know that sweet foods are calming to the sensory system?  That sour and spicy tastes are alerting-they wake you up?  Bitter foods are also alerting-usually telling us to avoid that food.  Salty and Umami (meaty) are 2 other tastes among a few others.  In addition, we can detect the temperature of food.  We also get tactile and proprioceptive feedback from our mouths.  Tactile refers to the different food textures we encounter.  The proprioceptors are in the mouth and jaw muscles and help us know where are teeth, tongue and lips are as well as how hard we need to chew (force).  All without using any vision to help us!  |And, did you know that different mouth motions and foods can influence our level of alertness?  Sucking is calming, chewing is organizing, crunching is alerting, warm is calming, and cold is alerting?  Try the chewy fruit snack.  How does it taste?  Can you tell what flavor it is without looking?  Can you smell it?  Do you like to suck on it, bite it, or lick it?  

4.  Auditory Activity:  This is another familiar sense.  Most of us know the basics of hearing but did you know that there is auditory perception just like there is visual perception?  Auditory figure ground is being able to pull out a specific sound among many other noises.  For example, hearing the person you are having a conversation with in a noisy restaurant. Or that we use sound to locate danger or safety?  Hearing is one of the first senses that is alerted in instances of danger.  For example, we can hear the storm coming before we see it.  We can use sound to locate another person (I’m over here!).  Take the musical instrument in the kit and play a version of hide and seek.  Instead of using vision to seek you, have your child close their eyes and try to find where you are in the room from listening to the sound.  Reverse it and have them be the hider.  You can blindfold those that have difficulty keeping their eyes closed. 

5.  Vision Activity:  Our sense of vision helps us make sense of the world by providing lots of information.  Color, light, size, shape, distance, and discrimination are some of the types of information we can receive visually.  Try this fun visual activity.  Using the cardboard tube from the kit, go on a visual scavenger hunt.  You can have your child decorate the tube in advance with colored tape, markers, stickers, or colored paper.  Make a list of a few common outdoor objects such as a red leaf, a yellow leaf, an acorn, a squirrel, a rock, a stick, a bird, a cloud, etc.  Have your children use the “telescope” to find the objects.  How does that change what you see when you only see some of it?  What do you miss only looking at it through the tube?  Be safe and hold an adult’s hand when looking through the tube and walking at the same time!

6.  Multiple Senses Activity:  An obstacle course can stimulate several sense at once.  We use our vestibular, proprioceptive, visual, possibly tactile, and motor planning skills to maneuver through an obstacle course.  Use the chalk in the kit to make an outdoor obstacle course.  Make different kinds of lines to walk on, hopscotch, circles or shapes to jump on, or try writing words for your older kids to follow such as clap your hands 3 times, hop on one foot, dance, spin in circles.  Use arrows or symbols to indicate directions or incorporate the alphabet letters or numbers for the preschoolers.  Have your child make one for you!

7.  Proprioceptive System and Calming Activity Use the squishy heart. Many of you might have heard of the term fidget toys. Fidget spinners, stretchy noodles, clickers, and pop its are just some examples.  Fidgets help us stay more alert by providing a little movement for our bodies. Have your child squeeze the heart when they need to sit still and listen or perhaps on a long car ride. The squeezing motion uses the proprioceptive system and that type of input can be organizing for the sensory system.  

The Sensory Systems

The Vestibular System:  This system gives us our sense of space-fast, slow, up, down, around, or in a straight line.  The receptors are located in the inner ear.  It helps us with balance and our comfort in our world including such things as climbing on a ladder, playing on playground equipment, or riding in a car or elevator. 

The Tactile System:  This system helps us to understand our world through touch.  The receptors are located in our skin.  At times, it is protective such as when we brush away a mosquito or pull away from a hot stove.  Other times, it gives us information about the quality of the touch such as soft, hard, smooth, rough, or the shape, which allows us to identify objects without vision.  Finding the light switch in the dark or finding your keys in your purse are examples of this.  

The Proprioception System:  This sense gives us the ability to know, without looking, our body position.  The receptors are located in the muscles.  It also helps us know how hard to push a door closed, how to handle an egg with care, or pet a kitten gently.  We get this information from pulling, pushing, lifting, carrying, and squeezing.  

The Auditory System:  This sense helps us understand our world through sound.  The receptors are located in the ear.  Not just hearing the sound but also discriminating the qualities of sound, it allows us to locate where the sound is coming from, tell the difference between similar sounds such as cup and cut, in addition to the determining the sound’s volume and pitch.  

The Gustatory and Olfactory Systems:  Gustatory, our sense of taste, helps us discriminate sweet, salty, sour, and bitter.  The receptors are located in our tongue.  Additional touch receptors are located in the mouth that tell us about food texture.  It also protects us by alerting us to potential dangers like rotten food.

Olfactory is our sense of smell.  It is very powerful.  Not only can it alert us to danger such as smoke, but it can trigger an emotional response.   A pleasant smell such as a baby’s skin or a loved one’s perfume can instantly evoke memories.  Conversely, a negative reaction can be triggered by certain smells that a person finds unpleasant (such as fish day in the lunchroom).  In addition, it is thought to be about 80% of our ability to taste.  

The Visual System:  This system is our vision sense.  The eyes are the receptors.  We get information about our world such as size, color, location (near and far), and movement.  It helps direct our hands and allows us to process complex symbols like we use in reading.  It can protect us too by alerting us to dangers in the environment.  

The Sensory System:  When we put all of these systems together and integrate all the information, we are able to engage with our world.  Our sensory system allows us to move in a skilled manner and do complicated activities such as playing on the playground equipment, playing a sport, or learning to play piano.  It also keeps us safe and allows us to build relationships with others.  

Sensory Tips

  • The touch system (tactile) helps us learn about our world. The tactile system helps us discriminate properties such as texture, size, shape, etc. To enhance these abilities, try activities that incorporate no vision and require the child to identify shape, texture, or to match objects. 
  • Deep pressure touch (tactile) is calming. Try deep bear hugs, firm massages, wrapping up tightly in a blanket like a cocoon, or making a “sandwich” out of couch cushions with your child in-between them to calm. 
  • Light quick touch (tactile) is arousing to the nervous system. To “wake” up, try a light tickle, playing in various dry materials such as beans or sand, or rubbing different textures on arms and legs. 
  • Sensory input to the joints and muscles (proprioception) calms and organizes the body. Try some of these activities before a more demanding task such as homework; tug-a-war, “animal” walks (bear, crab, seal, etc.), donkey kicks, wall push-ups, jumping up and down, or squeezing play doh. 
  • Fast, rotary movement (vestibular) is arousing. If you need to “wake” up, try dancing to fast music, spinning, or running a relay race. 
  • Slow, rhythmic movement is calming (vestibular). Try rocking in a rocking chair, rhythmic bouncing on a large ball, or gentle, rhythmic swinging to calm down. 
  • Certain smells can alert or calm (olfactory). Lavender is calming. Peppermint is alerting and apple is said to help with concentration. 
  • Chewy foods are organizing to the nervous system (oral). Foods such as chewy granola bars, beef jerky, bagels, chewy candy, or gum are all great choices. 
  • Sucking your thumb or on a straw is calming (oral). Use a straw at snack or meal times or suck on hard candy for calming input. 
  • Crunchy foods are alerting to the nervous system (oral). Pretzels, popcorn, crackers, raw veggies, or nuts are all great choices. 
  • Some types of music actually decrease the heart rate and therefore are calming (auditory). Classical music with beats of 70 beats per minute or less, rhythmic drumming, chanting, or nature sounds are all calming types of auditory input.


Fun from our Fall 2022 Sensory Carnival

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