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100+ sensory diet ideas

Adapted for adults, with permission, from Your Kids Table.


I have adapted a load of Your Kids Table tips for use in my own day-to-day, so wanted to do this for you too. Below is a version of this article from Your Kids Table, adapted for adults.


This list could be a great jumping-off point for creating a sensory diet or for adding some new activities into the mix.


If the concept of a sensory diet is all new, take a look at what sensory diets are and this example template.


Enjoy!



Sensory diet activity caveats


A couple of caveats to pay attention to, before we get to the list...


1. Don't force yourself. Sensory activities aren’t like medicine. They work best when you're motivated to do them. Listen to your instincts. Something that works for one person might overwhelm your unique sensory system. That's not to say never try new things, but what works for you will be very individual, and only you can really know.


2. This list is meant to inspire, not overwhelm. If you’re just getting to grips with sensory diets, then take it slow and pick a few activities that seem really manageable. Try them a few times and see if you have a positive response. I have focused on keeping these activities simple, with little or no set-up.


3. Your sensory needs may change from day to day or even hour to hour. Remember that just because a particular activity or strategy didn’t work on this list today, doesn’t mean it won’t tomorrow. The idea is to have a toolbox full of sensory activities that you can pull from as you need to. Equally, not all activities will benefit you. There will be some you don’t like or feel interested in, ever. That is fine.


 

Using this list


The activities are organised into different groups. There is some cross-over, and duplication, where appropriate.


Many of these activities give sensory input to several senses. While there are categories listed (calming, alerting, etc.), these are generalisations. It is possible you could have a different response, as everyone’s sensory system is unique.


Pay attention to how you feel during and after the activity:

  • Do you feel... Calmer? More attentive? Focused?

  • Are you sleeping better?

  • Are you eating better?

  • Are you interacting and communicating more with others?

  • Can you follow steps or instructions more easily?

  • Were you able to learn something quicker?


Making these observations will help you determine how you are responding to a particular sensory diet activity, and when you should use that activity or one similar to it again!


 

Sensory diet activity list


Alerting sensory activities that improve attention, focus, and engagement


These are often called organising activities because they typically allow your sensory system to become more balanced. This leads to improved learning, communication, sleep, eating, etc.


  • Jumping: on a trampoline, up and down on the spot, with a skipping rope

  • Climbing: rock climbing wall, scrambling on rocks or up a tree (if this is safe!), monkey bars in an empty park, crawling through small spaces e.g. under a blanket on the floor

  • Swinging: outdoor swings, setting up an indoor swing

  • Riding: bike, scooter, skateboard, roller blades, ice skates, sledges, on a seesaw, using a balance board

  • Pushing/pulling heavy objects "heavy work activities": carrying groceries, putting the bins in/out, raking leaves, pulling weeds, shovelling snow, vacuuming, pushing a shopping trolly, carrying a laundry basket, pulling a rope tied securely to a door knob or heavy object, pull-ups, push-ups, lifting dumbbells or other strength-based exercises

  • Chewing: crunchy foods, gum, salty foods, spicy foods, chewable jewellery, chewable pencil tops, chew-safe toys

  • Vibration e.g. handheld massagers can be alerting in short bursts vs calming when used over longer periods (see the section below)

  • Active games: running, jumping over obstacles, skipping, stomping feet, leapfrog, tug or war, wheelbarrow walking, swimming

  • Drinking something cold

  • Crashing or jumping into pillows (put all your pillows or stuffed toys in a pile on the bed or floor to make it squishy and safe first!)

  • Play with textures to stimulate the tactile sense: shaving cream, finger paint, mud, wet sand, kinetic sand, water, ice

  • Blowing: whistles or noise makers, recorder, bubbles

  • Rolling on a large ball e.g. yoga ball on your back or tummy

  • Sitting on a yoga ball for meals, or while working or studying

  • Getting someone to scratch your back, or rolling a tennis ball between your back and the wall

  • Spinning: on swings, on a swivel chair, while standing, while sitting on the floor and holding your legs up. Note: spinning can be quite an intense/overloading input and should be done in small doses

Sensory Activities That Are Calming


These activities are intended to calm and soothe your nervous system.


  • Wearing tight clothing: body socks or stretchy bands for short intervals, or compression clothing worn throughout the day

  • Wearing a compression or weighted vest for 10-20 minutes during difficult times of the day (e.g. a transition)

  • Quiet time in a sensory tent, cupboard or cosy corner

  • Playing with textures in a sensory bin, for example: rice, dried beans, birdseed, sand, cloud dough, noodles

  • Massage

  • Kneading play doh or therapy putty

  • Handling fidget toys, for example koosh balls or stress balls

  • Squishing and squeezing: hugs, squeezing into tight spots or behind furniture, wrapping up tightly in a blanket, sleeping under stretchy sheets that are tucked in on the sides, laying under a large yoga ball

  • Sit or stand on a wobble cushion or wiggle seat (great for meals and focused work or study time)

  • Using essential oils: room diffusers, applying mixed with a carrier oil (I use almond oil or olive oil, but olive oil has a slight smell) to skin, a few drops in a bath

  • Listening to rhythmic or soft music, or nature sounds

  • Wearing noise cancelling headphones

  • Watching slow moving or soothing images: fish tank, lava lamp, slow changing lights

  • Drinking something warm

  • Sucking on a piece of hard candy or a lozenge

  • Slow rocking: rocking chair, hammock, glider, rocking yourself while sat cross-legged

  • Using heavy or weighted blankets or lap pads (as a rough guide blankets should weigh 5-10% of your body weight)

  • Vibration (this is calmer rather than alerting when used for longer periods of time) - for example handheld massagers, vibrating cushions/pillows

  • Teethers and chewable toys

 

For more information, check out what sensory diets are and this example template.


Lauren x

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