These days we are more aware of children who struggle with sensory and tactile sensitivity, developmental delays and other diagnosed emotional and behavioral issues, and it is good to be sensitive to these needs when creating a play space for children. As a mom who has one child with sensory hypersensitivity, one child with Poland syndrome and another child who is diagnosed with RAD (reactive attachment disorder) and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), I have come to understand the importance of overstimulation and environments or items that could cause dysregulation for my children.
When creating a playroom that is not only fun but is also beneficial and effective in promoting the child’s gross and fine motor activities and functions, the key is to keep the five senses in mind.
“The big thing to know is that all senses develop in the brain and you should activate as many senses as possible at one time,” Rebecca Banks, center director for Brain Balance of Overland Park, says.
Light blue or purple colors are calming, so painting the walls in colors such as these will promote a focus-based and relaxed environment. If the walls are too bold and busy, it can cause distraction and overstimulation for children. Also, be mindful of screens, such as TVs, video games and other electronic games. It is best to have a screen-free play area as these devices can be counterproductive to positive behavior.
Music has been proven to be helpful to a child’s development, and low-tone nature music is the best to play in the background for a child with sensory issues. Loud, upbeat music with too many words may increase anxiety for some children.
Be sure to have healthy snack options available when children are playing, such as food with sugar from natural sources, like fruits and vegetables. Children get hungry during play, and it’s better to offer healthier choices than junk food, which can increase hyper behavior and cause dysregulation.
“Essential oils can be life-changing in regards to supporting sensory needs and are a great way to replace toxins in your home,” Ashlee Welton, a Young Living distributor, says.
A couple of oils that are helpful with emotional and behavioral regulation are peppermint and eucalyptus. You can place a diffuser in your play area with these oils or a combination of oils to create a more enjoyable and relaxing playtime.
Children often respond differently to sights and sounds, so be considerate of your child’s needs when buying toys with noise, especially if your child suffers from a sensory disorder. It is also good to be intentional in buying age-appropriate toys and educational items that will provide an opportunity to increase your child’s fine and gross motor skills. Some great options include finger paints, Play-Doh, hula-hoops, trampolines, jump rope, bubbles, board games, tunnels, kinetic sand, memory/match games, flashcards, coloring books, lacing cards, Legos, jacks and cross-stitch. Weighted blankets are also great for children who need deep pressure touch and offer a sense of security and relaxation.
ABOUT STEPHANIE DULIN
I am a girl who wears many hats. I am a wife, mom, fitness instructor, writer, adoption activist and creative designer as well as a taxi driver for my four athletic and energetic boys who are 15, 10, 6 and 2. I still love rocking out to Bon Jovi (yes, I am telling my age a bit), and you never have to twist my arm when it comes to dessert—chocolate is my favorite! The saying that “the days are long and the years are short” is definitely ringing true in my life right now as I am trying to keep up with a teenager, a toddler and two in between! My mind is always full of ideas, and I often start many projects at the same time. I am a Pinterest junkie, and I am a frequent shopper at any of our local craft stores. Color is one of my best friends, and I love helping people who have a lack of style come to love their space.