This is such a valuable tool that is very little understood outside of those studying Early Childhood Development, but there is a reason that every daycare has play doh, sand tables and other texture play opportunities. Children require touch and sensational experiences. This is even more necessary if the child has any developmental delay from Autism to SID. But don’t just limit yourself to things that can be felt with the hands. There are needs for deep muscle compression that are met very well with mini or full-size trampolines. Water play can be done at a water table, in bowls on the kitchen floor, or in baths to calm the frantic child. Consider different tastes and textures in food for a fully rounded sensory experience.
This is just good for the development. If there is a problem it becomes vital. Toddlers and children who are chronic biters can be benefited greatly by increasing oral stimulation: lemonade; spicy foods; sweet; sour; hard; soft; pudding; cold; hot; sucked through a straw; gum or hard candy. If you meet a child’s oral needs proactively they are less likely to bite or seek to meet their oral needs inappropriately.
Children with difficulty focusing or sitting still can benefit from breaks to run around the yard and bounce on a trampoline. A child with severe ADHD can be helped to focus during studies by doing them orally while he bounces on a mini trampoline. If he needs to be seated and is having a hard time concentrating he may do well to have play doh or silly putty or even a worry stone that can be kept in his pocket.
We have become a culture that seems to elevate the idea of children being confined and still. Gone are the days of children leaping around cars sans carseat and bike riding through the neighborhood. I’m not suggesting we get rid of carseats or ban all video games, but we have to accept that our current societal choices bring consequences that wise parents will accommodate. The child who must spend hours driving in a carseat needs time before, during and after long trips to move his big muscles. For every hour that a child spends playing video games it is advisable to get them moving for at least an hour. The video game systems we have were hand-me-down gifts from friends but if I were going to purchase a system for our family it would be a Wii so that they are moving while playing!
On the other end of this issue is the child who is overstimulated easily. Rather than pouring water they may prefer frequent baths of a comfortable temperature. Rather than rolling on a rough carpet they may prefer deep muscle massage with soothing lotion. If your child needs stimulation, provide it. If they need less stimulation, that can be provided as well.
In cases where a child is really struggling with special needs that are manifesting in physical and sensory-seeking ways, I would encourage you to find a qualified Anat Baniel provider, especially one who specializes in special needs children. Our Movement Lessons have done wonders for the children—especially the twins who were born preemie and with developmental issues and our oldest with autism. I cannot recommend our provider enough and as soon as she is ready to hang her shingle and get a site I will provide a link to her.