3 Sensory Strategies to Try at Home (for a calmer holiday season!)

The holiday season is quickly approaching which means sensory parents are bracing themselves for more sensory-induced meltdowns, more puzzled looks from friends and family, more unsolicited advice and more… sensory overload. Lord, help us!

Bright lights, holiday music everywhere you turn, new foods, new smells, changes in weather, more plans, more transitions, more noise, uncomfortable holiday outfits, crowded gatherings, disrupted routines, it’s enough to put anyone over the edge.

To help keep your sensory-sensitive kiddo’s nervous system on the straight and narrow during this hectic time of year, here are three sensory strategies you can try at home:  

1. Use a weighted blanket.  Because sensory kids’ brains misinterpret sensory input, they’re often in a state of fight or flight, meaning their sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive. Weighted blankets provide proprioceptive input, which signals the parasympathetic nervous system to step in and tell the sympathetic nervous system to chill out.

According to research published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders, “The application of deep pressure, through weighted vests and blankets, has been reported to produce a calming and relaxing effect in clinical conditions such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and pervasive developmental disorders.”

Using a weighted blanket at nap time and bed time is an easy strategy to try for some added calming input.

2. Increase tactile play. Most, though not all, kids with sensory processing issues are impacted in their tactile system (sense of touch). Some are tactile-defensive (overly sensitive to tactile input) while others are tactile-seeking (under-sensitive to tactile input). Either way, stimulating the tactile system is an integral part of helping your child with his sensory issues.

How you do this is going to look different depending on whether your child is tactile-defensive or tactile-seeking. If your child is in occupational therapy, talk with his therapist about which tactile activities are calming and which are stimulating before you give this one a go.

Here are 3 tactile activities I've done with my boys:

Finger painting

Playing in a giant bin of LEGOS (that we inherited from our older cousin)!

Driving Matchbox cars through shaving cream

3. Provide as many "heavy work" activities as possible!  Heavy work refers to any activity that provides proprioceptive input. Think jumping, running, climbing, pulling, pushing, crashing and lifting. The input your child gets from these activities is calming and organizing for his nervous system, so in times of heightened stress, get in the habit of incorporating them as frequently as possible into your child's daily routine.

CLICK HERE for a list of heavy work activities to try.

What are your favorite home sensory strategies? Leave any ideas in the comments below. Hang in there, sensory parents, this holiday season has nothing on you!  

For more help tracking your child's holiday season triggers, CLICK HERE.


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Hi! I'm Cameron, mom of two incredible, "differently-wired" boys who have sensory processing challenges, wife of a nerdy surfer, mindfulness practitioner and Parenting Coach with master's degrees in education and psychology.