Have a Happy Sensory New Year! - Vanessa Southgate, Jigsaw Occupational Therapy

The festivities of Christmas Day will soon be upon us and then we will quickly be heading to a New Year.  This for many, is a time for reflection of the year past   and it’s often the time that people pledge resolutions for the coming year. Psychologically speaking there’s something powerful in a new year and the hope it brings. Generally people make resolutions to be better than they are, to improve themselves and to generally be a happier individual in the coming year.

For many families out there this may be an ideal time to put in place or update their sensory diets. A “sensory diet” is a personalised activity schedule that provides the sensory input a person’s nervous system needs to stay focused and organised throughout the day

Below are a few ideas to get those muscles moving and brain cells working right from the start of the day. These are written for your sensory seeking, sensory deprived or sensory sensitive children, but feel free to try them out on yourself first! Starting off the day with a sensory-friendly routine can make a difference between a happy productive day and a sluggish irritable day.  Be flexible and change the routine every so often or add in different components when things get a bit dry.  Either way try to attend to the body, brain, sensory system and the soul for a power packed day of productivity and contentment.

1. Stretch

Before you get your children up, get them to stretch! Legs out and arms up! Hold it for 10 seconds, take a deep breath and relax. Get them to do this 2-3 times before rolling out of bed.

2. Splash

There is nothing like a good splash to the face and hands to alert. A good face and hand washing can just do the trick to alert and awaken all the facial muscles to talk, see, eat and communicate.

3. Morning Workout

How about a homemade obstacle course before leaving for school. Heavy work in the morning can mean a more centred and engaged student throughout the rest of the day. When we connect our muscles with our minds we are more energised and organised.  The Resistance Loops are easy to use and effective tools for stretching and strengthening various muscle groups.  The Resistance Tunnel, requires heavy work whilst providing tactile and deep touch input, developing body awareness and motor planning. At Jigsaw OT we often use the Spiky Stepping Stones.  These are great to help develop motor skills and balance, while also providing a tactile foot massage when stepped on. The Obstacle Balance  assists the development of coordination, mobility, reaction, concentration, and can help improve posture.

To assist motor planning the Balance Paths  offer lots of opportunities to challenge. The Crawling Tunnel can be used in a variety of ways, crawl inside and use it as a treadmill, turn it over and fill with balls and hey presto you have a ball pit! The Peanut Rolls and Exercise Balls come in a variety of sizes and can be used in an endless range of activities.  Brilliant for flexion, extension, postural adjustments and emotional equilibrium.

4. Hydrate and Eat Breakfast

After the workout encourage a glass of water. Good hydration is key to good brain activity and muscle work.  Getting in a glass of water before the day starts can have huge impact on the nervous system. For breakfast, remember, the mouth acts as a sensory filter, so give it a good workout each morning with a lot of chewing, crunching and biting .Try some granola or whole grain toast.  Add in some tangy fruits for a mouthwatering sensory-oral experience.

5. Organisation

Have a visual list that is updated regularly so your child can see what they need to do each morning and what is coming up that afternoon. Be organised and offer your child a wipe erase board or area where they can keep a list of “to-do’s each day.

Hope you have found some inspiration to kick start 2018! Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy 2018 to you all!

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