We are out of ideas, patience, and positive attitude. Please send spring soon, or at least temps we can play outside in.This post got me thinking and inspired me to write this blog post! Just how can parents combat being stuck inside for days on end because it's too cold to go out and play, even for a few minutes? The answer can be summed up in two words: Sensory Play!!
Everyone has a sensory diet whether we realize it or not!
Sensory diet is simply what we do during our day to help our bodies feel calm and happy. Some people need to exercise to keep their bodies feeling in balance. Some people do yoga. Some people need to just get away from everyone else and read a book for a bit. Others like to take a calming bath. As adults, we have just naturally discovered what it is that makes us feel "normal" and we do those things on a regular basis. Kids don't always have the benefit that comes with age and they don't understand that they need to get their energy out to keep their bodies feeling calm. The direct result of this is bouncing off the walls!
I have sensational kids. And although, they are fantastic in the literal definition of "sensational", what I really mean is that they are sensory-sensitive kids. My 10 year old daughter is very sensory-seeking and tactile and my son is VERY sensory-seeking. These two need regular sensory "input", as we refer to it, in order to feel calm and to regulate their bodies. Kids receive this input through vestibular (the sense of movement, centered in the inner ear) and proprioceptive (sensations from joints, muscles and connective tissues that lead to body awareness) activities. This means they LOVE getting out and running around or doing obstacle courses through the house. But sometimes Mommy is just plain tired and wants things to be quiet. Though my kids are especially sensitive to pent up energy, all kids can get squirrelly in the winter months when they are stuck having indoor recess or never leaving the house. This website has a great, relatively succinct summary of the sensory diet. Even though some kids have more sensory needs than others, ANYONE can benefit from this knowledge. (By the way, on a sidenote, I've read articles recently about how some schools--was it in the Netherlands?--take brain breaks more often during the school day so their kids can be active and studies show these kids learn better. There is definitely a connection here and I wish more schools would understand this! Instead, more and more kids' recess time is being diminished in favor of more desk work....anyway, I digress....)
What can you do INSIDE YOUR HOUSE to help your kids?
If you just can't summon up the energy to do one more crazy running game or obstacle course inside, try some of these other ideas to help the kids work out some of that pent-up energy in quieter, more subtle ways. Many of these will help do the same things that running around outside does. It will give your kids "input" and help make their bodies feel more relaxed and calm.
For toddlers/preschool age (click the titles to go to links):
a link to our FAVORITE homemade playdoh recipe. You can use anything you find in your house to play with playdoh. We particularly love the potato masher tool, rolling pin, pizza cutter, kid-safe scissors and cookie cutters. Here are some ideas for playdoh invitations! There are so many great ideas for playdoh play out there!
I don't really have any posts on bath fun, but there are a million ideas on Pinterest for this. Here's one great blog written by Crystal, who writes Growing a Jeweled Rose filled with water activities called: Bath Activities for Kids. Growing a Jeweled Rose is one of my favorite blogs. This mama really knows her sensory stuff! And comes up with A-MAZING recipes for anything and everything. CHECK.IT.OUT.NOW! Splashing around in the water will give your kids some of the same sensory input as running around outside!
Again, I don't have specific posts for this. But throw some water in a bin on the kitchen table, grab some measuring cups, funnels, and more. Let them make a mess! It's just water! Or click on "water play" for more activity ideas. Adapt some of the outdoor play for inside!
You can even try a mess-free version on a window! They get sensory input and you don't have the mess! Win win for everyone!
liquid watercolors or food coloring. You can play with it in the bathtub too. You can buy it at the dollar store. Just wipe up the mess when they are done!
Play Foam (Floam)
School age kids
this link for creative ideas with playdoh.
Any art projects that involve getting glue on your hands!
Watercolor Salt Paintings
You can even dump some in the bathtub to play with. It's free and we have an over-abundance here. Bring the snow fun indoors where it's warm! You can even talk about how solids turn to liquids. Build in some learning with the sensory fun, since they've been missing out on school anyway. ;-)
These are good for toddler/preschool as well as grade school age kids!
If You Have Room in Your House:
Tie a beach ball to a piece of elastic and hang it from the ceiling/a railing and hit it around:
A couple other ideas (all of these were suggested to me by a certified Occupational Therapist):
--Grab a sturdy blanket, have your child lay in it on one end. Roll them up and then unroll them! Great input! (obviously, it goes without saying that you should be safe with this activity and adult supervision applies!) If you happen to have a gym mat at your house (yes, we do!), fold it in half. You can gently squish them inbetween the two halves. Both
--Use a yoga ball or large playground ball--Have the child lay on it on their belly and roll forward and backward over it. You can use this in various ways...one idea: do a puzzle this way. Have the pieces on one side and the puzzle on the other. Child can grab a piece or two of the puzzle, roll over the ball, put pieces in puzzle, roll back for more pieces. Or building with blocks. Whatever had pieces that you put together.
--Bear walk (http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/muscle-tone-activities-toddlers-preschoolers-14475.html), crab walk, wheel barrel walk around the house.
Here is a full list of all the sensory activities (many of which I've already linked to in this post) on my blog!
And if you're interested in further reading on sensory diet, check out these great books! They are insightful even if you don't have sensory-sensitive kids! They will help you understand how the body reacts to its environment and how sensory stimuli can affect our bodies!