5 reasons sensory integration should be your lifestlye

At my workplace, we suggest parents to bring their kids to therapy twice a week. We do an individual evaluation so the frequency is not the same for all the kids, but in most cases it turns out to be twice a week. The sensory room is big, has many things and it can be a lot for certain kids to handle. But that’s therapy. And it’s great. But if you ask me, sensory integration should be looked at as lifestyle. No matter if your child is “healthy” (of a typical development), or has some developmental difficulties. Two hours a week is simply not enough. Just knowing a thing or two about what it is and how kids respond to the stimuli can give you a lot of insight into why kids do things the way they do. For instance, why do kids walk on the arm rests and frames of your living room couch, why they slide down 100 times and still want more, why they can spin around in the park for 5 minutes and you want to puke just by looking at them?

  1. If parents knew just a little bit about the SI, it would not be such a mystery and I am sure parenting would be even a bigger joy. It is to me, anyway.
  2. I love seeing my little boy exploring his body. I don’t get all first-time-nervous-mom on him, but I am a relaxed parent as I understand what my baby is going through.
  3. SI is great for your child but is also good for you. Your brain is not as easy to “change” as the child’s, but is not impossible. When I started working in the sensory room I would get nauseas within three to four rounds on the swing and now I can do at least 10. I also couldn’t write texts or read messages on my phone while in the moving bus, and now I have no issues with that whatsoever.
  4. Other than that, as a parent you get more creative because you need to find ways to offer your child the stimuli they need in different ways: e.g. Proprioceptive stimulus can be acquired by jumping, rolling, pressing, bouncing off of something such as a mat.

    acquired from: kikisclinic.co.uk
  5. Last, but definitely not the least is the fact that one or two hours a week is really not suffice. Can’t emphasize that enough.

And that old excuse “I don’t have so much time to play with my child because I have to ____________ (enter your reason why)” is not applicable any more if you make SI your lifestyle. Because if you live SI, then you do it all the time, becomes a way of living and communicating. But have in mind that even if you apply the SI concepts, you should still be the child’s parent and go for the hour or two of therapy with a professional. Doing it at home does not mean stopping it with the professionals by any means.

And remember, it should be fun! :)

Let’s get dirty: Top 5 sensory summer activities

I love summer for its practicality when it comes to sensory activities and the creativity at this time of the year is endless. Here’s my top 5 sensory activities for the summer season:

1. Water

  • Sea: if you are planning a trip to the coast, this might be a great sensory experience for your child. Not only swimming, but walking through the shallow water, touching the sand or pebbles with bare feet or just splashing it around is good.
  • Bathing in the tub: You can prepare baths for your child in the yard or the balcony like I did with my son. My 4 month old loves to bathe and splash water everywhere. During the hot days I take his tub out in the balcony and give him a coconut oil massage first (as per Indian tradition) and afterwards we dip. If your child is a bit bigger, fill the tub with some plastic balls for the kid to play with while bathing.
  • Color: You can use some food coloring and color the water for your child to play with. Throw in some cups and toys, too. Tea party? Sounds great!


2. Sand

  • Dry sand: put a lot of sand in a box, hide some small toys that your child loves inside and have him or her search for the toys. Take a cup and slowly sip the sand through your child’s hands, arms, hair, legs and feet. See if they like it in one place more than the other. I worked with a few kids who didn’t like to touch sand or seeds but they loved when I sipped it through their hair.
  • Wet sand: you can of course take molds and make different shapes and build it up to a castle or a road for your child’s favorite car.
  • You can bury your child’s feet or hands in the sand so they feel its heaviness (proprioceptive stimulaiton) or tie up some sand in a bag and around your child’s feet, on top of his shoulders or even around his waist.

20140415-002444.jpg tia sand

3. Foam

  • if your child has a tendency to put their hands in mouth, perhaps you should use an edible version of a shaving foam such as whipped cream. Again, you can color it with food dye for more visual attraction, you can have your child put the foam all over the body, starting with foamy mustache or role play “how does mommy put her facial cream on her face?” or “how does daddy shave his beard?” and continue onto legs and arms. Add some natural scent (orange, lemon…) if you are using an edible version for the olfactory and gustative stimulation.
  • you can dip your plastic toys and give them a nice foamy bath and rinse them in water afterwards.
  • all of these can be done outdoors, while child sitting in a tub or on the pebbles.
  • if you don’t have pebbles around your house, consider using grass or other unstable surfaces such as a balance board.
Girl and a boy playing with shaving foam.  Permission acquired from their parents.
Girl and a boy playing with shaving foam. Permission acquired from their parents.

girl playing with water

4. Barefoot

  • summer is a great time to be barefoot. There is very less chance your child will get a cold due to walking barefoot in the summer season. Exactly the opposite, walking barefoot could do a lot of good to your child so use at least this season for that. If your home heating system is good enough, you can have your child barefoot even during the winter inside your home.
  • opportunities are endless: walking on the sand, pebbles, small stones and if you are brave enough, you can have the child walk on the pine tree needles (be careful, some insects like to hide in there!), shallow part of the sea or lake and through the grass!

t n t in grass

  • you can have your child be barefoot in a park too, if you find that socially acceptable.

tia barefoot in park


5. Indulge

  • Flavors: seasonal fruit, Popsicles
  • Smells: woods, fruits, flowers, Mediterranean herbs
  • Hot & Cold: You can give your child some ice (be careful!) to play with, see it melt or spread it on his body. You can also dye it with some food colors for more visual fun. To make it even better, use some fruits to color it and you ask the child to lick it as Popsicle. On the other extreme, no, I am not suggesting you should have your child play with fire, but let them feel the warmth by walking barefoot in the sun (don’t let them burn their feet though! Concrete floor and stone can get pretty hot so be careful. Try it yourself before letting your kids do it). Let them put some ice on a hot surface (again, be careful and always around your child for safety measures!) and see it melt. Let them see you cook and try putting their hand high above the cooking pot so they feel the vapor but can’t get hurt. Can’t emphasize the safety measures enough for these ideas!

Summer is great because even if your child spills something, it will get fried quickly. Oops! Lapsus calami. I meant, dried! This just tells you what temperatures we’re currently having in Croatia. Kids can spend most of their time outdoors and enjoy the natural sensory play. I’ll keep adding activities as I do them myself with my niece, nephew and son.

Until then… stay hydrated!

What’s the point?

A mother of a boy with autism asked me once right there in the middle of a session: “What’s the point of him swinging so much, I can do that with him in the park?” As I went deeper and deeper into explaining the concepts of sensory integration and why her son needed the vestibular input and how swinging would help him in school, a parallel train of thought started unwinding in my head. Does this lady see the big picture here? There she was, a gorgeous, polished and relatively young mother of this boy. She was always very polite and in the mood for at least a small talk. She rarely stayed in the sensory room but when she had questions, she would stay inside and I would take some time from the session to talk to her and make these concepts a little bit more close to her. So, after many years of explanations from my boss, and a couple of extra years of explanations from me, she kept asking the same question: “Why are you letting him swing so much, I can go to the park and let him swing there for free.” Now, let me just be clear about this, she was definitely not a stingy lady, just the opposite. So, for all those who can’t see the forest for the trees… What’s the point of sensory integration therapy?

Sensory integration has practically one ultimate goal, with small goals in between. The ultimate goal is to help children with any kind of developmental disorder or delay learn. When a child has sensory deficits, they find learning to be very tiring, tough, uninteresting etc. One very important goal that helps us getting to the learning process is the (self)regulation. This is a very tricky one. It is the one that is very individual and rarely you will find a nice and simple equation to get to the regulation and self-regulation point in a child. One day jumping and rolling on the floor will be a bingo, but tomorrow that might cause a tantrum.

Piaget nicely indicated that play is the work of children. They learn a lot better when actively participating as oppose to being told what to do. So, what’s a better way of helping children in their journey to the land of knowledge than the sensory smart play. I follow the child’s interests, observe their sensory appetite and I try using that to help them learn new things; whether a skill, or a word. Some children can only function and learn while getting their stimuli whereas some children are ok with being stimulated first and then afterwards successfully getting the task done. So, in order to get the cognitive tasks done which are on a higher level, we need to sort the basics that our body needs first.


I’ll try making this even more clear. In order to successfully learn, you need to be ok with your sensory self. You don’t need to be perfect and rarely somebody is. But people and children with a more substantial sensory disorder will find learning very tough. However, we can learn to compensate our sensory deficits to be able to function normally with every day challenges (taking a shower, putting clothes on and getting out of the house, getting a haircut, sitting in a class, having coffee in a crowded mall, cooking a spicy dish, reading a book, writing a paper, etc.). So, this is the big picture: settling the sensory basics for the higher cognitive tasks such as learning.

And just an FYI… If you ask me, sensory integration, yes, it can be a therapy, but I would rather if parents and adults used it as a lifestyle. Think, breathe and live (and play!) in a sensory way. Don’t wait for those one or two hours a week for your OT to work with your child and help them regulate. Talk to your child’s therapists, learn from them about your child’s sensory needs and implement them all the time: while the child is eating, when the child needs to brush his teeth and go to bed, on your way to the preschool, etc. I don’t think a parent should necessarily acquire a role of a therapist, actually better if not, if possible. But, hopefully you play with your child anyway, why not making it sensory friendly in your own home or a park. So, to answer the question that a patient’s mother asked: if I let your child swing as much as his brain needs, that will regulate him and thus he will learn better. And yes, I would love it if you would take him to the park to swing more, whenever the boy wants and needs (I only assume his biggest need would be before and after his classes).

Pump up child’s proprioceptive system

These are some of the things you can do with your child to bring his/her proprioceptive system closer to the regulated state:

  • utilize your home:
    • lay mats of different thickness and softness onto the floor (information coming from the joints)
    • put some mats or safety sponges onto the walls (for children who like to run and bounce themselves off of the walls)
    • have Pilates kind of balls in the space (child can roll on the ball on their stomachs or you can lightly massage them with the ball on their backs or squeeze them in between two balls, or have them jump on the Pilates ball while catching some other small objects)
    • big cushions (take a duvet cover and fill it up with pillows, Styrofoam or small soft balls and have your child jump on it, cross over it, crawl on it, lay down on it etc.)
    • fill up the crib with small plastic balls to make a ball pit.
  • have fun out in the streets:
    • pass each other a ball, small stone, pine cone
    • pick up pine cones or stones into buckets of different sizes (thus different weight)
    • try walking and running with small weights around the ankles
    • walk around in a vest with some weight in it
    • walk in deep snow, through puddles of water, sand, in high grass, in mud, different surfaces
    • walk up or down the steep streets
  • other creative activities:
    • make a dough out of water and flour. Some can be smooth and soft, some you can make rough by adding seeds and some you can make a little dry. Ask your child or show them how to pull a little bit of dough with their fingers, make a small ball and paste the ball onto a piece of paper. For older children, you can make a line or a shape on that piece of paper and they should paste the dough balls onto the lines. This is also great for tactile regulation
    • jump on the trampoline in a rhythm



Kako senzorički opremiti kuću?

English version

Jeste li vi među onima koji imaju prazan podrum koji k tome nije vlažan te je savršen za senzoričku sobu? Ja nisam! Mi živimo u stanu. Imam doduše garažu, ali ne odgovara ovim kriterijima. Prljava je, vlažna i puna stvari. Također je i dva kata niže. Svakako nije namjenjena za senzoriku. Moji roditelji imaju podrum, ali je također vlažan, prepun stvari i ima veliku škrinju. Ne odgovara našim potrebama. Dobra vijest je da vam ne treba zasebna prostorija. Jedna super strana senzorne integracije je što nas traži da budemo vrlo kreativni. Djeca i roditelji s kojima radim inspirirali su mnoge moje ideje, igre i trikove.

Dakle, što možete učiniti da vaš mali, skučeni dom bude senzorički povoljan? Počnimo razmišljati u 3D! Iskoristite svoje zidove, plafon, podove, vrata itd. Sve može biti korisno. Ali najprije pogledajte koje su potrebe i mogućnosti Vašeg djeteta. Jesu li potrebe Vašeg djeteta više proprioceptivne, vestibularne ili možda vizualne? Imajte na umu sva osjetila, ali u prostoru imajte malo više stvari koje podražuju ono osjetilo koje Vaše dijete najviše treba. Ne morate imati svu tu opremu i pomagala cijelo vrijeme nasred boravka i po cijeli dan. Mijenjajte raspored i opremu prema želji odnosno potrebi djeteta. I svakako imajte djetetovu sigurnost na prvom mjestu.

Za propriocepciju:

  • stavite strunjače različite debljine i mekoće na pod (informacije dolaze iz zglobova)
  • stavite i strunjače ili zaštitnu spužvu na zidove (poglavito za djecu koja se vole “zabijati” u zidove)
  • imajte pilates lopte (dijete se može ljuljati na lopti na trbuhu ili ga možete masirati loptom po leđima; malo ih stisnuti među dvije lopte kao u sendviču; mogu skakati na lopti dok hvataju neki drugi manji predmet)
  • veliki jastuci (uzmite plahtu od prekrivača i napunite ju jastucima, stiroporom za igračke ili malim lopticama da djeca mogu skakati po tome, puzati preko tog velikog jastuka, prelaziti preko njega ili pak leći na njega)
  • napunite krevetić ili vrtić malenim platičnim lopticama da stvori bazen s lopticama.
baby in the crib

Za taktilno:

  • napravite taktilne ploče kod kuće (mogu biti jednostavne poput ovih kvadratića na slici niže dolje ili možete otići korak dalje i napraviti brojeve i slova od različitih materijala i tekstura, pa čak i PECS kartice u 3D!) i stavite to na zid. Ako imate veći neiskorišteni zid, možete ga obući u neku tkaninu ili materijal.
  • stavite različite materijale na pod i najbolje bi bilo da dijete boso hoda po njima, ako je moguće. Možete imati jedan kut sobe, ili kut od kauča popunjen jastucima različitih materijala i tekstura (mekani, tvrdi, izrezbareni, vuneni, krzneni, glatki, bodljikavi) te nekoliko jastuka koji izgledaju isto, ali su različite težine, te i treću kategoriju jastuka koji izgledaju isto ali su različito punjeni – grahom, sterilnim mačjim pijeskom, perjem, kamenčićima ili stiroporom)
  • bojanje i pisanje također može biti zabavno (zeleni kaktus je kemijska olovka te ako ste toliko kreativni kao ovaj dječak sa slike, možete popiti i malo mineralne vode (“pikave vode”) iz kaktusove posude).

IMG_0020 IMG_0021

  • Kupanje: voli li Vaše dijete vodu? Ako da, kupa li se u kadi ili ga tuširate? Voli li jaki mlaz ili slabi? Možete se igrati pjenom za brijanje dok se dijete kupa te staviti po licu i tijelu, namazati i patkice. Također dodajte i taktilne podražaje popust krupne soli ili šećera u pjenu i namažite na djetetove ruke ili tijelo. Bolje da se sami namažu. Možete dodati i jestivu boju za vizualni podražaj. Time možete namazati i igračkice za vodu koje su bodljikave, spužvaste ili glatke).
  • Oralno: dijete su može prati zube i trljati jezik i desni četkicom – postoje klasične četkice, no i one za bebe i od NUKa. Možete i svojim prstom masirati oko usta i obraze. Također i desni i jezik ako vam dijete dopusti. Moj sin obožava tu masažicu uz pjesmicu “Wheels on the bus”. Puno se smiješi na to.

Za vestibularno:

  • stavite ljuljačku u kuću (neki roditelji su instalirali mrežu za ljuljanje iznad svog bračnog kreveta pa bi se djeca popela i skakala na krevet – pazite na sigurnost!! Možete instalirati ljuljačku na plafon, a na susjedni zid stavite konop pa kada se ljuljačka ne koristi, samo ju zaglavite između zida i konopa da ju ne morate uvijek skidati. IKEA ima jednu ili dvije koje ja svakodnevno koristim. Dijete se može ljuljati u različitim pozicijama (dok sjedi, na trbuhu, na koljenima ili dok stoji) i u različitim smjerovima te možete kombinirati i druge aktivnosti skupa s ljuljanjem poput hvatanja lopti različitih težina (proprioceptivno) ili materijala (taktilno).
  • možete imati balansne ploče ili jastuke. One samo da daju vestibularni podražaj nego su bodljikavi pa daju i taktilni podražaj.
  • jedna majka s kojom sam radila je okrenula kauč naopačke i koristila ga kao tobogan za svoju kćer. Ja sam koristila velike jastuke za naslon te sam ih stavila niz kauč pa su se nećaci na tome spuštali kao niz tobogan.


Za vizualni:

  • zapravo svi materijali i oprema već imaju nekakvu boju i oblik. Ako je Vaše dijete osjetljivo na vizualni podražaj, pojednostavite Vašu opremu. Također smanjite i broj svjetala u prostoru. Za one koji su na drugom dijelu kontinuuma, možete uvesti više boja, oblika i veličina.
  • uzmite rotirajući reflektor s više boja


  • ako stavite strunjače različitih visina (boja i tekstura) na pod kao što sam napomenula u dijelu o propriocepciji, to je izvrsno i za vizualni sustav.

Kroz cijelu kuću: ponekad je teško zadovoljiti dijete kada je vani -30 stupnjeva C. Parkovi nisu najbolja opcija ne samo radi hladnoće i jer su mokri od snijega ili kiše nego i jer se u Hrvatskoj vrlo brzo zamrači po zimi, već oko 16 sati. Iz nekog razloga, kod nas u večini parkova nema ulične rasvjete. Ali ima nešto što možete učiniti i unutra. Iskoristite cijelu kuću ili barem dio za poligon: rasprostrite jastuke, strunjače, stolove, balansne ploče, lopte i sve što Vam se čini zgodno u niz prepreka. Ako Vaše dijete može pratiti upute, dajte mu i nekakvu igračku koju na cilju mora staviti u košaru. Cilj može biti i toliko jednostavan kao i poljubac mami. Preko nekih prepreka dijete može puzati, hodati, provlačiti se ili čak preskočiti. Evo kako je kod nas:

Gurati jedan drugoga u autiću.
proći kroz tunel
Možete uključiti i kućne ljubimce ako su raspoloženi!
Mogu proći i kroz otvor za pećnicu od dječje kuhinjice.
Ima li Vaše dijete brata ili sestru? – udružite ih! Neka jedan drugome budu prepreka ili most kroz koji se treba provući.
Vojničko puzanje
Neka dobiju dopuštenje za iduću prepreku nakon obavljenog kognitivnog zadatka.
neka pužu ispod stolića
i na kraju, na cilju, neka ubace igračku u košaru ili kao ovdje na slici, u vrećicu.

Budite kreativni i zabavite se!