Calling all sensory savvy teachers! Integrating a sensory diet in your classroom can lead to better productivity, longer attention spans and happier children. Choosing a cushion, fidget toy or balance board can be easy if you know the sensory needs of your students. Even if you’re not familiar with attending to a sensory diet, it’s not difficult to accommodate and you will experience the benefits as well.
A sensory diet starts by keeping all 5 senses in mind (touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell) as well as the sense of motion (spatial awareness) and proprioception (body awareness). By using tools to address all the senses, you can actually help your students filter out extraneous sensory information that can often overload their nervous system, making it challenging for them to learn, concentrate or focus. A good sensory diet will include movement breaks, fidget items, sensory seating, heavy work, soothing sights and sounds as well as calming smells that can assist with nervous system function and attentiveness. If you cannot address each of these in your classroom, choosing even one or two can have a tremendous impact.
Movement: Providing tools for movement or heavy work can keep your kids focused. By increasing blood flow to the brain and increasing respiration a bit, kids can feel great about being in your classroom. You don’t need to be a PE teacher to use movement. Having a ball chair, wiggle cushions, or a balance board in your room can really do the trick. Encouraging kids to move at their desk can make such a huge impact on their day.
Fidgets: Keep plenty of fidgets around for busy fingers. Using putty, desk fidgets, foot fidgets or gel tools can allow kids to move their hands without disturbing their neighbor. By using a fidget tool, individuals can also strengthen their intrinsic hand muscles and reduce stress as well.
Seating: Hard chairs are good for very small blocks of time, but offering floor seats, chair cushions or beanbags for reading, group or floor work can allow kids a bit more freedom to move about. Use alternative seating to meet the needs of your fidgety students or to provide a secure base for those with poor seating habits.
Heavy Work: Sometimes kids just need a mid-day workout to get re-focused. Keep a mini trampoline, therapy ball, rocking board or cozy canoe in your room for times when your kids need to do some heavy work. You can also keep some resistance bands available so kids can stretch in between class activities.
Sound, Smell and Sight: Are your halls noisy? Are your walls busy? See if you can reduce extraneous sights and sounds. Try to set up a sensory corner in your room and maybe add some soothing scents into your room too. For your overly sensitive kids, you can provide ear muffs or carrels to block out sound and noise that can be distracting. You can also add in some soothing sights and sounds that can be productive to learning.
By keeping sensory tools available and your kids’ sensory diet in mind, you are sure to get an A+ from every child and parent in your room this year!