Many parents ask me what I would recommend their children do after school/ kindergarten, specifically activities that will help encourage their child’s development and also be suitable to their child’s sensory preferences.
My first answer to that question is: ask your child. Many children know what their body needs and often the child’s interests will reflect their sensory profile. For example, a child who is sensitive to noise may not choose to be involved in an after school activity that is crowded, like a group sport, however, a child who seeks out movement throughout his/her day may be highly attracted to activities such as dancing or swimming.
Determining which activity may be best – group or individual, indoors or outdoors, etc. – will likely be a case of trial and error, where you would eliminate the obvious poorer choices for your child’s unique sensory situation.
Hopefully, the ideas below will inspire you to try different activities and help you make the decision about which activity to try first!
Dancing – Who doesn’t love to dance? Dance class provides many benefits for a sensory-seeking child, including: exploring movement, increasing awareness of body in space, increases coordination and memory, and providing a space where your child is able to express themselves through their body. Dance is often routine-oriented, which is often calming and soothing for the nervous system.
Yoga – Most children (and let’s be honest, adults too) benefit from learning relaxation and breathing techniques. A great choice for both sensory seekers and avoiders; many opportunities for inverting the head and receiving different vestibular inputs. The skills learnt at yoga can often be replicated at home and can be inserted into the child’s sensory diet.
Pottery – A meaningful and creative activity for the child that seeks out visual and tactile information from his/her environment. The child gets feedback from the tactile system when manipulating the clay as well as receiving visual input from using the spinning wheel. You all need more mugs and bowls, surly.
Horse riding – A great choice for our little animal lovers who connect with animals in such a meaningful way, this after school activity is becoming more and more popular amongst sensory children. The rhythmical nature of horseback riding is often very soothing and regulating for the nervous system, and it provides proprioceptive input from core strength. Of course, it is important to consider that this activity may not be suitable for children with gravitational insecurities.
Paediatric Occupational Therapist