Today, we’re welcoming Dr. Jane Humphries and Kari Rains to The Inspired Treehouse as part of our Happy New Year, Healthy Kids series. Dr. Jane and Kari are moms and professionals in the field of early childhood development.
Their work at Creative Educational Strategies & Services is geared toward providing educators, administrators, parents and other caregivers with the knowledge and research that supports best practices when working with children and adults, especially those that struggle with social and emotional regulation.
Dr. Jane is also the creator of Fiddle Focus, a company that sells a line of products designed to help kids with busy little hands to stay focused and regulated throughout the day.
Today, Dr. Jane and Kari are here to share their best Practical Classroom Ideas to Support the Sensory Sensitive Child. Take it away ladies!
We want to thank The Inspired Treehouse for inviting us to contribute to the Happy New Year, Healthy Kids series. As moms of “fidgety” children who need movement and sensory input throughout the day, we have constantly been researching and working closely with our children’s teachers to implement ideas to assist with the classroom environment.
These ideas—admittedly, some better than others—have helped our children but also offered teachers practical and easy additions and adjustments to use throughout the school day. This has included the school desk area, adjustments to manage space, and overall opportunities to move throughout the day.
Another added bonus, these ideas and strategies have been pretty easy on our pocket-books as well!
For the school desk and chair:
1 || School chairs can be hard for some children. Many classrooms have the dreaded wobbly chair, the chair with one leg just a little shorter than the others. Have several larger equipment options available for seating. Consider using bean bag chairs, large core balls, commercially made sitting discs or consider using a partially inflated beach ball or a bath tub head pillow to sit on. These options help meet vestibular sensory needs. They allow the child the opportunity to tilt back and forth while staying seated.
2 || Attach a Busy Fingers™ either underneath or on top of the school desk. This is a fairly new product that we have developed that provides several textures, a “push” feel and is Velcro’d to the desk. Feedback from parents and school teachers has been very positive and the many children using them have talked about how these have helped to reduce anxiety and address their need to “fiddle to focus”.
3 || Consider thick elastic bands like Bouncy Bands around the bottom of chair legs or the school desk that can serve as “exercise” opportunities with the child’s feet and legs while sitting and working.
4 || Provide a BOINKS® Fidget™, another tool we have discovered and added to our Fiddle Focus™ Store that can be placed in the school desk or in the child’s pocket. Small and quiet, these allow for a child to keep their fingers busy while concentrating!
For managing space:
5 || Use different sized hula hoops to help visually define the child’s workspace or colorful duct tape that provides markings on the floor area.
6 || Establish physical boundaries. Use big boxes filled with blankets as a special “seat” so that the child can find comfort in their own personal spatial awareness.
7 || Consider using a lap desk for the child to place on top of their legs while working on assignments. Not only does this apply pressure to the tops of the legs, we have found that adding a Busy Fingers™ creates additional sensory input when working on a class assignment.
8 || Consider the physical placement of the child’s desk on the outer edges of the classroom set-up or sitting in a chair just outside a circle of friends when doing group activities.
Allowing opportunities to move throughout the day:
9 || Weighted back-packs or bags (filled with old books or other weighted materials) strategically placed around the classroom are many times the PERFECT solution. The key here is “strategically placed”.
These bags containing appropriate weight (engage the child by having them help you prepare the bags with a weight that is comfortable to them) can be placed in the classroom with a pre-determined “movement plan” between teachers across the hall or school office staff.
10 || “Movement plans” can include carrying bags while delivering notes or other “important stuff” or carrying around the bags while participating in classroom activity.
11 || A variety of spray bottles (from finger spray bottles to industrial size) with accompanying sponges of different textures (with and without handles) and gloves for those children that struggle with touching water are such a simple solution! Determine areas within the classroom that can be cleaned, such as desk tops, cabinets, table-tops, ANY area that can benefit from a focused scrubbing time!
12 || For younger children, consider using another one of our creations called a Busy Hands™ which can be included in the basket or given to a child for use during challenging times.
13 || We both are huge advocates of recess! All children need to move throughout the day to better focus and have success at learning. Our fidgety children especially needed to move!
Over the years, we have witnessed teachers and principals taking away recess time for lack of compliance. While motivating to some children, others will have worse behavior if recess is taken away. Strategies like picking up trash on the playground, walking a lap around the fence before joining friends, picking up leaves, or other such helpful activities are much more likely to have a positive effect on behavior. It will make yours and your children’s lives easier if they get to move!
14 || Create a Sensory Basket with a variety of items to squeeze, push and fiddle with. These items can include squishy balls, small stuffed animals or small water-filled toys. Teachers have reported over the years that all children gravitate to this accessory in the classroom for one reason or another.
We are both parents with “busy” children……Kari has three school-age children and Dr. Jane has an older college student (yes, they CAN graduate AND go to college!). What we have found is that with a strong and supportive relationship between home and school all year round, children can have a healthy and moving school experience!
Wishing you well,
Kari and Dr. Jane
Photos provided by: Creative Educational Strategies & Services, LLC
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