Top tips for parents managing sensory children at home- Guest blog written by Jessica Dark
With the recent outbreak of coronavirus we have now been advised to self-isolate. Many of us parents are already starting to panic as to how we will entertain the children whilst maintaining the house and even possibly working from home at the same time. The answer to this is simple, rather than letting the coronavirus sweep you into a frenzy, let’s start planning and preparing for isolation. Within this article Jessica Dark, creator of hygge me provides some helpful sensory tips and suggestions in order to help you plan for your children’s sensory integration needs whilst self-isolating at home.
1. Make a plan
One of the hardest things about being at home is the unstructured nature of it all. Without structure our food times, play times, sleep times merge and important relaxation and down time often gets missed.
An easy way of overcoming this is to create a timetable and a plan for your day. Schedule when you will work, when you will play and when you will have food and put it on a visual timetable for everyone to see. This new structure will help to bring some order to the day and help you segment your time more easily at home.
Free timetable links:
Key Stage One (KS1) – https://www.twinkl.co.uk/resource/t-c-006-visual-timetable-ks1
2. Promote hand washing through sensory play
Water play is a wonderful sensory activity which serves an additional purpose of cleaning our hands. Take whatever bowls and large depth trays you have in the house and fill with different water, you can use bubbles, food colouring, glitter and pouring cups. You can make ‘magic potions’ or simply splash your hands in it for a while or play with toys. This isn’t the driest of activities as you can probably imagine and if you do have access to an outside space you may want to take this activity to the bathroom. This sensory play can entertain children for hours and also helps maintain good hand hygiene, what is there not to love!
3. Increase oral supports
As with many viruses, we are encouraged to not place items in our mouth during this time. This is particularly difficult for us oral seekers who rely on oral chew supports to maintain balance and calm. A great way of reducing the need for oral chews is to provide oral sensory support in different ways. If you have an older child who can responsibly chew gum, this is a great alternative (I particularly like the strawberry flavoured gums rather than mint) but if you have a younger child or you feel your child would swallow gum then try to increase the amount of chewy and crunchy food they eat throughout their day. This can be in the form of dried mango (I think this is the best sensory feedback), carrot and cucumber sticks and crunchy pretzel, crisps and crackers.
4. Ensure you have relaxation time
The stress of staying indoors all day (with the occasional outside walks and park visits) can take its toll and we all need our own space to relax and unwind. What better way to promote relaxation time than by creating your very own sensory den or play area. You can do this in several ways. When my children were little, I converted an integrated cupboard in their bedroom into a sensory den by taking the door off and replacing with a curtain and kitting it out with soft furnishings and fairy lights. This became their favourite little sensory nook that they could go into to get away from everyone else. If all your cupboards are in use, then alternatively sheets over chairs is a quick and easy sensory den solution or a pop-up tent with lights and torches. When you create your den think of how to bring different textures to the environment through the furnishings you choose – fluffy blankets and pillows are great. You could introduce different scents through dried fruits or scented sprays as well as utilising different sensory supports: either natural, such as pinecones, shiny spoons, squishy sponges as well as your purchased toys flashlights and sensory supports. Providing hours of fun for the whole family!
You tube – how to make a blanket fort: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9Mwh-6MoIo
At the moment it is understandably a difficult time for everyone and as well as entertaining our children as parents it is equally important that we also maintain our own self-care and calm time away from the children. When your child rests or has some quiet calm time please take the opportunity to also rest. Don’t be afraid to schedule some movie afternoons with popcorn to take some of the pressure off and when you can please remember to take some time for yourself. For more ideas on how to relax and unwind please visit www.hyggeme.uk
Love to your sensory self,
Jess x x
Jessica Dark is the creator of www.hyggeme.uk and Facebook Group “Supporting and Celebrating Neurodiversity”. She supports children, teens and adults to find sensory and anxiety supports that promote calm and regulation.
Hygge is a Nordic word that refers to the feeling of comfort, connection and calm. Hygge was initially born out of Jessica’s own need for support. She describes herself as part of the ‘Lost Neurodivergent Generation’ – the generation of children where neurodiversity went unrecognised and consequently unsupported. It was only when two of Jessica’s children were diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum that she realised why she experiences the world the way she does. Prior to this she had no understanding as to why she had regular headaches, fatigue and meltdowns.
In her pursuit to understand herself and her children better she went on an educational and spiritual journey, studying psychology and reiki. Jessica is now at the University of Roehampton studying her Masters in Special Educational Needs.