Sit still. Pay attention… These seem like easy concepts, but these days while kids are attending school or an online class from their bedroom or kitchen table, it’s especially hard for kids to focus and listen to a teacher who is online.
ActivityHero sought out the guidance of Chaia May, an early childhood educator and writer. Her daughter was also struggling with ADHD and was “intensely fidgety and anxious” as a child. Chaia gives us five easy ways to use sensory integration to help kids overcome wiggles and wandering thoughts.
- Fiddle Away! Choose your “Tactile”
Give kids something in their hands to fiddle or squeeze. Very interestingly, pressure to the fingertips can help a child focus (imagine prayer beads) and also facilitates speech in speech-delayed children. Let them choose amongst things such as a double-balloon filled with cornstarch or a stress ball.
- Push with your legs!
Tie an elastic band around the four legs of their chair. As the child pushes against it with his or her feet, they work their ligaments and muscles. It also gives kids who like to rock in their chairs an alternative so that they don’t fall over!
- Sit on a bouncy chair
We have the fewest nerve endings on our bottoms, so we are most passive when sitting.
Use the bouncy ball chairs and build up their core muscles. If their core is strong, it helps their back and their shoulders. Supporting their weight helps keep their whole body strong and more alert. Also, a little bouncing break adds to vestibular stimulation.
- Pedaling for mind power!
Get one of the mini-bicycles that you can peddle that fit under your table or take breaks every half hour or so and do the “bicycle” on the floor. Or use training wheels to prop up a kids bike like this clever mom on Facebook.
The magic of the bicycle is that when you are using opposing arms and legs, the mind cannot wander.
5. Carry a load and feed the muscles and mind!
Give children a load of books to carry or a few chairs to push in between classes. While they push, they are working their ligaments and large muscles. It organizes and calms the whole body and makes them stronger as well.
These tips utilize sensory integration to help the brain stay alert, calm down, re-focus on one particular thing or cancel out extraneous information.
Did you know there are three more senses in addition to the five senses we learned about in school? The first is tactile. It describes whatever sensory information is carried through our skin. Children can be either especially sensitive to touch (hypersensory) or not feel it at all (hyposensory.) Input into the tactile system can calm or stimulate as needed.
The second is proprioceptive. This describes what signals we get from receiving input into our ligaments and muscles (elbows, knees, for example.) Pushing into them can help children (particularly those who are lightweight and don’t get that input when they walk) regulate their nervous system and not bump into things or avoid things as they seek sensory input or avoid it, accordingly.
The third is vestibular. This is what we feel when we fight or resist gravity in any way: spin, twist, lean over, or rock. Children who love to spin, climb, or rock are self-stimulating to help organize their nervous system. Just leaning over can be enough to recalibrate and re-focus.