From the feeling of the sheets we sleep in to the texture of the food we eat, from the birds chirping around us and the smells coming from the kitchen to the clothes we wear, we are constantly taking in information from our environment, all day, every day.
This information comes in through our senses, and the way we take it in is called sensory processing. Each of us processes this information differently.
Some want more stimulation, which is called sensory seeking.
Some want less, which is referred to as sensory defensive or avoidant.
Everyone is different, and we are always looking for the “just right” amount to keep our bodies feeling comfortable and regulated. This is called sensory modulation and it’s critical because it affects the way that we feel internally as well as our thinking and behavior.
When we feel comfortable internally, we are able to think clearly and use the skills that we have to engage with others and initiate and complete tasks. Being regulated has a huge impact on how we are able to manage our thoughts, emotions and actions.
When we are not getting enough sensory stimuli or movement in our system or we are flooded with too much, we might shut down, get distracted, feel overwhelmed, or become dysregulated.
Does this ever happen to you or your children? It’s common with kids who have sensory processing issues, but we all need to get a healthy regular dose of sensory and body movement in our daily lives to ensure that our body is getting the input it needs. And when our body gets what it needs, our mind can function at its best.
For some people and in some situations, our body does things innately. Think about some of the things you do to keep your body and mind comfortable and engaged that you might not even be aware of. Do you twirl your hair? Bite your nails? Fidget with your pen? Walk or pace? These are all things that provide sensory stimulation to help people stay regulated.
And sometimes, we need to be more conscious and create daily routines and schedules that include specific activities that incorporate sensory activities and movement. These can be called “sensory breaks” or “movement breaks.”
For the month of July, I made our calendar theme Sensory and Body Breaks with simple ideas for caring for your body and mind through a daily dose of movement, sensory breaks, and healthy habits for you and your child. Activities range from taking a dance party break to relaxing each body part one by one. The dance party idea helped me recently, when I was in a terrible mood and ready to crawl into bed, but a friend convinced me to dance instead. I truly felt uplifted and have been dancing and shaking every day since.
Purchase the full 12-month theme-based calendar here for only $11.99. It is packed with 365 ideas, tools and activities to be mindful and hold intention with your daily interactions with your child to help them listen, cope, care about others and engage socially so that they can develop critical social and emotional skills for friendship, school and life. Be sure to get your child involved, as they probably have some great ideas too. This can be a win-win because you will feel the benefits too.
These sensory breaks can be as frequent as every 10–15 minutes for younger kids or kids with more sensory needs or they can be sprinkled in every couple of hours for a few minutes at a time. And don’t forget that these are not just for your kids—they are also good for you, so join in and do them with your child! It’s a win-win and can be part of your daily dose of Connection and Body (from April’s calendar).
We might be limited in the social and recreational activities we can do right now we are not limited in creative ideas to help the body and mind feel good and stay calm.