Sensory Seeking and Aversion Explained

Sensory Seeking and Aversion Explained

Where did that energy come from?? Can I please have some of the energy radiating from my child?

I noticed a number of restaurant staff watching me as our youngest was pushing me in my chair, arm wrestling with me and headbutting me (in a playful way). This is what happens when he is tired, overwhelmed, or excited.

Earlier in the day, I was getting very annoyed with this behaviour. Then I took the time to figure out what was going on…

He is the type of kiddo that seeks out contact. Deep pressure is his friend. Sometimes he has no idea that he is pushing me. I have to tell him that he is pushing me. I will give him a big hug and then he does not have to be attached.

There are some days that I feel like he is an added limb. This is usually when he is excited or worried about something. His big brother is moving out this weekend. I did suspect he would struggle with this big transition.

This type of behaviour is often labeled as Sensory Seeking.

One of his favourite activities to do when he is feeling a great deal of need to sensory seek is to build and climb into forts. Our basement is easily converted to Fort McSween!

The opposite of Sensory Seeking is Sensory Adverse. Children can easily go from one state to another very quickly.

Sensory Adverse behaviour can be refusing to go somewhere with loud noises, refusing hugs, not liking smells, picky eating and many other behaviours.

Our little man gets very sensory adverse in new situations. So he will cover his ears or plug his nose. We let him put up his hood or wear noise-canceling headphones when he wants.

If your child is displaying these behaviours it does not always mean that it is a problem. All humans will go through stages of being sensory seeking and sensory adverse.

 
What can you do if your child is constantly sensory seeking or needing help to calm as he/she seems like a wild child?

 

If your child is sensory seeking, lead him or her towards active activities. Lots of climbing, jumping, sensory play, pushing, pulling and being squeezed.

You can also get your child to carry heavy things. This input can be calming.

How can you get your toddler doing this type of activity? Ask them to help!! Our son loved to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. He also loved (still loves) to wear a backpack with lots of items in it around the house so I would fill up his backpack and ask him to carry it upstairs or downstairs.

 
What can you do if your child seems adverse to everything?

 

If your child is sensory adverse understand that he/she may refuse to eat certain foods and want to do quiet activities like reading, colouring, and sit close to you but not snuggle. Provide your child with the space to get comfortable with a new place or sounds. Then understand that certain clothing or foods can be very irritating, don’t push it. You will discover the different things that your child enjoys.

One of our son’s favourite things to do when he is feeling averse to things is to wear a tight-fitting hoodie.

 

Now here is where things can get confusing! Your child can go from sensory seeking to being sensory adverse very quickly!! It can also depend on the individual sensory system. For example, our son often seeks outs things that involve jumping, pushing and pulling but is adverse to various touches and sounds.

For more specific information related to your child please feel free to send me a private message or e-mail so we can address your specific situation.

Sensory Play: Let them Smell, Touch, Hear, Taste and See

There are a number of sensory play ideas that can be found on Pinterest or by following a number of different Facebook pages/groups. What is the big deal and really who has time for this???

When our little man was an infant or toddler, I often beat myself thinking I did not prepare enough activity for him. The fact is kids can have fun and enjoy a variety of different experiences without much work from you. Sensory-based activities are the smells, sounds, touch, taste, and sites your child is exposed to.

Sensory activities do not have to be elaborate. Children benefit from changes in the sensory input and output that they are getting. These activities can reduce boredom, calm children, or rev them up. You will soon discover what results your child will get from certain activities.

Here are some fun and easy ideas..

1. Making a fort

Throw a blanket over a chair or table and let your child explore.

2. Throw down a tunnel

You can get a collapsible tunnel that you let your little one explore through. For added fun, you can attach it to a fort.

3. Make your own ball pit

Throw a bunch of plastic balls in an indoor tent, blow up wading pool or large plastic container.

4. Climbing in and out of containers

If you have some empty containers your child can climb in to let him. There were many of times I would turn away for a moment and look back to see that our young man was sitting in the container of toys.

5. A bowl of ice cubes or snow

Let your child play with ice cubes or snow. You can give them a truck or some cars to drive through the ice or snow. You can offer mittens for them to use while playing.

6. Baking

Let’s be real! Baking for little ones is all about eating what you are trying to bake with. This is a great chance for them to learn how different things taste and a great opportunity to learn how to properly test food.

7. Water Play

Fill up the sink and let them play. I would throw a towel on the floor so I would not have to worry about a wet floor. This would (and still occupies) our young man when I was trying to cook or clean up the kitchen. He wanted to be involved so I would throw plastic containers and plates in the sink to be “washed”. Now at 6, he can legitimately wash dishes!

You can also add a number of items to the water to make it a different experience. A favourite in the Toddler Room I worked in was a plastic doll the children could wash. A favourite here was when we would throw in some plastic dinosaurs.

8. Goop

This is when you add 2 parts of cornstarch to one part water. Be prepared to have a fun experience!! When you touch it, it seems hard but when you pick it up it melts 🙂

I love Goop but this was not something our little man enjoyed.

9. Smelling Spices

It is just as easy as it sounds! Let your child smell different spices. If you are up for it let your child taste the different spices as well, Get your camera ready as there may be some weird expressions!!

10. Building with cans

I would put some cans on the carpeted floor and let him build with them. I would show him how to do it and then he would get creative. This did not always keep his attention for long but it changed his mood (and mine for the matter).

11. Make music!

Pots and pans are awesome for this. I would bring out a bunch of pots and wooden spoons and let him hit them. to reduce how loud things would get I would put a dishcloth inside the pot to reduce the noise.

 

These examples were very basic. You can get way more elaborate but at the end of the day if your child is happy or at least had a few happy moments your job is done for the day!!