The Sensory Approach to Learning

This is my favorite time of the year!!! Back to school!!!

I get to do what I love the most! Giving workshops to all the wonderful teachers that I work with! Here’s a little snippet of my workshop. You can view all the slides by following this link.

Here are some things you can do to create Sensory Smart Classrooms:

Classroom Organization:

1.Set up your classroom in stations and make sure you have a quiet area where kids can calm and regroup if needed when the class gets too loud.

2.Make sure the quiet area has lots of book, heavy blankets, pillows, bean bags, earphones, soft music, fidget toys.

3.Provide fidget toys such as tactile balls, “stress” balls.

4.Use visual schedules at the beginning of class that “maps” out the children’s day. This helps kids transition more easily from one activity to the next and keeps them more organized.

Classroom Activities:

1.Use songs to help children transition such as “Clean up…clean up…” or flick the lights.

2.Make sure your schedule allows for movement breaks as well as table-top activities. Brain Breaks are great.

3.During circle time. Keep the children that have a harder time keeping still next to you or make sure you give them something to hold like a puppet. Give them a fidget toy to hold on to or even a weighted lap pad. You can also have them sit against a wall.

4.Try to plan activities that incorporate as many sensory components as possible. Ex: finger paint on textured surfaces.

5.You can begin all table-top activities with a little “chair exercise” program that allows all the children to get their state of arousal at the same level. Ex: prior to commencing a handwriting task. Sing a song with the children that wakes up the arms, legs, stretches etc…

6.Consider having a “treasure box” with a variety of sensory toys. You can send a child to pick a sensory toy that helps them calm and become centered/organized. Ex: Put stress balls, fidget toys, body brush, lotion, etc…

7.Make a “bean bag snake” using a sock and dried beans. The over-aroused child can put it on his shoulders or lap to help calm during circle time or at table-top.

8.Outdoor activities are an all around wonderful sensory experience.


1.For children who need to calm, use deep pressure such as pressure with your hands to his/her shoulders

2.Another great way to calm is to give a child heavy resistive work to do ex: carry heavy books to the table, push/pull heavy cart.

3.For children who need increased arousal, have them do a few jumping jacks, wall push ups etc… or use light touch from your finger tips to awaken their senses.

4.For children who touch other peers during circle time, consider sitting them against a wall or bookshelf for extra grounding and trunk support, give them a fidget toy to hold.

5.Touching others can be an indication that the child needs input to their hands and body. It can also be a spatial awareness or body awareness challenge. Give input to the hands by brushing the child’s hands, play with playdoh/other resistive toys, clap hands. I also use the one arm rule to teach personal space.

6.For a child who has difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next, allow him/her to hold on to an object that they like (aka.  A transitioning object) This helps them stay organized during the transition. You can also assign a task to the child such as “helper” (ex: he holds the cards you will be using and brings them to circle time)

Have fun implementing these strategies and let me know how it goes!

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Hi, I 'm Nancy

I’m an Occupational Therapist (OT) with more than 18 years of experience and whose greatest passion is working with children of all abilities. 

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