I can’t begin to tell you how many times I hear teachers and parents who call me for advice to help a child that can’t sit still in the classroom. They ask me to create a Sensory Diet for this child (i.e a set of activities and tools incorporated several times a day in the child’s routine). I do believe in the benefits of a Sensory Diet however, I am VERY aware of its limitations as well. This is by NO means the magic bullet! A Sensory Diet is NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR AN ACTIVE OUTDOOR LIFESTYLE! One that provides children with the opportunity to run, jump, roll, climb, fall etc… (all important components of developing a healthy vestibular and proprioceptive system) I in fact believe that providing them with a Sensory Diet sets up these children for failure and greater frustration to the child AND caretakers! When a Sensory Diet falls short (which it almost always does), we then raise our hands to the sky and we say…”We’ve tried everything!” as though this child is now hopeless.
Children need to MOVE in order to LEARN and furthermore, they need to be OUTDOORS in NATURE, a natural environment where they touch, smell, taste, observe their world.They do not need to be entertained but rather learn to use what is out there in nature to play, create and use their imagination! Otherwise, what we begin to see are children that don’t know how to play alone, keep themselves busy, they fidget, tune out, disrupt the class by talking or getting up and they are singled out as having an issue.
When I observe classrooms, I often wonder how is it that the children who “behave” are not the ones that are singled out! They ARE CHILDREN! They are SUPPOSE to move, test boundaries, become excited and express it with their bodies! What we need in the schools (and at home) is NOT more academics, more homework more sitting (or even standing) to learn. We do not need to incorporate a Sensory Diet 3 times a day for 15/20min (an added burden to teachers and busy parents). What we need is for children to play and learn OUTSIDE as much as possible! They have a lifetime ahead of them for academics but only a short time to be children!
I encourage parents to push for longer recess, more frequent PE, classroom lessons that incorporate real life experience such as going outside or field trips and hands-on teaching methods.