Summer Sensory Strategies

Summer is officially here and although some things look different many staples remain the same. In today’s newsletter we are going to provide you with sensory strategies to help your child enjoy some typical summer moments! As always the foundation for effective sensory processing is consistent sensory input. Make sure your child is getting lots of outdoors time, lots of heavy work and lots of vestibular input; this will provide them with the ability to benefit from the strategies we are sharing below. If you need some ideas on how to do that check out our social media or previous posts. Now on to summer fun!

Fireworks

Fireworks are a sure sign of summer festivities, but they can be loud and overwhelming for many. One thing to remember about fireworks is that they often happen late because it needs to be dark out. So now there are 2 things at play,  not only is your child being exposed to the loud booms and bright lights, but they may be overtired. This doesn’t mean you can’t choose to go to fireworks, but know that you have several elements at play and temper your response to your child accordingly. Some ideas to keep your child happy and prepared are as follows: 

  • Use noise cancelling or regular headphones with favorite music on in the background 
  • Watch the fireworks from afar
  • Do a craft and have a discussion about fireworks prior to the event so your child knows what to expect
  • Along the same lines as the above suggestion, read books and watch videos of fireworks
  • During the fireworks show provide your child with comfort and offer them the opportunity to leave if needed 
  • Stay calm yourself. This is so hard to do but our children coregulate to our state of being. If you are constantly worrying if they are okay, they will vibe with that and it could escalate things. Everyone take some deep breaths and if this activity doesn’t work out this year you can try again next summer! 

Sand

The sand and the beach can be very bothersome to some people’s sensory systems. You always want to respect this, a day beach trip is not the time to get your child to power through their discomfort (it won’t work!). If your child is sensitive to sand, start things off in small doses. Try walking barefoot in the backyard, then progress to a sandbox (where they can place their feet inside). There are so many shoe options that will allow in a little bit of sand without submerging the entire foot (natives and crocs are some examples). Allow your child to explore both wet and dry sand and see if one is less irritating than the other. Give your child buckets and shovels to make sand fun, not just something to deal with. One of the hardest parts of sand is getting it off our bodies. Baby powder is an excellent way to get sand off without the scratchiness that can occur. Allow your child to dry off and then sprinkle a little of baby powder and rub (gently). 

Sunscreen

Sunscreen is a big struggle for many kids. Use deep, firm pressure when applying sunscreen, this type of input is most often calming. You can check in with your child if the pressure feels too light, too hard or just right. Try a variety of application approaches; spray sunscreen, lotion and face sticks can all help with application. It’s hard to think straight when your child is fussing about putting on sunscreen, but explaining the reason why they need to wear sunscreen can be helpful as well.  You can use videos online or a social story here (check out the video we found online below). SImple language such as “sunscreen protects our skin from the sun, see the sun up there” can be helpful. Distraction is also a great technique here. The sensation may be uncomfortable, so you can help your child focus their brain elsewhere. Start by recognizing that they don’t like it and validate those feelings. “I’m sorry, I know you don’t like this” and then explain why sunscreen is necessary. From there move on to something else. You can sing a favorite song, go through the alphabet naming things that start with the letters, talk about a favorite TV show, game or movie. 

Water

The number one recommendation we have with water play is safety. Yes we want your child to be comfortable and happy in the water, but we want them to be safe more than that. Constant supervision and awareness of the water is necessary. From there, the recommendations are similar to what we have said above. Start small if water is overwhelming. Spray bottles, small pools and buckets are good examples. Some children may like the sensation of a sprinkler but for some this may be very overwhelming. Always respect how your child feels and again if a sprinkler is too much then go smaller with a spray bottle or set the sprinkler very low. 

The main reason we don’t recommend pushing your child in these situations is related to “fight, flight, shutdown” response. Our nervous systems are wired to go into one of these 3 modes when under prolonged and elevated stress. If your child is uncomfortable with any of the above mentioned activities they are feeling stressed. If you push them too hard or lose your connection to them in these stressful moments, you will see a fight, flight or shutdown response. This could look like a tantrum, running away or full on refusal. These are all scenarios to discuss with your OT so they can help problem solve your specific situation, but when you are in the moment you want your child to have a positive experience as much as possible. 

We hope these suggestions help ease some of the discomfort around typical summer scenarios. If you have more questions please reach out to us!

Written by Jessica Addeo 

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