In Early Years I have several pupils each year who have sensory processing issues. For the majority the underlying cause of this is that it has come part and parcel as an element of their Autistic Spectrum Disorder, however sensory issues can come as part of a variety of Special Educational Needs, physical development issues or even children with no additional needs.
Any child who has issues with proprioception (perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body), vestibular awareness (Sensory system that contributes to balance and the sense of spatial orientation) or is over or under responsive to sensory input will benefit from sensory play.
For children who struggle with sensory input, solid, simple forms can have a calming and focussing effect. Even more soothing is the feeling of smooth wood, which can warm up in your hand as you hold it. Children with sensory processing disorders will often have very specific sensory preferences and tactile toys and puzzles can be beneficial when they are learning to find tools to self sooth. For younger children being able to learn new things with tactile resources can make education an enjoyable and calming experience.
It can also be beneficial to provide toys that are not overly stimulating or challenging and, in doing so, create opportunities for problem solving and developing hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity with a soothing texture and solidity. Toys which support life skills, such as learning to manipulate levers or tie shoelaces, are also beneficial, as are sequencing toys. Toys such as hammer and peg toys can help with hand-eye coordination, hypermobility (specifically muscle strength in hands) and exerting force and eliciting a sensory response.
Outdoors working on gross motor skills and balance can help to develop underdeveloped proprioceptive and vestibular senses. Balance bikes can be particularly beneficial and enjoyable.
Dolls houses and real world toys such as cooking sets or doctor kits, can help children to learn and process social interactions.
For some great guidance on sensory processing disorders visit this website.
Here are some lovely Playbalu toys to support sensory development
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