Back-to-School Sensory Hacks
By Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz
It’s back to school time and everyone is looking to stay sane during this stressful (okay… also fun) time. Whether you are doing virtual learning, a blended program or face-to-face schooling, we are all trying to get through the day and limit the meltdowns from our kids – or us, for that matter! Whatever set of circumstances you are working under, please know that you are doing your best and you’re doing a great job! Here are a few sensory hacks to help your family get through this crazy season.
Sensory Surface: Did you know that you can increase your child’s attention span if you introduce a new idea for school work? Kids crave something novel and exciting when studying, especially if they are working on a skill that is difficult for them.
- Assignments: Try changing the surface your kids write on for a fun sensory experience! I use the ezpz Play Mat to create the perfect sensory surface for worksheets, handwriting activities and reading assignments. The side of the Play Mat holds a standard 8 x 11 piece of paper, making schoolwork ezpz!
- Flashcards: If you have to do drill work, like flashcards, try using the mat to place the cards and play a quick game of ‘Memory.’ This can help your little one to memorize sight words, colors, verb tenses, etc. when they are in flashcard form! The sensory aspects of the silicone mat help to hold the flashcards in place, keeping the game orderly.
Sensory Breaks: Online learning can be exhausting for your kiddo(s), especially if they are tactile learners. I have been using slime, playdough, foam and fidgets as reinforcement activities (and to help manage behaviors). Here are a few tips for using the Mini Play Mat to create a small space for sensory breaks:
- Fidgets: A fidget is a small toy used to help a child focus and remain calm. Place one fidget in each of the Mini Play Mat’s five petals. When your child is losing interest in online schoolwork, have them play with the fidget while continuing to listen. Once your child has played with the toy, they place it in the middle compartment. This may help keep your child maintain focus (and will keep the space organized too!).
- Quick Motor Activity: Be sure to give your kids 5-10 minute breaks throughout the day to break-up the monotony of their home learning routine. To manage these breaks, have LEGOs, blocks or beads ready for a quick fine motor activity. You can also use the time to teach skills like counting, sequencing, colors and prepositions!
Sensory Snacks: I like to use snacks to help stimulate a child’s senses and prepare them for more learning! It’s important to only offer a small amount to avoid kiddos getting sleepy during class. The ezpz Tiny Bowl is 5 ounces and the Mini Bowl is 8 ounces, so you can easily make a perfectly-sized sensory snack.
- Self-Help Skills: Try having your kiddo make their own sensory snack. This is a great at-home learning opportunity that nurtures their self-help skills and increases the chances of them eating a healthy snack. Encourage your little one to try their hand at making my kid-friendly Trail Mix recipe. And have them make enough for the whole week. Score!
What are some of your favorite back to school sensory hacks? Are you using our feeding products for at-home learning / snacking? Share your ideas and pics with us using our hashtags #ezpzfun #myezpzmat!
Dawn Winkelmann (M.S, CCC-SLP) is ezpz’s Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist. She has 26 years of experience teaching parents and medical professionals how to start babies on solids safely and encourage toddlers to overcome picky eating. In addition, “Ms. Dawn” is the designer of our award-winning Tiny Cup & Tiny Spoon (for infants) and the Mini Cup + Straw Training System & Mini Utensils (for toddlers).