Sheryl Isaacs is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She is currently working in Scotts Valley seeing clients in private practice.
Sheryl has worked with families and children that have experienced a wide range of issues including: anxiety, trauma, depression, autism, ADHD, developmental issues, behavioral issues, divorce,
bulimia, grief, communication and self esteem issues.
She provides parental coaching, child therapy, sibling counseling, family therapy, marriage counseling, and individual counseling.
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Children with ADHD, Autism and Learning Disabilities
What all Children Gain from Sensory Activities
Sensory activities can help children regulate their emotions and help them to learn self-soothing techniques. They help calm children when frustrated. They can increase attention and help a child to be more mindful and in the moment. Sensory activities increase vocabulary and give an opportunity to create and play with words. Sensory experiences are able to expand learning, allow for problem solving and testing of hypotheses. They allow children to put their natural bent of curiosity to work. Children can tap into their non-verbal reasoning skills and better recall information learned. Plus, there is the added benefit of children being able to collaborate more due to the calming effect of sensory activities.
Basic Sensory Activity Example: Dirt, Mud, and Kids
What is it about dirt and mud that all little children like? It is the sensory experience. How it feels when it runs through your fingers. How it gushes through your fingers and toes when mixed with water. Like magic it changes its form with just water! What amazing joy that this small transformation of dirt into mud makes in the heart of a child. Using what is available in your child’s natural environment to bring the joy of exploration is sensory fun at its best.
Building a Volcano with the Boys
As my grandsons played in the backyard they began to build a pile of dirt, scraping it with their hands into a pretty healthy pile. Their immediate goal was to pile the dirt high, making a mountain, not allowing the dirt to fall. As the mountain grew the boys noted, “It looks like a volcano!” So began the layering of rocks around the volcano. The boys worked carefully to place the rocks so the mountain would get larger and take on the shape of a volcano. Then they noted the volcano needed a hole in the top. Carefully they made the hole trying not to disturb the well placed rocks.
As the boys looked at the volcano they decided that it needed water, “Can we pour water in it, Nana?” After the water was poured in the boys noticed something…it did not stay! The water was disappearing. “Nana, where’s the water?” This was an opportunity to talk about absorption. The boys poured more water and tested out their hypotheses. What if rocks were added here or dirt added there? Could that stop this absorption from happening?
To extend and build on their play I went and got bath bombs to add to the water. The boys looked intently as the bombs fizzed in the water. As the water was absorbed by the dirt they added more water to the volcano. Then they need more bombs, this time three were added for increased “fizzy action.”
The final step in their play was “volcanization.” This process involved the destruction of the volcano. The boys fervently pushed the rocks and dirt back and forth, knocking the volcano flat. It was fully “vonlcanized” now. They squished the mud between their fingers. They rubbed the muddy rocks with their hands. Thoroughly satisfied they stood up and gazed at their creation. They were satisfied that this was the definition of “volcanization."
You can see how valuable this activity could be if I were teaching about volcanoes, absorption, chemical reactions or even focusing on social skills. It would be possible to use as a group activity to teach children about anger and how it can “erupt like a volcano.” The possibilities are endless. It is not difficult to incorporate sensory play into the lives of children. This is something that you can do as a parent, therapist or teacher. It is time to think outside the box and let our children reap the benefits of sensory play. Get your mess on!