sensory strategies for school

Sensory Strategies for School

Preparing your child to go back to school can be both exciting and challenging. Research suggests that approximately 1 in 6 children experience sensory symptoms that are significant enough to interfere with everyday life functions occurring at home and in the school.[1] Targeting the body’s sensory systems of oral, vestibular (movement), proprioceptive (body position), tactile (touch), visual, and auditory will help them to stay motivated and engaged in the classroom. Check out these 5 tips that describe various sensory strategies for school.

Sensory Strategies for School:

  1. Send your child to school with a healthy, crunchy snack in their lunch such as carrots,Sensory Strategies for School celery, granola bars, licorice, or gummy worms. Research suggests children with sensory processing difficulties, specifically those who are underresponsive to sensory input, benefit from crunchy snacks to improve their attention and arousal levels.
  2. Offer a move-n-sit cushion, wiggle seat, or theraband seat modification– Children who seek out movement often have difficulty sitting still in class. These children may benefit from some added movement opportunities to assist their body in focusing and attending to tasks. Often, move-n-sit cushions, wiggle seats, or tying a theraband around the two front legs of the chair offers the child just enough opportunity to stay aroused and attended without becoming too distracting.
  3. Assign classroom chores– for those children who are underresponsive to proprioceptive input, activities such as watering flowers, carrying books to and from the library, sweeping or mopping the floors, and cleaning the chalkboard are all effective ways to target the body’s proprioceptive system, which gives the body’s muscles and joints the resistant heavy work they crave. Often, these children require an adult to help them identify when their body needs to take a break and move around[2]. They may not register that their body is in an awkward, uncomfortable position when seated at their desk. Heavy work activities are often helpful in allowing their body to become more regulated and aware of their surroundings.
  4. Reduce visual clutter and auditory noise– For those children who are overresponsive to visual and/or auditory input, try and use natural light versus fluorescent lighting and reduce classroom background chatter whenever possible. Reducing visual and auditory external stimuli may help with overall attention and focus.  For grade school children, decreasing the amount of math problems on a page, and leaving plenty space between each problem may assist with better performance when working.
  5. Give children their own space– For children who are overresponsive to tactile stimuli or who have difficulties with tactile discrimination, it is important to decrease instances of accidental touch from classroom peers. For younger children, having separate carpet squares for them to sit on will reduce the amount of unexpected distracting touch from other classmates. For grade school children, it may be helpful to place their desk at the front of the class to avoid any unnecessary touch from others, or let the student walk at the end of the line to avoid anyone bumping into them[3].

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanston, Deerfield, Lake Bluff, LincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!


[1] Sensory Over-Responsivity in Elementary School: Prevalence and Social-Emotional Correlates By: Ben-Sasson, A., A. S. Carter, and M. J. Briggs-Gowan. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology J Abnorm Child Psychology 2009-01-20

[2] Kranowitz, C. (2005). How to Tell if Your Child Has a Problem with the Proprioceptive Sense. In The out-of-sync child: Recognizing and coping with sensory processing disorder (Rev. and updated ed.). New York: A Skylight Press Book/A Perigee Book.

[3] Kranowitz, C. (2005). How to Tell if Your Child Has a Problem with the Tactile Sense. In The out-of-sync child: Recognizing and coping with sensory processing disorder (Rev. and updated ed.). New York: A Skylight Press Book/A Perigee Book.

Snacks for Kids: How Much, When, and What to Give Them

Snacks are an important part of a growing child’s diet. It is important to set boundaries around snacking in the household, as eating too many caloriesfrom snacks can lead to excessive weight gain. Also, “grazing” on small snack foods all day can decrease appetite at mealtimes. Beloware the general “snacking guidelines” by age.

Snack Suggestions for ages 1-2:

Snacks should be offered twice a day, between meals. At this age, they still need somewhat frequent feedings, as eating every few hours supports their growth and energy needs. Make sure that snack times have defined starting and ending times (about 15 minutes), so that the child isn’t grazing all morning or afternoon.

boy and girl with snack

Smart Snack Choices:

  • fresh fruit
  • dried fruit (once they are able to chew it well)
  • pretzels
  • whole grain or rice crackers
  • rice cakes
  • dry whole grain cereal
  • string cheese
  • only offer water to drink between meals

Portion sizes: ½ piece fruit, ¼ cup dried fruit, 1/3 cup pretzels, crackers or cereal, 1 rice cake, 1 piece of string cheese.

Snack Suggestions for ages 2-4:

Growth rates slow quite a bit during these years, compared to the rate of rapid growth in infancy. Hopefully, up to this point, your child has been offered meals and snacks at regular, scheduled times daily. He or she should have a good sense of when mealtimes are coming and what behaviors are expected at meals. At this age, your child may not need snacks between every meal to support growth. This is the age of picky eating, so be sure your kids have a good appetite for meals by not giving them unnecessary snacks.

Smart Snack Choices:

  • fruit or vegetables
  • granola bars
  • yogurt
  • string cheese
  • rice cakes
  • whole grain crackers
  • only offer water to drink between meals

Portion sizes: 1 piece of fruit, 6 mini carrot sticks, 1 granola bar, 4 oz yogurt, 1 string cheese, 6-10 crackers, 1 rice cake.

Snack Suggestions for ages 4-8:

Growth occurs at a somewhat slower rate during these years. However, kids at this age should be very active. Often, kids will say they are hungry after coming home from school. Do not allow them to come home, get a bag of chips, and sit in front of the TV munching. Instead, offer a small snack, a glass of water, and tell them to go play until it’s time for homework or dinner.

Smart Snack Choices:

  • fruit or vegetables
  • granola bars
  • yogurt
  • string cheese
  • rice cakes
  • whole grain crackers
  • only offer water to drink between meals

Portion sizes: Pick one or two of the choices listed above, based on how hungry your child is and how soon the next meal will be.

Snack Suggestions for ages Pre-puberty and Puberty:

Children start puberty at different ages, and this is another time of rapid growth. Kids in or entering puberty often feel hungry all the time, especially if they are very active. Be sure to have quality snacks available to them. Refrain from stocking the house with junk food, because that is exactly what they will go for first.

Smart Snack Choices:

  • peanut butter spread on whole grain bread or fruit
  • trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
  • cheese and whole grain crackers
  • rice cakes or veggies and hummus
  • smoothie with 1 cup yogurt + ½ cup frozen berries + ½ banana + handful baby spinach leaves
  • granola bars
  • hard-boiled eggs

Portion sizes: ½ sandwich, 1 piece of fruit with 1-2 tablespoons peanut butter, ½ cup trail mix, 1 piece of cheese and 6-10 crackers, 1 rice cake with 2 tablespoons hummus, smoothie per recipe above, 1 granola bar such as a Clif Bar or Larabar, 1 hard boiled egg with ½ piece of whole grain toast.

Children at any age who are overweight or obese should choose fresh fruits and vegetables as their snacks. Children who are underweight should always be offered snacks between meals, and the snacks should include a combination of carbohydrates, fat and protein. If you need more guidance on this issue or on meal planning for your family, make an appointment to see a registered dietitian at North Shore Pediatric Therapy.


20 Healthy Snacks for Picky Eaters

As a Registered Dietitian and a mother of a toddler I am constantly asked about my recommendations on kid friendly snacks. It is important to keep in mind that toddlers eat with their eyes first. In my experience I have learned that kids love bright colors, small packaged foods, and a variety of textures. Here is my top 20 list of healthy and tasty items. Happy snacking!

20 Healthy Snacks for Picky Eaters:

  1. Sunsweet plums- High in fiber, boy with healthy snacksantioxidants, and potassium
  2. Brother’s All natural Fruit Crisps- contains 2 fruit servings per bag
  3. Fruit smoothie- Add avocado or spinach to make it a green smoothie
  4. Trader Joe’s fiberful ends and pieces fruit leather- High in fiber and carbs
  5. Graham cracker and yogurt sandwich (freeze)-Good combo of carb and protein
  6. Champion Chobani yogurt- High in protein and calcium and probiotics
  7. Probugs squeezer- High in protein and calcium and has 10 live active cultures (probiotics)
  8. Silk Pure Coconut- High in calcium, Vit D, B12, low in calories, lactose free
  9. Kozy shack cowrageous pudding- Good source of Vit A, D, calcium and fiber
  10. Trail mix- High calorie, High heart healthy fat, protein, and carb. Great source of calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, and potassium
  11. Honey nut cheerios- Good source of whole grains, vitamins and minerals
  12. Popcorn- Good source of whole grain, low in fat and calories
  13. String cheese- High calcium and protein
  14. Kale chips- High in Vit A, C, E, fiber, calcium, manganese, and phytonutrient
  15. Edamame-High in folate, fiber, and protein
  16. Hummus and veggies- High in protein, vitamins and minerals
  17. Homemade potato wedges- Less fat and fewer calories than French fries
  18. Veggies with bean dip- High in protein, vitamins and minerals
  19. Almond butter, banana, and honey sandwich-High protein, fiber, heart healthy fats, fruit serving, and whole grains
  20. Wowbutteron whole grain English muffin- High in omega fat, protein, fiber, nut free, gluten free, and dairy free

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