In our house that bit of time just after coming back home from school is one of the real trigger points in the day. It’s a tired time of day for everyone, but my girls who have been masking non-stop all through the school day are simply beyond exhausted and in need of decompression and a chance to self-regulate.
I have found over the years that I need the quickest, easiest, least-stressful-for-me sensory activities on hand to provide us all with the best chance of navigating that hour straight after school. Once food has been offered and toilet break had, these are some of my favorites:
Cornstarch Gloop has the same appeal as slime. It is tactile, absorbing (if your child likes it) can be done in something as small as a cup – which then cannot be shared, which in this circumstance is useful. Simply mix cornstarch with a small amount of cold water and mix. Food coloring or a scent could be added but don’t need to be. Best enjoyed somewhere that can be wiped easily. Don’t dispose of it down the sink, leave to dry and then into the bin.
Sand - in the summer an outdoor sandpit with a cover is wonderful. But in cold or wet weather is not much use. Then I reach for a tray or roasting tin and pour rice or cous cous in which it can be played with, raked, pushed and poured. Toy animals or mini figures can be thrown in if on hand, but in a hurry I raid my kitchen utensils – measuring spoons, jugs, whisks.
Balancing – who can walk around the kitchen only walking on the lines between the tiles? Keep a string or a tape measure handy that can make a line on the hall floor to balance along. I have a fitness balance board kept under a chair in our living room that can be fetched out instantly.
Blankets – We have a selection of differently textured throws and blankets always on our chairs in the living room. They can be sat on, under. Wrapped around or cuddled. Some are furry, some smooth, some thick and heavy. Keeping them there all the time makes them familiar and quickly accessible.
Water – sometimes simply running a sink of water and grabbing some plastic cups and jugs is all that’s needed. In the summer having a water tray or table at the ready outside is great. Other times a cup or pot of water and a paint brush are an easier option – it can ‘paint’ on pavements, walls, driveways, garden chairs and skin (my youngest invariably paints her hands and feet and makes prints on the patio tiles).
To be continued…
Written by Cathy Porter