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7 Sensory Diet Exercises Inspired by the Olympics

Get inspired!

The Summer Olympics are here and it’s a great opportunity to be inspired and get creative with your daily sensory diet exercises.

Sports are a fantastic way to add sensory input into your child’s daily routine. The variety of events at the Olympic Games gives lots of opportunities to get creative with our sensory diets. 

Let’s explore some of the sports in the Summer Olympics and what type of sensory input your child might get from participating in them:

  1. Swimming. Perhaps you have the next Micheal Phelps in your household, or maybe just a sensory seeker. Swimming provides a great tactile experience. Tactile stimulus relates to touch, and swimming, splashing, playing in a water table, sink, or with buckets and cups is a way to explore this sensory experience. 

    Swimming engages all your muscles, which provides heavy work and proprioceptive input to the body. Swimming is also great for body awareness and coordination. 
  1. Cycling. Though your child might not be ready to participate in the summer games or the Tour de France, learning to ride a bike is a great opportunity to work on coordination and balance. Riding a two-wheeled bike, a trike, or even a stride/balance bike also provides an opportunity for heavy work and engaging the muscles. 
  1. Gymnastics! This may be one of the best Olympic sports to get a wide variety of movement and input. Somersaults, cartwheels, and rolling are all fantastic and simple ways to get vestibular input. These also provide proprioceptive or heavy work input. Doing a headstand, for example, gives you deep input into the arms and shoulders, but also vestibular input since you’re upside down. 

Mix it up! If your child is not old enough to perform some of these more complex movements, help them do a wheelbarrow walk, bear walk, or frog hop. Encourage them to get creative while trying to mimic the floor routine by spinning, jumping, standing on one foot, or rolling. 

  1. Weightlifting. Moving heavy items engages the muscles and stimulates the proprioceptive system. When you lift, carry, or move heavy things you stimulate the proprioceptors in your muscles, joints, and ligaments. If you have a sensory seeker, heavy work is a great way to fulfill their needs. It is typically an activity that helps with improving regulation and preparing for focused work.  
  1. Team sports. Soccer, basketball, baseball, and volleyball all provide great opportunities to work on direction following, teamwork and coordination. At the same time, they provide great sensory input with running, jumping, throwing, kicking, etc. 

    Throwing or kicking a ball and shooting a basketball work on proprioception as they require our system to learn how hard to throw or kick to be successful. 

Get creative! You don’t have to do completely structured sports to be able to be inspired by the Olympic Games. 

  1. Obstacle Course. Set up an Olympic-themed obstacle course in the backyard. Guide your child through different movements or activities to provide them with a well-rounded sensory diet. 

    Have them roll across the grass, jump over an object, balance on a board, and lift a rock onto a table. These activities give the body vestibular and heavy work input. 
  1. Balancing. Balancing is a great way to work on body awareness. Make a challenge out of it! Try to have them complete the balance activity without touching the ground. Help them slow down their body and focus. Guide them to take a deep breath, slow down, and move more controlled in order to succeed.

Troubleshooting & other tips

Get them involved! 

Engage your child. Have them help you set up the obstacle course. Encourage them to be creative and see what they come up with. This can also be a great way to get your child to participate if you have difficulties with them engaging.  When the child has more control and involvement in the activity or task they are more likely to partake, so use that to your advantage here. 

If your child is younger, has difficulties focusing, or tends to be overstimulated by movement-type tasks (such as rolling) use a simple focused activity to keep them regulated and engaged. Some examples of this are: 

  • Have them roll across the room to grab a puzzle piece then roll back to place it on the board. 
  • Frog hop to collect the pieces of a simple toy to put together like Legos or blocks. 
  • Help them do a wheelbarrow walk to clean up by gathering and placing their toys away in a bin. 

Did you come up with other creative sensory diet exercises? Share with us! Comment below or email us, or share on our social media channels. Sensory Sid strives to create a community where we learn from each other. 

Sensory experiences are all around us. Enjoy the games, become inspired, have some fun, and train the next Olympian!

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