I find that the most successful sensory diet is a simple sensory diet: one you can perform anywhere without fancy equipment.
Simple sensory diets are more apt to be performed consistently, and consistency is key to improving sensory processing.
This is why I co-created Sensory Sid Activity Cards. We wanted to give families a tool that didn’t require them to build a sensory gym in their house. Sensory Sid Activity Cards includes 42 activities, most requiring no extra equipment, guiding families through a complete sensory diet.
While equipment is not necessary to incorporate a sensory diet into your home routine, there’s one tool that I find versatile to simulate multiple sensory systems.
What should I buy?
Parents often ask me what they should buy to help them complete a sensory diet at home. They want a simple tool to add to their toolbox.
The most common tool I recommend is a therapy ball which is simple, versatile and economical.
You can perform nearly an entire sensory diet using a therapy ball.
While there are many different sizes and styles of therapy balls, you will need to find one that fits your child.
If the ball is too big they may have difficulties balancing themselves on it. If it is too small it may be too easy and not provide enough challenge.
For the younger kids, children that have more difficulties with balance, or one with vestibular insecurities, I like the peanut shaped ball. It offers a bit more stability and allows them to participate or use it without as much help.
For older kids, ones that like more movement, or need more of a challenge, a regular ball such as this, will work great and offers a bit more flexibility.
How to use a therapy ball for a sensory diet
Let’s look at some examples of how a therapy ball can be used to perform a sensory diet. (To learn more about sensory processing and the components of a sensory diet click here.)
- Use the ball to ‘steamroller’ or squish up and down the body, arms and legs, providing passive proprioceptive input.
- Lay on your stomach over the ball with your hands on the floor. Playing a game or putting together a puzzle in this position gives you heavy work or active proprioceptive input.
- Roll back and forth on your stomach by catching yourself on your hands then your feet for vestibular input.
- Sit on a therapy ball to activate the core and provide a more subtle input to the proprioceptive system.
- Sit and bounce on the ball to provide vestibular input.
- Roll the ball or play catch to work on the proprioceptive system, learning how much pressure or how hard to throw to get the ball to reach its destination.
- Play ‘around the world’. Twisting side to side, passing the ball around your body to someone behind you for vestibular input.
We often encourage people to work from a vestibular activity, to an active proprioceptive activity, to a passive proprioceptive activity. For example: using a ball, you can start by rolling back and forth, then transition to being on your stomach engaging your neck, arms, and upper back muscles while holding yourself up to play, then end with a ‘steamroller’ to get passive input.
As you can see, there are many options with a therapy ball. Their versatility (and fun factor!) are two of the reasons why therapy balls are my top choice. This tool will give you the most bang for your buck if you’re looking to expand your equipment to implement a sensory diet at home.