Toolkit: Sensory Awareness in Your Classroom

Many teachers are aware of the need to recognize what a child’s sensory system is telling him. This can help the child with cooperation and improve attention and behavior in the classroom. Here are some ideas on how to organize the classroom environment to decrease sensory over-stimulation. Here are also some classroom activities that provide a sensory-rich experience for young students.

Classroom Environment:

  • Decrease visual over-stimulation by limiting the number of hangings on the walls and ceiling
  • Avoid classroom clutter by providing containers for toys labeled with a picture of items found inside
  • Decrease auditory over-stimulation by dividing a large classroom into smaller play areas. Place children in small groups for these activities for some part of the day.
  • Provide a quiet space that children can retreat to when over-stimulated. Define this space by setting up a tent or drapes to make it darker and provide a rocking chair or pillows or bean bags to lie on.

Classroom Activities:

  • For children who are sensory seekers, allow ample time for outdoor and indoor gross motor play. Emphasize climbing, hanging from monkey bars, pushing/pulling heavy items, jumping on trampolines or jump ropes, rolling, and swinging.
  • For children who have trouble sitting still or concentrating, provide access to small fidget toys. Or allow students to sit on a large exercise ball, wiggle cushion, or bean bag, when appropriate.
  • When appropriate and with supervision, encourage chewing on crunchy or chewy items (licorice sticks, pretzels, carrots, chewing gum).
  • Incorporate texture into fine motor/art projects: add sand or oatmeal to finger paints, use scented Play-Doh or wet clay, and have areas for water play.
  • When working on writing, encourage students to try writing with color-change markers, scented markers, Magna Doodle™, battery-operated pens, sidewalk chalk, finger paint, pudding, or shaving cream.
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