The Christmas season is a fantastic opportunity to get our little ones involved in some Christmas craft activities at home. For those of us short on time or ideas the shops are full of templates and packs that you can put together at home… here are some lovely craft ideas that have been sent to us by some of our families this year, paper chains, both shop bought and homemade, and a beautiful Christmas llama.
Don’t forget there is still time for you to win a copy of Love Jean by entering our Christmas time book give away. Share your Christmas themed sensory ideas with our community… by leaving a comment on one of our Christmas themed blog posts or on our facebook page … before the 15th December 2018
The first Sensory Ladders were made in 2001 for adults with sensory integration difficulties receiving help with mental health difficulties in Cornwall. Influenced by the paediatric Alert Program, they offered therapists a way to combine Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and Ayres’ Sensory Integration, addressing the development of the person’s self-awareness in collaboration with ward staff on an acute psychiatric inpatient unit.
The need to start with the person where they are at, before introducing learning about new ways of being, including the development of new skills, made it necessary for the Sensory Ladder to remain a very individualised and personalised journey within a close safe therapeutic relationship.
Both Ayres’ Sensory Integration(ASI) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy(DBT) share a common understanding that development and change can only occur within a safe environment. The DBT idea of balancing safety and challenge reverberates strongly with Ayres’ concept of the ‘just right challenge’.
Creating a Sensory Ladder is about creating opportunities for an adult or child to learn to become aware of themselves in a new way – to explore and discover new things about mind, body and brain. It allows the therapist and person to do “curious wondering” together, and for the person to try new things – creating and promoting active but informed risk-taking; testing how we might feel and experience something when we do it differently; new ways of being – new ways of responding.
Making and using a Sensory Ladder is about the journey together within a safe therapeutic relationship. It’s about getting to see and know someone in a very different way, getting underneath the skin of behaviours that are perhaps being described by others as tricky or challenging.
The Sensory Ladder facilitates the reframing of behaviour that are a result of sensory integration challenges, providing the first step of acceptance of the behaviour necessary before strategies and therapy support development and change to happen.
This post is about a sensory project I found, making weighed snakes from recycled tights. I first discovered this project on Pinterest, and while most of the ideas I find there remain pinned to virtual idea boards, I couldn’t stop sharing this one, until someone challenged me to make it happen. This post is all about that process.
First though, a little about me. As a Children’s Occupational Therapist and mother of four children aged 12 to 6 years, there are many of times when 2 worlds collide. I often resist the urge to over-examine my own kids and develop hacks to make them more independent. And it’s hard to escape my husband’s protests that if the kids are struggling with anything, I must have “brought it in from work” and should fix it. This is especially true of the sensory issues… especially my daughter who hates certain clothes and hair brushing and who has literally turned her need to spin into gymnastic prowess.
This takes me back to Pinterest and the weighted tight snake, whose sheer genius seemed undeniable. I had assessed children for years and at times had recommended weighed products for those children. The extra deep pressure provided by weight isn’t for everyone but the kids I met who liked to sleep under all the stuffed toys on their bed or who would climb into the dog’s bed with the family dog for cuddles had already discovered for themselves that it made them feel better: more calm, more alert. Some teen girls who struggled with the unbearable feeling of tights had told me that when they used something weighed as well as other strategies, they could wear certain tights that they usually couldn’t tolerate. At our house, my daughter’s main struggle with dressing was how to get dressed for school when the weather grew cold and it was time for tights. So I collected my daughter’s rejected tights and ordered some weighed beads and planned my project, which I will share with you so that you might have a go at creating some of your own.
You need / I used:
A pair of rejected tights
Something to fill them with (weighed beads, rice, lentils etc)*
Pins (not 100% crucial but they will help to hold things in place, especially if you don’t sew often)
Matching buttons 2 or 4 (if you want eyes)
Felt/fabric (if you want a tongue)
Velcro (one leg will be the inner layer, the second will protect it and can be sealed with Velcro)
*a note on filling- if you choose dried food, like uncooked rice or lentils, they might sprout or worse if the snake gets wet UNLESS you commit to a strategy like using the bags banks give you to sort coins into to place the filling in (you will definitely need a strategy like this if you have a kid who likes to chew things, like my son)
Here we go!
Cut the legs off the tights as high as you can for a long snake
Decide if you want your snake to be
straight (you will need to then cut off the feet at the heel and sew the ends together)
or if you don’t mind a slightly foot shaped snake, you are ready to fill!
Fill the snake with the material of your choice (see * above if you need help to decide)
How much to fill
Remember to leave space to bring the ends together (preferably
To add channels or no (stripes)
Use the other leg to pull over the first as a protective layer
Fold and pin a small hem and then stitch one end shut
If you want a tongue, remember to stitch it in now
Add button eyes (if wanted) -I am partial to using 2 buttons each eye so that you have a white part with a black center
At the other end, you will create a small hem and sew down and then attach Velcro to.
I learned the hard way that using one long Velcro strip makes it harder to get the weighed snake inside its cover, use two or more smaller Velcro pieces
Pull your cover over your snake / weighted tight leg.
Your weighted snake is now ready to regulate- enjoy!
Contains: table of contents, superkids manifesto, how to use this book, resources and templates and an index. Chapters for rocking morning routines, magical mealtime solutions, whizz-bang waiting hacks, stellar learning secrets, incredible play ideas, maxin’ and relaxin’ night-time rituals.
My ten-year-old road tested this book with me. He gave it an 8 out of 10. Here are our favourite parts.
This book tells older children about ALL of their senses with pronounciation guides for each sense, which is really helpful when a book introduces your proprioceptive, vestibular and interoceptive senses. Each activity is designed to help you get into a “just right” speed.
Each activity tells you how to train your adult to see the benefits you will get from using it
The activity that we started using right away: animal walks for rocking morning routines
The first activity we will start making: a magnetic morning routines chart with a to do column for your routine and a done column where you can move your magnet when its activity is done.
For Little Kids: DIY ABC by Eleanora Marton. It promises a new take on the alphabet format and a four year old friend shared their copy with me.
Each letter has a page and an activity.
My favourite part? G is for gardening! Who wouldn’t like the page that allows you to trim the strips of green grass. Drawing ants to add to the anthill also provided some fun. This book also has:
A page for kisses that you can add a kiss to with a lip print in lipstick or chapstick
Many children may have difficulties with self-regulation, especially those who have had tricky starts; including from traumatic illness, accident, trauma or neglect.
Increasingly OT’s are using Ayres’ Sensory Integration in combination with CBT( Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), adapted DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy) and Attachment based approaches in CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental health Services) and other paediatric roles to assess and provide intervention.
These two books are a valuable additions to the bookshelf, with great ideas to inform practice and support time between therapy sessions.
Not only is making moon sand cheaper, it is an activity in itself…whether you make it before or in the clinic session, lots of fun can be had getting the ingredients together and mixing them up…then playing with what you have created…
If you have great videos and ideas send them to us via our email and we will feature them here. You can send us video or photo’s too, but these will need to be accompanied by a completed video/photo consent form. Email us for the link.