Does it seem your child cries at the drop of a hat? Is he unable to adjust when routines get changed? Does she fuss when her socks aren’t on just right? Does he struggle when trying new foods—complaining about the texture of foods or the taste?
Congratulations you may have a highly sensitive child!
The highly sensitive (my preferred term to hypersensitive) child has a nervous system that is on high alert—quick to react. Because of this super awareness children notice subtleties; they pick up on things that others may gloss over or even be oblivious to. Being highly sensitive is a trait—neither good nor bad, it just is. Kind of like being left-handed ( 🙄 )it isn’t a handicap! There’re just certain things you need to learn to accommodate living in a right-handed world.
Similarly, highly sensitive people need to learn strategies to live in a world (over) loaded with sensory input. Rather than irritation or annoyance, what your child needs most is your understanding and compassion.
DO NOT & DO NOT ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO BE LABELED!
Shy, fussy, fearful are not appropriate and really do injustice to highly sensitive children. If their gifts are to be fully realized in adulthood they need to be supported as they grow and develop.
So don’t take it personally if your son or daughter turns out to be highly sensitive and insists on having socks put on outside in to avoid seams…he/she isn’t doing it to make you crazy! And while you’re at it you might as well cut out the tags in their clothes!
Ways to gradually ease stimuli for the highly sensitive child:
- Encourage full-body play to develop their sense of proprioception,
vestibular input and develop/tone their muscles. Swinging,
spinning, running, jumping, climbing, crawling, pushing, pulling—
putting her/his body in different positions in space at different
rates of speed provide important cues to receptors.
- Kids yoga is another great activity that addresses the whole child– body, mind and spirit.
- Involve your child in meal preparation and make mealtime a time to ‘play with your food’ …create a face on top of their lasagna.
- Create a match-that-smell game and/or a what-was-that-sound game for children that are smell and/or auditorily sensitive. Going out in Nature is the perfect place to listen, observe and smell.
- Engage in Tactile Sensory Play: Fingerpaint; play with shaving cream; playdough alone and then with added textures like sand, glitter, or beans; water basin with bubbles; bin of colored rice with hidden objects to find.
- Create a place to regroup with soothing colors, sounds, and soft, comforting stuff animals or blankets. Help your child recognize signs of stress from sensory overload so they can take control of the situation and remove themselves before things get to a breaking point. This is very empowering.
Always model the desired behavior and never force your child to participate. Provide a ‘bridge’ to participation. For example, if diving in with their hands to fingerpaint is too much—offer a paint brush for starters. KEY to all of this: Compassion and understanding. Remember the words of the Dalai Lama: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
Preparing for Halloween can provide a great tactile sensory play opportunities!
1. Fill up a bin with water. Add a variety of squash, pumpkins and/or gourds plus brushes/sponges. Let your child wash these Fall fruits–yes fruits as they are grown from a flower. Water play as a sensory activity has a calming effect.
NOTE: Did you know that ALL pumpkins are squashes, but not all squashes are pumpkins?
2. Once your lil’ trick-or-treater has picked out the perfect pumpkin have them help prepare to transform it into a Jack ‘o Lantern!
1st READ : Making a Jack-o’-Lantern, Step by Step
by J. Angelique Johnson
Then cut the top off for the Jack-o’-Lantern’s lid.
Using a spoon and/or hands(even with latex gloves if necessary), scrape out all the seeds and pulp.
Continue designing your Jack-o’-Lantern’s face*
Don’t forget about Snack time!
*Read here for Jack-o’-Lantern designs
**Be sure to save some seeds for spring planting**
Yours in Play!