10 Creative Play Ideas for Auditory Sensitive Children
Welcome to my series of Sensory Processing blogs.
Disclaimer: I am NOT a medical professional of any kind. Or qualified teacher. I teach my children at home but they attend an SEN school. These blogs are full of what I've learned from various sources and my own experience over the last 12 years. I truly hope they're helpful and inspiring. Let's get started!
Humans are sensory creatures. So much of our lives, particularly as adults, is desperately lacking in a rich sensory diet. We can learn from our children about this! Especially children with a sensory processing difference. They are often masters of find and engage in sensory play to the benefit of their mind and body.
Sensory play is AMAZING both for children and adults. Sensory play builds connections in the brain and helps to cement learning by accessing different senses together.
When you mix sensory play with creativity the results can be extraordinary.
I have an exciting list here. Check this out!
Creativity plus sensory play:
+ supports cognitive growth,
+ hones fine and gross motor skills,
+ improves problem solving skills,
+ boosts imagination,
+ helps establish identity,
+ improves social and play skills,
+ builds communication skills
+ improves observation skills,
+ sparks curiosity,
+ develops hand-eye coordination,
+ improves focus and attention,
+ supports emotional regulation,
+ boosts memory,
+ builds self-esteem
and creates opportunities for CONNECTION
There are different types of sensory input. You'll know of course the classic 5:
Sight/visual, sound/auditory, taste/gustatory, smell/olafactory and touch/tactile.
But did you know about these?
Vestibular, proprioceptive and interoception.
Our vestibular system is how we receive and process information relating to our body's orientation (standing up, lying down, upside down), movement and balance. Examples of vestibular actions are: swinging on a swing, going down a slide or zip line, balancing on a beam/on one leg. cartwheels, hand or headstands etc...
Our proprioceptive system processes pressure and gravity and how our body relates to an environment. For example, we receive proprioceptive information when we hold someone's hand, sit on a chair, squeeze a stress ball, are swaddled/wrapped in a blanket, get pushed or pulled etc...
Our interoceptive system is our body's inner sensations like pain, hunger, thirst, itches, temperature, feeling dizzy or sick etc...
All of us have these sensory systems and they give our mind and body a LOT of information all day every day. For most of us we are able to process this information efficiently and without issue, but those with a sensory processing disorder will have areas where they are over or under-sensitive to various or all of these senses.
This time I'm talking about Auditory/Sound Sensitivity.
This is a really common sense to be sensitive to and one that's easy to be overwhelmed. I think a lot of of people are sound sensitive and don't realise it. I am. I am light sensitive (as mentioned in the previous blog about visual sensitivity), touch sensitive and sound sensitive. None of my sensitivities very negatively effect my life though blessedly, but for some this is very much the case. The good news is - as with all these sensory processing differences - that there are loads of ways we can soothe, reduce reactivity and nurture our senses on a daily basis.
Sound sensitivity can establish in seeking and avoidant behaviour. It can be recognised in a person by noticing if:
- they wince at certain tones and pitches of sound
- they seem to love/seek to create quiet
- they are repelled by large, noisy crowds
- the loud volume in cinemas makes movie trips a disaster
- they are quick to cover their ears or back away from loud or sudden noises
- they have a physical, involuntary reaction like hitting or kicking out when alarmed by noise
- they struggle to find the 'correct' volume for their own speech
- they hum, chatter or create a sound as a near-constant soundtrack to their day
- they seek and take great pleasure in sounds like; rain on the window, toys with cause and effect sounds, wind in leaves, ASMR and whispering, tap dancing, singing, instruments and music of various kinds.
Those of us blessed with hearing are likely to have a bunch of favourite sounds, the difference in someone who is auditory sensitive is, as you can guess, that they are a lot more reactive to those sounds. They are likely to get 'lost' in a moment just listening. It's worth mentioning as well that if you have a child who is auditory sensitive they are likely to be easily overwhelmed by sound to the point they block it out in order to try to process what's going on around them. They may block the input of sound physically by covering their ears or they may subconsciously be able to shut out the sound. This will look like a child who is ignoring you. Most likely they are not; they are just struggling with the sensory input they are receiving. As with all these blogs I of course would say to be as patient as you possibly can in those situations. I appreciate it's hard when it happens a lot and often when you're already in a rush, but please believe me that rushing and pushing a child to listen and follow instructions when they are already sensory overwhelmed will not end well for either of you. Give them time, communicate using visual tools if you're able to (very soon I'll be publishing a blog about visual communication with a focus on PECs - Picture Exchange Communication) and try to put yourself in their shoes.
Here are some super ideas for creative and sensory play activities for our sound-sensitive children:
1) Making sounds with our bodies - fingertips against thumbs, hollow cheek tapping, clicking, humming, clapping, stamping, whistling (if you can!), inhaling and exhaling through nose and mouth with different mouth shapes, vowel sounds, tummy/chest/leg/bottom drumming! (Try recording the sounds on your phone and editing them together into a body song!)
2) Nature trail soundscape - explore different sounds outside that happen without your input: wind in the leaves, birdsong, seeds and nuts falling to the ground, squirrels chittering with warnings, rain, streams/rivers/brooks/the sea! Also notice manmade sounds interrupting nature if you can hear them - it will depend where you live and walk of course.
3) Nature trail soundscape part 2 - then try making sounds with nature: tapping sticks, throwing dry leaves up in the air and listening to them land, kicking leaves, knocking conkers/acorns/other nuts/stones/pebbles together, plopping/skimming stones into a river/pond/lake, knocking twigs/stones/nuts/fists against a tree trunk/branch (gently with the trees, show them love!), try to find places where you can make echoes, squelch in the mud!
4) Play various types of music and watch for your child's reaction to the sounds; does classical music make them feel calm or irritated? Does rock music make them agitated or excited? Does dance music make them want to dance or cover their ears?! Make notes of these reactions and keep them in mind for when you want to try using sound to either inject some energy and enthusiasm or to soothe and calm.
5) Creating sounds in the home: This one may take some bravery from the parents as it encourages children to make noise with your household items. If you don't think you can bear it, stick to the garden/outdoors. If you're up for trying it, this can be really fun! Depending on the ability level of your child you can either gather some things from around the home yourself like saucepans, colanders, spoons, boxes, tins, bags of dry pasta etc... and some tools like wooden spoons or chopsticks to use for tapping or ask the child to have a look and a think (with your guidance so they don't start hitting the TV with a rolling pin...)
6) In a similar vane, you can also steer away from tapping things with things by creating a zen zone using items like dry lentils or rice and pouring them from container to container, letting them slide through their fingers and falling onto a tray or into a bowl. This is a triple-whammy of sensory experience as it is a delight to hear, watch and feel!
7) Get creative using video editing software! This sounds complicated to technophobes but I promise you it can be really easy! Record some sounds around your home using your video on your phone. Try the washing machine on spin cycle, the bubble of a fish tank, the sound of your play time with the sensory pits like lentils or rice), recording silly sounds you can make with your mouth! the sound of various noisy/musical toys. Then download a well-reviewed video editor for your phone. Import the video clips and have a play with cut and paste and speed - you can create some hilarious noises by speeding up or slowing down sounds, it can be such a laugh with your child!
8) Play with opposites by creating sounds that are loud and quiet (e.g. banging a drum with a stick and banging a drum with a feather), high and low pitched (e.g. a whistle and the hum of a fridge), continuous (e.g. a running on the spot and short/sudden e.g. 1 jump) etc... Gives a great opportunity to add new words to vocabulary if you're wanting to work on that.
9) Explore the sounds made by animals and birds and try to copy them! Another hilarious activity! May I suggest Googling for example the sound made by an Armadillo, a baby Rhino, an Elephant Seal and a Kookaburra! Have fun!
and to finish - bear in mind that your auditory sensitive child will probably love some of these and loathe others, these are a good way to find out what some triggering sounds may be for them in a safe environment so you can be better prepared when out and about, which takes us to number 10:
10) Try ear defenders if you haven't already. Some children wont tolerate wearing them for a while (or some, ever) but it's worth gently encouraging them as they can be so soothing for people with sensitive hearing either when over-stimulated at home or out and about.
Did you learn anything about yourself or your children's sensory processing system reading this? I'd love to know if you'd like to share! I've learned so much about myself over the years raising my special boys. Aren't our bodies just fascinating?!
Feel free to share this blog if you like but please share it directly from this page.
Thanks so much!
Have a wonderful time exploring these fun activities with your auditory sensitive children!