What’s inside this article: 16 behaviors that may indicate your child is a sensory seeker, and 32 activities you can try with your child to reduce sensory seeking behaviors and help them stay calm.
Children who are sensory seekers are under-responsive to sensory input. They seek extra stimulation so they can stay regulated and calm. This is why having a repertoire of activities for sensory seekers is important.
Although your child may actually have a combination of responses to sensory input, depending on what it is and what sensory system is at work, sensory seeking behaviors tend to stand out.
Sensory Seeking Behaviors
Sensory seeking behaviors often stand out because, in the process of seeking extra stimulation, kids may engage in a lot of disruptive behavior.
This interferes with school, and their ability to focus, as well as disturbing the people around them.
Sensory Seeking Behaviors:
- Unable to sit still, may constantly jump, bounce, fidget, pace or run around
- Craves intense movement experiences. For example, amusement park rides, spinning quickly in an office chair, hanging upside down.
- Aggressive behaviors, such as hitting, kicking, biting, pushing tables and chairs
- Chews on clothing and objects regularly
- Constantly touches everything. May rub objects on their cheek, for example.
- Enjoys strong flavors, such as salt & vinegar chips, or sour candy
- High pain tolerance, not noticing when they get hurt
- Unintentionally rough with others, as if they “don’t know their own strength”
- Self-injurious behavior, such as head banging, pinching, skin picking, hair pulling
- Doesn’t seem to notice the temperature, for example, could go outside without a jacket in the winter and wouldn’t complain of the cold
- Always speaks loudly, makes noises when in a quiet environment
- Doesn’t notice important sounds like a fire alarm ringing or a parent calling their name
- Puts their ears up against things that make sound
- Grinds teeth or bites cheeks
- Makes noises with their mouths/voices that are considered irritating to others
- In uncomfortable/stressful situations where your child is anxious, these behaviors may increase. Often, children are simply viewed as being oppositional.
That’s a long list!
And it’s certainly not exhaustive.
But, your sensory seeker probably won’t do all of the things on this list – depending on which of the sensory systems is under-responsive – they may only do some of these behaviors.
How Do Sensory Activities Help Seekers?
Children’s bodies intuitively know what they need. That’s why sensory seeking behaviors happen in the first place. When there’s an unmet sensory need, your child will do what they can to fulfill it.
But, often this doesn’t happen in the best ways, or at the best times (like in class, or by hitting).
Using sensory activities provides sensory seekers with
In fact, planning activities throughout the day that provide intense doses of sensory input can keep children’s sensory needs met and allow them to stay calm and focuses when it’s most important.
Ideally, your child should have a 5 to 10-minute sensory activity every 1-2 hours. However, they should also have a total of 90 minutes of moderate to intense exercise per day.
Activities for Sensory Seekers
This is a list of my favorite activities for sensory seekers that I’ve compiled over time.
Since my own child is an avid sensory seeker, it’s important for me to find fun, stimulating activities.
Hanging upside down
This is one of the best ways to stimulate the vestibular system. Hanging upside down provides a unique dose of vestibular input that you simply can’t experience any other way.
For some children, hanging upside down just for a moment can stop sensory seeking behaviors for hours.
If you’ve got a child who loves to spin, there are lots of different ways to incorporate extra spinning into your day.
Spinning your child around in an office chair, or twisting up a swing then letting go so it can spin, for example.
You can also just pick your child up and spin them in your arms, play a game (or 12) of Ring around the Rosie, or have them roll down a big hill.
Children’s songs with actions
A lot of children’s songs include movements that are great for hyperactive preschoolers and toddlers.
Sing and do the actions with your kids to some classics, for example, “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes” or “The Hokey Pokey”.
Check out this list of 10 movement songs for preschoolers from Growing Hands on Kids.
Kids Movement Games
Many kid’s games include lots of movements, making them great activities for sensory seekers.
Try some of these:
- Follow the Leader
- Jumping Rope
- Red Rover
- Simon Says
- Mother, May I?
- Freeze Dance
- What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?
Build an obstacle course in your house
Yes, this makes the house messy, but it’s super fun as a once-in-a-while activity on a rainy day.
Using household objects and furniture, create an obstacle course through the house for your child to
This is one of those activities that kids never forget.
Have a Pillow Fight
A pillow fight between you and your child is a good opportunity to let your child rough house in a way that you can ensure their safety while having fun.
High-Intensity Interval Training
Commonly referred to as HIIT, this is a great way to pack a powerful dose of sensory input into a very short period of time.
Try using this beloved animal-themed 7 minute HIIT workout for kids or this 8-minute workout before school each morning.7 Minute HIIT Workout for Kids
Although yoga lacks the intensity of some of the activities mentioned above, it’s still a great choice for sensory seekers.
The proprioceptive system contains sensory receptors in the joints that respond to pressure, tension, and stretching.
If you’ve got a child who needs deep pressure, is self-injurious, or seems to lack body awareness, yoga may be a great activity for them.
The various yoga moves provide pressure. tension and stretching to the joints, and it also helps strengthen the core which is fundamental to gross motor development.
Try out this fun YouTube video from Cosmic Kids.
Swinging is a great activity to help calm down sensory seekers and it also helps improve sensory integration.
Set up a tire swing in the backyard (DIY instructions here). Or, try one of these 10 indoor sensory swings for under $100.
Messy play makes for great activities for sensory seekers, especially those who enjoy tactile input. There are tons of ways for you to create structured messy play activities for your kids.
- Sensory Bins
- Water tables
- Finger painting
- Slimes and putties
- Playdough and clay
- Paper Mache crafts (Recipe)
Swimming and playing in the water stimulate the proprioceptive system and tactile system because the water touches and adds pressure to our bodies.
You can do this by visiting a local pool, or beach to swing, with your own pool at home (any size), playing in sprinklers, water gun fights, or even just getting in the bathtub!
Playing in a ball pit or foam pit, similar to swimming, adds extra pressure to the body, stimulating the vestibular and tactile systems.
Crunchy and chewy snacks
Both crunchy and chewy snacks stimulate the oral-motor system, which isn’t actually one of the senses – it’s all of the senses working together inside the mouth.
These snacks stimulate the proprioceptors in the jaw. Try things like carrots, pretzels, or gum.
A lot of children with sensory needs also struggle with social skills and communication, which can make sports difficult.
However, there are some sports that can be done individually and even at home, if your child is too anxious to play on a team.
Try sports such as running, cycling, or martial arts. These can all be done on their own for fun, plus they’re all a great form of
You can do dance and gymnastic activities at home by looking for videos on YouTube.
These activities also benefit gross motor skills and bilateral coordination.
Did you know that sensory processing is unique to each individual and considered a spectrum?
If you have a child with sensory needs, take some time to read through my 10 part blogging series on The Sensory Spectrum.
The series covers how each of the 8 sensory systems works, how to recognize different kinds of sensory processing issues, and strategies for all.
You’ll find even more activities for sensory seekers, as well as activities for avoiders, and for those that have perception challenges.
Sunday 2nd of June 2019
This was a really great read for me. My seven-year-old is a good kid and makes friends easily but while I was reading this I realized he is definitely sensory seeking. He does a lot of those things in that list you described at the beginning. We have found that putting him in sports has been key! He is always loved to wrestle everyone and anyone he meets. He is now in wrestling and is doing fantastic! The weeks that he does not have wrestling we really notice it because he gets very antsy and irritable. I'm really glad I found this article. Thank you I feel I am not alone
Thursday 30th of May 2019
Thanks for the ideas mama:)