Living with a child that is a sensory seeker is a non-stop thrill ride.
What is a sensory seeker? Understood.org offers an explanation.
“There are two ways kids with sensory processing issues respond to sensory input.
When kids underreact to sensory input, they may seek out more input..
When kids overreact, they become overwhelmed and may avoid the input.”
Living with a child that is a sensory seeker is a non-stop thrill ride. In our case the only time that thrill ride slowed down was during the bath time. This baby that we affectionately call Little Monkey loved his bath. Loved it. It was the only time you could count on him staying out of trouble. As a result, our entire family looked forward to his bath time everyday. We let bath time begin as early as possible and lasted as long as possible.
Bath time was a win-win-win situation. It was a win for the parent giving the bath because there was not very much need for correcting challenging behavior. It was a win for the Little Monkey because he was having so much fun, and it was a win for the rest of the family because it was opportunity to have a break.
Not all children with sensory issues are lucky enough to enjoy their bath time though. This Autism Parenting Magazine article about bath time shares how some kids have a much harder time.
“Sensory issues can make a child’s bath time experiences very intense. The tactile input of warm water, foamy bubbles, and slippery soap mixes with the smell of shampoo. The sound of splashing water bounces from the ceramic tiles to the porcelain sink and tub. Children with a sensory processing disorder have brains that can’t sort all of that out to make sense of what is happening. The intensity and quality of the sensations themselves can be distressing to their differently-wired brains. The result? Kids can become overwhelmed and respond with fear and resistance. They can shut down completely and refuse to cooperate.”
Thankfully Little Monkey did not get overwhelmed at bath time, but he did get bored and throw his body around looking for input. Because his occupational therapist told us he was a sensory seeker, I knew to offer him heavy work. Gross motor heavy work is hard to do during a bath, but fine motor heavy work is doable. After providing him with the following activities, his need for sensory input was satisfied by the work with his hands and exposure to texture. He was very rough on these toys, so he went through them quickly. Fortunately most of these are cheap or free.
Bath time Activities to Try to Satisfy Our Sensory Seeker
- Squeezing various empty shampoo bottles filled with water. He also enjoyed twisting the lid on and off.
- Squirting water out of small medicine dispenser syringes. After a few squirts and refills he would take it apart and try to put back together.
- Nesting cups to stack, fill and pour. He liked to fill up the cups, line them up on the side of the tub, then nest them again, causing the water to overflow the cups and pour down the side of the tub. It was not a proper bath until the entire floor was flooded.
- Floating fish, boats, Legos Duplos bricks and cars. For some reason he loved bringing them in the tub. Having some of his non-bath time toys available in the bath enthralled him.
- Lavender epsom salts and lavender oatmeal bath. Whether or not it helped him sleep is still a mystery, but I know it was for sure a hit in the tub. He sniffed the wash clothes to try to figure out where the smell was coming from.
- Loofah sponge, pouf body scrubber, wash cloths and foam sea sponges. He was all about that texture. Especially on his tummy.
- Bathtub crayons. Sometimes the tub looked like a murder scene after he scribbled all over the walls with the red crayons.
- Turkey basters to squeeze. He figured out he could squeeze air into the tub and it made bubbles.
- Fingernail scrub brushes. The rougher I scrubbed his dirty nails, the happier he was. Especially his toes.
- Empty liquid hand soap pump. I just put bath water in the soap pump to play. It was a challenge for him to make it work. He liked pumping the “soap” (bubbly bath water) into the nesting cups.
Sensory Seeking: In our case, the key was variety.
We didn’t do all of these everyday. We mixed it up one or two at a time. These are the ones we tried and he consistently enjoyed. With our Little Monkey, keeping things new was the key to keeping his interest.
No two children are the same. And as a result no two sensory seeking children are the same. These tips worked for us but you may be dealing with completely different issues. Here is another resource on the subject thesensoryseeker.com Here is an excerpt from the site,
“During bathtime give them control. Let them chose the flannel, sponge or loofah – for size and texture. If they don’t like being washed then encourage them to wash independently. Try letting them see what is happening in a mirror. Or tell them how long you will wash for – like until you have finished counting to ten.”
Bath time is a routine that for a child with sensory processing disorder can be fun or horrible. Hopefully with these tips you can avoid horrible experiences and further enjoy fun ones with your sensory seeking child.