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How to Treat Sensory Seeking Behavior in a Toddler

by Erica Loop

Toddlers who exhibit sensory seeking behaviors may have an under-responsive, but not necessarily unresponsive, nervous system when it comes to experiencing sensations. This means that these children may look for, or seek out, overly intense sensory experiences or try to engage in these behaviors for an extra-long time. Treating a toddler who exhibits sensory seeking behaviors involves consulting professionals and creating activities that engage the child in multiple ways. This may include using more than one sense or prolonged engagement, in terms of the toddler's not-so-lengthy attention span.

Consult an expert. According to the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation, children who have sensory issues typically receive treatment in a specialized clinic or therapy program. These types of programs offer expert occupational therapy as well as other interventions such as physical or speech therapy to treat your child.

Provide a sensory-rich environment for your toddler. Make sure there are plenty of sights, sounds and textures to engage your little one. This can include colorful toys, carpeting with different textures, squeezy toys, play gyms with sounds, moving toys, music or manipulatives such as stacking cups and soft blocks.

Use plenty of hands-on sensory activities with your child. Try a variety of different projects such as arts and crafts. Pull out some play dough and let your toddler mush and mash the somewhat sticky substances between her fingers, add course salt to finger paints to give it more texture, or make a sprinkled play sand project gluing it to a piece of cardboard.

Engage your toddler in motion-filled activities that also include sensory experiences such as dancing to different types of music or playing a toy drum in a pretend marching band.

Explore sand and water tables. Create a full-on sensory experience and add in funnels, cups or spoons. Put a mat or tarp down under the table. Encourage your toddler to splash the water, make waves or swirl it around with her hands. Give your child small plastic toy rakes for the sand or let her use her hands to move the sand. Add some of the water to the sand, or the other way around, to create a heavier medium with which to work.

Tip

  • Always supervise your toddler during sensory activities. Go a step further and engage in the activities with your little one.

Warnings

  • Only use age-appropriate toys with your toddler. Look at the age range on the package for conformation.
  • Avoid any toy that has parts that could easily come off or are choking hazards. Toddlers often put things in their mouths, especially those who are seeking more in-depth sensory experiences. Don't run the risk of your toddler trying to chew on or ingest part of a toy that easily falls off.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images