The Recipe for Sensory Success
It’s 2019 and the “sensory gym” has become an essential part of a therapists treatment plan. Whether it be speech-language pathologists utilizing the sensory space to regulate a child’s energy levels before treating or an occupational therapist attempting to regulate the proprioceptive system through external manipulations sensory gyms have become Principal.
After over 20 years of being involved with the special needs community and seeing thousands of sensory gyms, I can tell you first hand that not all sensory gyms are created equally. I’ve always been a believer in the age-old adage that “It’s not about what you have, but how you use what you have.” Don’t get me wrong utilizing what you have is pivotal and foundational for successional events and growth. But when it comes to the health and well-being of your child, you don’t just want to “utilize what you have.”No, you want the very best for your child when it comes to their health because anything less isn’t acceptable and nor should it be.
Below I’ve listed the top 10 pieces of equipment Fun Factory Sensory Gym includes in their state of the art sensory gyms. I’ve also added the important benefits of each piece of equipment!
The benefits of swinging are endless. For the sake of brevity, I’ll list the top 3 most important benefits of swinging and why swings are an important piece of equipment to add to your sensory gym!
- Strengthened Vestibular System– when the vestibular system isn’t functioning properly it can become very difficult for a child to navigate her or his environment. The vestibular system is essential for putting our position into perspective relative to other objects. Swinging allows a child to put his or her body in a position that forces the vestibular system to acknowledge the different sensations being processed such as being off of the ground and falling back down, the strange feeling in their stomach, their hair blowing, the wind on their faces.
- Spatial Awareness– Swings such as the hammock swing allow for deep pressure therapy. This type of therapy is important because it is a type
of proprioceptiveinput. Proprioceptive input is important because it plays an important role in regulating and responding to sensory stimuli.
- Muscle Development– There are many different swings that offer a variety of swinging positions. Each new position allows a child to develop a new muscle group. Whether it’s the traditional seated swing, which helps with forearm, bicep, shoulder, and core strength, or a taco swing that helps with neck and back development.
- Gripping the monkey bars is helpful in developing hand strength which is very important for fine motor skills. Core muscles are developed on the monkey bars when a child swings his or her body to reach the next rung. Mental stimulation through progression and achievement. For a child to even attempt to make his or her way across the monkey bars is a huge achievement. It takes will and bravery to take your feet off of the ladder for the first time and rely solely on your strength and determination to make that swing from rung to rung.
This quite possibly could be my number one because there
- Improved flexibility– Reaching for rocks improves flexibility and increases blood flow which is great for the cardiovascular system.
- Mental Strength– Rock climbing puts a child in a position to navigate his or her next move. This navigation helps with problem-solving skills as the child decides whether or not that next rock will be conducive to a successful transition.
- Physical strength– as children climb the rock wall they will be working their calves, abs, biceps, quads, obliques, delts, traps and many other muscles. Rock climbing truly is a full body workout that should be included in your sensory gym.
Who knew that going down a slide could carry with it so many great benefits?!
- Social interaction– How many times have you rushed up the stairs of a water slide in an attempt to beat the line only to greet it? Chances are quite a few. Not only does waiting in line encourage social interaction amongst the people surrounding you but it also establishes an understanding of what it means to be patient. Taking turns, sharing the exhilarating with your peers as they zip down that slide that you will eventually get to conquer. Whether it be a water slide, or a park slide these are usually the most populated areas of any park.
- Spatial awareness– Slides help with spatial awareness because as
the childgoes down the slide they must make a decision when to drop their legs.
- Physical challenges– Many parks and sensory gyms have different obstacles children can climb in order to get to the slide. This encourages muscle development as well as promotes cardiovascular strength.
Foam Cube/Ball Pit
What is literally the one thing that my son and I can’t avoid when we enter a sensory gym? THE FOAM PIT!
- Auditory, tactile sensory, and visual stimuli encourage sensory motor skills.
- These play pits can provide deep pressure therapy and help with relaxation.
- ball pits are super fun and encourage social interaction through tactile and visual feedback.
- With a zipline attachment children can go zinging into the foam/ball pit which is great for proprioceptive input and the vestibular system.
- These areas are often times dimly lit and allow children who are experiencing sensory overload a chance to regulate.
- Seclusion areas can also be equipped with whiteboards and different learning tools that encourage mental growth and development.
Jump decks give children with repetitious motor movements such as running in circles and jumping from furniture an opportunity to do so in an environment that is monitored by a therapist or parent.
Jump decks also allow children to conquer their fears in a safe environment. I can recall my first experience with a child that was so afraid of the jump deck he had to crawl on his belly to peer over the edge. The jump deck I’m referencing was only about 4-5 feet tall but represented a real fear for the little boy. After watching his peers conquer their fears for thirty minutes the little boy stood up and walked to the edge. He didn’t actually jump but he led himself with one foot into the ball pit. I looked on in amazement. The sheer bravery the little boy exhibited was inspiring.
Ninja ramps are great for upper and lower body strengthening. These ramps come equipped with a knotted rope pull that allows the child to use his or her upper body.
Ziplines can be useful for a variety of treatment plans. For example, physical therapists can use
- Gross motor skills– The rebounding action from each jump improves balance, strengthens bones and joints, and helps with muscle development.
- Proprioceptive and vestibular feedback– As the child’s body travels through the air these systems will begin to make decisions regarding body position.
- Energy regulation– jumping on a trampoline is great for filling the sensory tank. This allows for better completion of tasks after jumping.
With these ingredients your therapists will be able to succesfully be able to serve up the most amazing treatment sessions a parent could ever hope for. The results, delicious. Thousands of therapists and clinic owners have incorporated a Fun Factory Sensory Gym into their treatment plans and the results have been amazing. From more effective sessions to reaching goals at a more frequent pace. These sensory gyms improve lives.