What is a sensory diet?

Sonja Lewis, MS, OTR/L
Sensory Diet

A sensory diet is not always about food! A sensory diet is a specifically-designed activity plan that helps to provide the right amount of sensory input to help children stay energized, focused, organized and regulated throughout the day.

Just like after a hectic day at work, we may come home and want to wind down by lighting a candle and have a hot bath. Or when we’re tired in the middle of the day, we may go for a hot cup of coffee or need to go for a short walk or stretch to re-alert ourselves to keep us going.

For children, there is no exception. They too need different forms of stimulation so that they can best succeed throughout the day. Forms of sensory input can include: proprioception (heavy work like pushing or pulling a heavy cart), vestibular (movement like swinging on a swing), tactile (touch like playing with sand in a sandbox), visual (looking at vivid or colorful items or pictures), oral-motor (mouthing or chewing on objects such as suckers), and auditory (listening to calming or alerting music).

Choosing the right combination of activities can help individuals be in the “just right” state to conquer the day. This could be to either calm down a child who is a constant mover or to help alert a child who has difficulty staying awake. It is important to find the right combination of activities to find that just right balance.

For further information on sensory diets, talk to an experienced provider or occupational therapist to help determine the perfect combination of sensory input to keep your child alert, regulated, and ready to learn whether at home, school or out in the community!

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