Sensory Friendly Summer Scheduling
Managing unstructured time with your family can be challenging, especially when your child has difficulty remaining calm and regulated at home. Using a consistent schedule can help children understand what to expect each day and can support independence in play and routines such as bedtime. Choice is also an important part of scheduling, as letting children have some autonomy can support their engagement in activities and routines and can reduce negative behaviors. For children who have difficulty maintaining an appropriate level of arousal during the day, providing a big “dose” of sensory input at various points throughout the day can help them remain regulated and focused. These “doses” should include movement in various planes (ex: jumping, rolling, climbing), heavy muscle work (ex: pulling, pushing, lifting), and tactile input (ex: under a blanket, laying on the floor). These types of activities are organizing and calming and should be completed about every two hours. Sensory-friendly scheduling means providing structure and consistency into your routine as well as planning sensory activities to support your child’s regulation.
It is helpful to use visuals when creating a sensory-friendly schedule so your child can understand the sequence of activities for each day. To start, consider daily routines such as meals and naps and put those into your schedule. Next, add “doses” of sensory input, sensorimotor activities that provide movement, heavy muscle work, and tactile input. It may be helpful to position these activities before parts of the day that require focus, for example engaging in calming and organizing inputs in the late afternoon to help your child remain regulated and seated for dinner. In the remaining spaces during your day, provide your child with choices (such as crafts or puzzles) and consider including daily or weekly activities to increase consistency (ex: walks every morning or calls with Grandma every Wednesday). Lastly, get your child involved in making the schedule! If they are involved in the process, they will be more excited and invested in the schedule.