Ways to improve your child's sensory development


Young baby – sensory priorities

Time in arms

The motion you create as you move in tandem with your baby helps him to develop head control. Reduce the amount of support you provide by holding him in new positions which allow more movement. This way the balance sense receptor and the body position sensory receptors gain a workout, which helps your baby develop a well rounded sense of efficient movement.

Give baby a deep pressure massage

Apply long deep massage strokes to your baby to relax and rebalance his nervous system so his senses are able to function at their best. Watch to see that your baby is happy with this sense of touch and fine tune your response to his needs such as massaging through a layer of clothing if he gets cold easily.

Older baby

Mouth it

  • Children who are sensitive to touch in their mouths often have difficulty with eating as they can’t tolerate the sensation of the food in their mouths.
  • Gently encourage your baby to explore with his mouth by letting him suck on your clean finger and by playing with food in a creative manner.
  • Vibrating toys are a great way to help baby desensitise his mouth. Show him how to mouth it while it vibrates so he can imitate you but respect his pace.

Bath time

  • The sensation of water on the skin created by bath time helps sensory development. Plan your baby’s bath time just before bedtime to soothe him and aid sleep.
  • Prepare your baby with a deep pressure massage of the body before you undress him. Talk to him while you strip him down and ensure you have a secure unchanging grip on him while he is in the bath.
  • Let his head rest on your forearm while your hand is under his arm. Better still, bath with your baby to maximise his sense of security and therefore his ability to relax in the bath.
  • Exciting bath toys help to provide a pleasant distraction which allows your baby to increase the duration of tolerance to the sensory input.


Your toddler is likely to be invited to parties and play dates, but sensory issues can make party time
and play time quite daunting.

Don’t throw him in the deep end

To say, “Oh, just go play!” will set your child back and cause him to dig in his heels or have an emotional meltdown due to the anxiety this creates. This may also lead to future fear of play situations

You provide a secure base

Lead your child by the hand to the play area. Tell him you will respect whatever he chooses to do. Your acceptance and affirmation of who he is will provide him with the confidence to expand his sensory experiences further.

As he becomes more comfortable, increase your distance and if possible move away so he learns to expand his abilities

Keep your anxiety in check

If you don’t you will only confirm to him that he should feel afraid on the playground


A child with sensory modulation difficulties will relate differently to meeting characters such as Barney. The big noise and hype that goes with this is disturbing for him. Apply the steps above at these events


These may be due to sensory overload. Your child may bite or hit in an attempt to survive in a world which feels intrusive and overbearing.

A mother's experience

“My son refuses to wear shoes. It’s as if wearing them causes him pain,” says Samantha Crompton,
mother of a 2-year-old.


His experience of touch on his feet and particularly his toes is indeed on high volume and extremely painful.

A deep pressure massage prior to putting on footwear will help. Use loose fitting sandals which don’t have a toe piece first so there is minimal contact. Later introduce closed shoes as his tolerance increases.

The sense are more easily overloaded when your child is tired or hungry and at the end of the day as the input accumulates. To help your child gain a sense of control and calm:

  • Provide a cuddly toy or blanket with smooth textures to soothe him
  • Rock him back and forth in your arms or on a rocking horse or up and down on a see-saw. Avoid round and round motion

Toys for sensory development

Top 4 toys for sensory development

B-Kids Tub Mobile (1051788), 12 months+

Playdoh (1047263), 3 years+

Coloria Vibrating Toy (1022713), Birth+

Toys R Us Animal Alley Rocking Horse (1041615), 2 years+

Products available as in November 2010. If discontinued, ask your toy dealer about similar toys.

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