As this time of year can bring on sensory overload among sensory sensitive people, we can value and share the gift of being a calming presence with loved ones. When we maintain rituals and routines that help children feel connected and calm, we can then mindfully incorporate seasonal and holiday themes with less overwhelm. Whether it is reading together, listening to music together, baking cookies together, or eating dinner together, routine sensory-based activities can help with self-regulating rhythms of activity and rest.
During this season of gift giving, you may want to treat your loved one with a gift that pleases and delights the senses. Below I will share some of my favorite sensory tools that I have used with children in community mental health practice. As always, please use discretion and consult with your provider around therapeutic applications for you and yours. For sensory sensitive adults, scroll down for resources that have been helpful to me as an adult.
Taking a moment to reflect with positive imagery and emotion, together with your child, can support relaxation as well as the transition to sleep. These beautiful Mindful Moments Cards by Yoga Calm’s Lynea Gillen direct the reader’s attention to accessible themes of stillness, listening, grounding, strength, and community. In my work as an occupational therapist with youth with mental health needs, these cards often invite curiosity and help generate positive feelings of gratitude, peace, calm, and connection. They work naturally as part of a ritual and routine around quiet time or sleep for children developmentally aged six years and older.
A common prop in yoga classes, small, lightly weighted herbal eye pillows are used to relax the eye muscles during a final resting pose. Eye pillows make wonderful, small bedtime breathing buddies, placed on the belly while laying on one’s back, breathing deeply into the belly as the breathing buddy rises and breathing out as the breathing buddy lowers. I especially appreciate the sensory qualities (including likeability!) and environmental ethics (100% organic) behind the Maryland business, Herbal Animals.
At a time when essential oils and aromatherapy products are easily available to the public, it is important to consider safety, quality, and ethical sourcing. For these reasons, I recommend Natures Gift, a small business in Tennessee who offers therapeutic grade essential oils in a sleep support blend, Happy Dreams, designed for passive, gentle diffusion on an AromaPod. Natures Gift is where I source my essential oils used in clinical aromatherapy with clients and for myself, mindfully using them for self-regulation. Health professionals can register with the site to receive a 10% off discount.
Thank you for supporting Sommerfly and other small businesses and practitioners who are contributing to a more sensory-friendly world. I wish you a healthy, happy, sensory-friendly holiday season!
Hollie Marron, OTR/L