SmartKnit DIY: Sensory Bags

We’ve got a great new DIY craft just in time for Valentine’s Day!  (Actually, this can be done with any upcoming holiday.  Just change up the craft pieces accordingly.)

These Sensory Bags can offer hours of mess-free satisfying sensory play.

Sensory Bag Version 1

Bag1

Supplies:

  • 1 Gallon-sized zipper bag
  • Clear hair gel
  • Valentine’s glitter glue
  • Red food coloring
  • Water beads
  • Valentine’s confetti
  • Craft Pom-poms
  • Valentine’s foam stickers
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors

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Step by Step Instructions:

  1. Pour a generous amount of hair gel into a gallon-sized zipper bag.
  2. Add some Valentine’s glitter glue.
  3. Place a few drops of red food coloring into the bag.
  4. Seal the bag and let out as much excess air as possible.
  5. Using your fingers, blend all the craft materials together.
  6. Move everything to the bottom of the bag.
  7. Pour in water beads, Valentine’s confetti and pom-poms.
  8. Add Valentine’s foam stickers.
  9. Re-close the bag and force out all excess air again.
  10. Once again, blend all materials using  your fingers.
  11. Line all four sides of the bag with duct tape to prevent rips. (This also prevents little ones from opening the bag. 😉 )
  12. Trim the duct tape using your scissors.

Sensory Bag Version 2

Bag2

Supplies:

  • Gallon-sized zipper bag
  • Shaving cream
  • Glitter glue
  • Valentine’s glitter glue
  • Red food coloring
  • Glitter
  • Water beads
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors

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Step by Step Instructions:

  1. Pour a large amount of shaving cream into gallon-sized bag.
  2. Add glitter glue and Valentine’s glitter glue.
  3. Place a few drops of red food coloring into the bag.
  4. Close bag and let out all excess air.
  5. Using your fingers, blend all craft materials together.
  6. Move all craft materials to the bottom of the bag.
  7. Pour a large amount of glitter into the bag.
  8. Add water beads.
  9. Close the bag and let out excess air while combining all the contents of the bag together.
  10. Line all four sides of the bag with duct tape to prevent rips or tears.
  11. Trim the duct tape with scissors.

Watch our Step by Step video here:

 

SmartKnit DIY: Floam

The kids are about to be out for Christmas break.  How long until they’re bouncing off the walls?  How about a new Sensory DIY to keep them entertained . . . at least for a while.  This one is one the kids can help make; play with for a while; and then save for a moment when a good sensory activity is needed.

So, how about some Floam!  Floam is easy to make at home with regular household supplies.  Wal-Mart, dollar stores, craft stores and even Amazon are great places to find anything you might need.

Watch our step by step video for instructions.

Floam

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Supplies:

Directions:

  1. Pour one full 6 oz. bottle of glue into the mixing bowl.
  2. Measure out ½ tsp. of baking soda and pour into bowl.
  3. Add 1 ½ tbsp. of contact solution into the bowl.
  4. Mix all ingredients together until they begin to congeal together.
  5. Dump in desired amount of foam beads. (The more beads you add, the less sticky your floam will be.)
  6. Use your hands to knead the mixture together.
  7. Store each “blob” of floam in its own plastic storage container.

That’s it!  You can play with it any way you want.  You can squeeze it, stretch it, roll it, bounce it, or anything you want!  Try making several floam recipes using creative color combinations of both glue and foam beads.  Pro tip: try using glow-in-the-dark glue!  You won’t be disappointed.

SmartKnit DIY: Sensory Fidget Board

Who couldn’t use a Sensory Fidget Board?  This sensory toy is perfect for helping children focus their anxious and fidgety behavior.  The different textures, sounds and even scents of each piece of the fidget board will appeal to the senses.

Just like our sensory bottles, the Sensory Fidget Board is very easy to make at home with regular household tools AND can be customized for each person.  A fun way to plan your sensory board might include a shopping trip for the child who will use the board.  Wal-Mart and dollar stores are great places to start.  You can also buy many of these items on Amazon, too, if you familiar with the touch and texture of each item.  Choose things that your child is naturally drawn to and enjoys touching and holding.  We selected a few fun items that we liked for our sensory board, but the possibilities are truly endless!

Watch our step by step video for instructions on how to make ours.  Then, just adjust depending on whatever amazing items you choose for yours!

Sensory Fidget Board

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Supplies:

Directions:

  1. Using the pencil, trace the shape of the board onto the foam sheet.
  2. Use your scissors to cut out the foam shape.
  3. Peel off the backing from the foam sheet and carefully place it over the board.
  4. Carefully arrange the items onto the board and begin attaching them with glue gun or staple gun.  Be careful not to melt anything with your glue gun.
  5. When applying the hook and loop fastener, match up the hook side to the loop side as closely as possible and glue one side to your board.  Then add a small amount of glue in between the hook side and the loop side, so the two pieces stay together on the board but most of the strip will unfasten.
  6. Once you’re done attaching all your items, let the glue cool and harden.  That’s it!  Enjoy! 😉

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This was what we came up with, but the possibilities are truly endless.  😉

Here are a few other things that would work great on a sensory board!

Cotton balls

Mesh or Loufa sponges

Paint brushes or makeup brushes

Rubber bands

Silky hair ribbons

Silicone basting brush

Safety mirror (no sharp edges)

Raffia strips

Fine grain sand or smooth pebbles enclosed in plastic or fabric bag (ensure all sides are closed so nothing can escape)

Glass accent gems or marbles

Beaded play jewelry

Plastic hair curlers

Feathers

Slow-rising squeeze toys

Felt

We also love the idea of including water beads – as these are so nice to touch – but we couldn’t figure out a way to attach them and still get the full effect of them.  If you can think of a way, send us a message and let us know!

Back To School Sensory Kit Giveaway!

Don’t worry Moms and Dads of Sensory Sensitive Kids!  SmartKnitKIDS has just what you need for Back to School time.  Many moms and dads dread BTS time because they know it means a struggle to get their kids out the door in the morning for school.  And once you get your kiddo there, it’s a struggle for the teacher in keeping them focused and ready to learn.

That’s why we assembled this amazing BTS kit from several of our favorite sensory items we’ve come across in talking with occupational therapists and parents of sensory kids.  We have one kit for one lucky winner!  You can enter to win anytime between right now and the end of our sale on August 15 at 11:59 pm.  Enter by subscribing to our email list; commenting on any of our posts about the giveaway; visiting our SmartKnitKIDS facebook page or following @smartknitkids on Twitter.  It’s just that simple.

ENTER HERE

But, if you’re not the lucky winner, don’t despair.  We’ve made it very easy for you to order your own Back to School Sensory Kit.  Follow the links below to purchase each piece from our website www.smartknit.com or from our friends at Amazon!

$25 SmartKnit Gift Card

We love to make our amazing seamless socks, undergarments and compresso-t products part of every giveaway we do.  But, we know that size, style, color preferences, sensitivity and even needs vary from each individual kid, that’s why we don’t include any specific product as part of our giveaway.  Instead,  we always include an e-gift card that can be used to purchase any of our seamless products from www.smartknit.com.  You get $25 that can be used to buy whatever you need most.

Bouncy Chair Fidget

 

This is a top fidget for kids with ADHD, Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder.  This specialized elastic band easily attaches to child’s chair and offers kids a change in environment needed to help them focus and be ready to learn.  The chair fidget is heavy duty and can withstand frequent kicking.  Another great feature is that it is silent – perfect for the classroom since it doesn’t cause noisy distractions.

Marble Fidget

This small, handheld fidget is the perfect tool to help children that need to keep their hands occupied.  It is great for kids that tend to have desk distractions like pen clicking or pencil tapping.  Marble Fidgets are heavy duty and can withstand lots of “abuse” from active kiddos.  But, if it does break, no need to worry.  It comes with a guarantee!

Desk Buddy Textured Chewable Ruler

Here’s another great fidget for your child to keep at his or her desk.  It was engineered by a team of occupational therapists and teachers.  Lay it at the top of your child’s desk and if the need arises, they can touch the sensory bar.  Several different textures will keep fingers happy!  And, it is made of FDA-approved material that is safe to chew on.  But, don’t worry if your child likes to put this item in their mouth.  It’s naturally bacteria resistant and dishwasher safe.

Lavender Scented Calming Putty

This therapeutic calming putty gives a multi-sensory experience.  It provides a calming touch and smell, as well as working the hand muscles.  Children can twist and squeeze the putty, which helps build arm and hand muscles.  Lavender is known for its soothing qualities and then scent from this lavender putty can have a calming influence on a child or even promote sleep if used near bedtime or naptime.  Made of silicone, it is safe for children ages 4 and up.  Free of gluten, casein, latex and soy.

Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske

We love this book at SmartKnitKIDS.  It has definitely helped us to better understand a child with Sensory Processing Disorder.  It is a winner of the NAPPA Gold Award and iParenting Media Award.  The best thing about this book is that it helps parents learn how to advocate for their children at school and to empower their children in the world.

I’m Not Weird, I Have Sensory Processing Disorder by Chynna Laird

This children’s book is told from the SPD child’s perspective and is a great tool for helping to explain SPD to other children.  It is truly a perfect addition to a classroom that has an SPD kid.  The book was inspired by the author’s own daughter.

Other Great Sensory Items that We Love

Net Therapy Indoor Swing

Sensory Chewable Droplet Pendant

Hypnotic Liquid Motion Spiral Timer Toy

Cozy Canoe for Sensory Diet

Body Sock Sensory Sack

And more!

Don’t forget to enter our contest to win your own Back to School Sensory Kit!

ENTER HERE

 

Tips to Help a Sensory Kid Have a Fun 4th of July

Our country’s Independence Day celebration – better known as the 4th of July – is truly one of my favorite holidays.  What can be better than a day at the pool or the beach with family and friends, hamburgers and hotdogs cooked on the grill, and a spectacular fireworks show on a warm, summer evening?  Not much, right?!  Well, for a kid with sensory processing disorder, my idea of perfection might seem more like a day of torture – especially during the fireworks show.

Too often, parents of sensory sensitive kids have to handle meltdowns or choose to hide out from the world instead of participating in our annual country-wide birthday party.  But, what if I told you that with a little thought and preparation, a family with a sensitive kiddo can be part of the festivities?  You can!  Just follow these helpful tips.

Preparation

As any parent of a sensory child knows, preparation is often key.  Doing a lot of prep work ahead of time will help your child to cope with the situation, manage his or her sensitivities and even enjoy the experience.

  1. Limit the number of sensory exposures – Take an assessment of what activities the family would like to participate in and determine which ones might be difficult for your sensory kiddo. Every kid is different, as well as every community, so plan accordingly.  Maybe your child would prefer watching a 4th of July Parade through town, but wouldn’t be able to handle the fireworks display.  Or, perhaps it’s the other way around and avoiding the parade is best.  You know your child best and know how much is too much.  Limit your plans to what you feel your kiddo can handle.
  2. Limit the amount of junk food – This one might be difficult with all the cookouts, barbecues, ice cream trucks, etc. that might occupy your plans, but could be critical to helping your kiddo avoid a difficult situation. Too much sugar could lead to hyperactivity that will only enhance their sensitivities.  Choosing healthy fruits, veggies and proteins might make all the difference.
  3. Prepare the child before hand – Talk to your child days before hand about things that you know might upset him or her. Let your child know that there may be large crowds or very loud noise involved and reassure them that it doesn’t have to be scary.
  4. Rest before the festivities – Especially if you’ve already had a long day and you’re set on a fireworks show, give the child some cool and quiet down time a little while before. It will give everyone – you included – a chance to recharge their batteries and be better prepared for the evening fun.
  5. Set expectations – Sometimes a child just needs to feel in control. Find out what time a fireworks show or parade is expected to be finished so you can help your child understand how much time is involved.  Just knowing how much longer something is, might help your child to better cope.

Location

What is it they say about location?  It can make all the difference.  Sometimes just finding the right spot can help your child to relax and enjoy a great fireworks show.

  1. Find a secluded spot – When I was a kid, my family would always watch the city’s professional display from a nearby elementary school playground or even sometimes the high school football field. These were some of the higher points in town, which meant we could see a really great display from pretty far away.  The display itself was far enough away that the noise wasn’t bad at all.  Amazingly, no one else had the same idea, so we usually had the location to ourselves.  We’d spread out a blanket and have a couple of snacks and it was truly perfect.  Of course, every city and town is different, and this may not be a valid option, but try some things out.  You might be surprised at what you’re able to come up with for a nice and happy time with your family.
  2. Watch from the car – As I said, sometimes seclusion is just not an option. If not, try watching a display from the car.  It might help to muffle some of the sounds.  This may also help your child to feel safe since the car is familiar.
  3. Watch from inside or on TV – The neighborhood I live in now is inhabited by serious pyrotechnic experts, I think. I mean, it must be anyway, because every street is equivalent to a professional display.  Every street!  While this really could make things difficult for sensory kids and pets alike, it does provide the ability to watch fireworks from pretty much any window in our house.  While this is certainly not ideal to a lot of sensory kids, it might be just what the doctor ordered for some.  And for real, mom wants to stay home in case she needs to call the fire department.

During the Show

  1. Bring a familiar or favorite item – Wherever you decide to watch fireworks, bringing along a familiar or favorite item might give your child comfort if they have a moment of anxiety during a particularly loud or crazy moment.
  2. Establish a safe space – Have a designated place available that your child can escape to if things become too intense. It might be the car, the basement of your house, or I even saw that one parent would set up a tent where they were viewing fireworks.  If things got too loud or scary, the child just crawled in the tent and felt better.
  3. Earmuffs and sunglasses – If your child is sensitive to noise, give them a pair of noise cancelling headphones or earmuffs to help muffle the noise. It might make it easier to enjoy the pretty show.  Or if your child is sensitive to flashes of bright light, a pair of sunglasses will soften things up a little bit.
  4. Use fidget items – Bring along a few fidget items. If your child can focus some of his or her energy and attention elsewhere, they will have an easier time coping with the situation.
  5. Play a prediction game – While you’re watching a fireworks display, ask your child to guess what color each rocket will be or how many seconds until they hear the bang. Your child may have fun trying to guess, but it will also help to establish some predictability about what is happening.
  6. Be mindful of your child’s cues – Finally, watch your kiddo for how he or she is handling the day and each unfamiliar situation. Watch for his cues or signs that a difficult moment is brewing.  If you notice some familiar signs, don’t be afraid to call it a night and head home a little early.  It’s better to have a shorter night of fun, then a night that turns into a meltdown.

Here’s hoping your 4th of July celebration goes off with a bang!  Happy Independence Day to our SmartKnitKIDS family and Happy Birthday, America!

SmartKnit DIY: Calm Down Bottles

Have you heard about Calm Down Bottles?  They are Sensory Tools to help in calming anxious children that have sensory sensitivities.  Children can watch the calming movement in the bottles, which helps them to self-regulate when their emotions become overwhelming.  They’re pretty nice for adults, too! 😉

The best thing about sensory bottles is that you can make them yourself AND they can be completely customized to each person.  When we were researching how to make Calm Down Bottles, we discovered that there are an abundance of different methods and materials that can be used.  The results can give you totally different looks and feels.  You may have to experiment with different possibilities to find the right one for you and your child.  After testing lots of different possibilities, we came up with two options that we really liked.  Those instructions are below, as well as a step by step video.

Calm Down Bottle #1 – Ocean Inspired

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Supplies:

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Directions:

  1. Using a funnel, pour glitter into the water bottle. – You can determine the amount, but definitely cover the bottom of the bottle.
  2. Fill the bottle 1/3 of the way full with oil. – This isn’t a precise measurement, as your bottle size might vary, but if you fill the bottle 1/3 of the way, you’ll have the best results.
  3. Fill up the rest of the bottle with water, but leave some space at the top.
  4. Remove the funnel and add food coloring. – A few drops should do it, but you can determine if it needs more color.
  5. Screw on lid – make sure it’s tight.
  6. Shake it up.
  7. At this point, you can determine if it needs anything additional – maybe more glitter or more food color. Play around with it for a little while.  See what it does after an hour or two or a day.  Once you are satisfied with your results, use super glue to glue the lid on before giving it to your children.  This is optional, but might be necessary to keep the kids from experimenting with the contents on their own. 😉

Calm Down Bottle #2 – Fuzzy Pom-poms

Supplies:

IMG_5112_2

Directions:

  1. Using a funnel, fill bottle 1/3 of the way full with oil.
  2. Fill up the rest of the bottle with water, but leave some space at the top.
  3. Pour a generous amount of water beads into the bottle.
  4. Remove funnel. Drop pom-poms into bottle.
  5. Using a funnel, pour glitter into the bottle.
  6. Screw on lid – make sure it’s tight.
  7. Shake it up.
  8. Like the first bottle, once you’re satisfied with the results, use super glue to glue the on before giving it to your children.

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These were the two we liked best, but what we learned is that the possibilities are truly endless.  We saw some bottles that used only water as a base.  Some had hand soap.  Others had clear or glitter glue in the water.  We saw one that used corn syrup.  Or, you could use mineral oil instead of canola oil.  For us, canola gave it a little bit more of the cloudy look we were going for, but mineral oil makes a nice alternative.  We even saw some bottle that used clear hair gel as a base.  This option didn’t really work well for us, but it could have been user error. 😉

The water beads were a really nice option, but the different base liquids can really affect how the water beads “behave”.  We decided that glitter was nearly a must, as it gave each of the bottles kind of a sparkly and dreamy look.  But several of the bottles we made didn’t have glitter, and they were nice, too.  The pom-poms were fun, but you can put all sorts of different objects in the bottles to watch what they do.  We saw one suggestion that used acrylic shapes, pony beads, small colored hair bands, perler beads or even large shaped confetti.

We also saw a sensory bottle that didn’t use a water base.  Instead, they stuffed a bunch of twigs from the backyard inside the bottle making sure they were not all straight up and down, but kind of haphazardly arranged.  (You can purchase craft twigs, also.) Then they added another element for sound.  In this instance they used dried rice.  The idea was that all the rice would race to one end when the bottle was turned over to make sounds.  Because the sticks were also in the bottle, the rice would catch on the sticks a little bit.  Any number of elements could be used in a sound sensory bottle, such as sand, dried beans, paper clips, popcorn kernels or small pebbles.

Finally, the best idea we saw in all of our research was the use of a small wine rack to make a sensory bottle rack.  A parent made several different kinds of sensory bottles and stored them all in a small wine rack.  When their child needed to use a sensory bottle, each of the bottles was arranged in the rack for the child to choose the one he wanted.  Brilliant!

One last note on the Voss bottle.  As we stated previously, we used Voss bottles because they have such a nice shape and work well for sensory bottles.  Any type of bottle will do, though.  We also used Voss glass bottles, but if you are concerned about the bottles breaking, we recommend plastic!

We hope that you enjoy making your own DIY Calm Down Bottles.  We really had a lot of fun ourselves and truly didn’t realize all of the amazing possibilities!

 

Classic Pastimes for Summer Road Trips

Well, it’s almost summer, which inevitably means it’s time for road trips.  Usually about this time, we pull together some travel tips for families with kids.  This time around, we thought we’d mix it up a little bit.  Or maybe we’re just feeling a little bit nostalgic.  But, our best tip for traveling with kids this summer is to revive some of the road trip games you remember playing as a child.  That’s right, folks! Have everyone put away the devices!  And for even more fun, have the whole family join in and create some memories of your drive alongside the ones you’ll make once you get to your destination.

Here are a few to get you started:

License Plate Game

This one is my personal favorite!  Make a list of all the states and check them off as you spot them along the road.  If you check them ALL off, you’ll know you’re on one heck of road trip!  This game is one that you can play through your whole trip, even while you’re busy playing others.  You can even add a little bit of competition to the mix.  When someone spots a new state, write their initials next to it on your paper.  The person that has the most at the end of the trip is the winner.

Eye Spy

This one is a classic and is great for the young kids, too.  One person silently chooses an object that everyone can see.  (The object can be inside or outside of the car.)  That player then uses the first letter of that object as a clue and the other players try to guess the object.  For example, “I spy with my little eye, something that begins with R” when you are thinking of the word “road”.  The person who correctly guesses the item gets to choose the next item.

Going on a Trip

This one can take some thought and is one that can keep the kids guessing for a while.  One of the adults (mom, let’s say) says “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to bring macaroni.  If you would like to go, too, tell me what you’d bring?”  “Mom” has selected an item that begins with the same letter of her name, so she can go.  Any object that doesn’t begin with “M” for “Mom” doesn’t get to go.  Then the kids each take a turn guessing.  Unless they guess an object that begins with the first letter of their name, they are excluded from the imaginary trip. When the guessing comes around again to Mom, she brings another “M” object. “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to bring a movie ticket.”  The kids will be baffled as to why Mom gets to bring such silly things on the trip.  Eventually, someone (Dad, perhaps) will figure out the pattern and begin to play along.  Sam can bring his sunscreen.  Elizabeth can bring an elephant. Etc. etc.  It will take a while for everyone to figure it out, especially if the children are small or you have a lot of players, but once they do, it’s obviously a one-time-through game.  But, you can revive the game by coming up with something else unique to each individual.  For instance, maybe this time I can bring 39 pairs of socks or 39 tubes of lipstick – the unique thing here being age.  The kids might figure this one out quicker. 😉

Car Spotting

Have everyone agree on a make of car – Honda, Ford, Toyota, etc. – or more specifically a model –Chevy Malibu, Hyundai Tucson, Ford Flex – or even something along the landscape – wind turbine, oil well, hay bale (Can you tell we’re from the Midwest?  Your examples might be different.)  Once the car or other item is agreed upon, everyone keeps an eye open for it.  The first person to see each one shouts it out and earns a point.  At the end of the trip (or whenever you’ve had enough of the game) the person with the most points wins.  You can change up the items every now and then, too.

20 Questions

Goodness, this classic is timeless.  And seriously, since kids ask about a billion questions all the time, you might as well make it into a game, right?  So, have one person think of a person, place or thing, and all the other players begin to ask questions about that thing in order to make guesses as to what it is.  The questions need to be ones where a simple yes or no is sufficient.  Players can guess after each answered question.  Play continues until they have made an accurate guess.

Family Story Time

This one can be done the old-fashioned way or might be the reason to bring out a device.  Everyone loves a good story and some books are really great for the whole family – the Harry Potter books, Little House on the Prairie or Charlotte’s Web.  Choose one or two books ahead of time and either bring them along or download them on your device.  One person can read aloud to the car or you can take turns by chapter (depending on the ages of your children and the difficulty of the book).  Or, if you want to save your voice, find an audio book version and play it over the car stereo.

 

Just think of all the fun memories you’ll make with your children.  Twenty years from now, they won’t remember whatever game they’re playing on their phones or tablets, but they will remember the silly times they had trying to be the first to spot the next wind turbine along the Interstate!