A Gift Guide for our Sensory Emotional Kids
The holidays are here, and everyone asks, ‘What’s on your kids’ wish lists this year?’ In case you’re not sure how to answer, we can help.
Within the Sensory Emotional Engagement Model™, we identify different personality styles based on the way our kids process sensations and move their bodies and the emotional expression of that processing. By understanding your child’s personality style, you can better understand the ways they act and interact and how to play with them.
Play invites our children to experience sensation, movement, and emotion – all at the same time. Thoughtfully curated gifts support the sensory experience that you want to ignite and the emotional experience you want to encourage.
Using a sensory emotional lens, we’ve compiled a list of toys that bring about sensory exploration and emotional expression to facilitate the development of both sensory motor and social emotional capacities. The list below includes some meaningful ideas that will work for each Sensory Emotional Personality™ and could match well with your Great Kid.
Anxious yet Deeply Feeling
Our anxious yet deeply feeling children intensely experience the world and are highly sensitive to sensory input coming from the environment or their body and the emotions that they and others feel, which can cause anxiety… or joy. Individuals with this Sensory Emotional Personality™ (SEP) prefer to feel secure and in control, protected and powerful, and benefit from play that invites these experiences. From a sensory lens, these kids like to feel grounded, in control, and powerful. This sensation can come from big muscle movements – pushing, pulling, climbing, stomping, and swinging – and from being in a space that is enclosed and protected. Therapeutically, we engage in play that helps them feel grounded, in control, and powerful while also inviting exploration of sensory and emotional experiences that may typically be overwhelming – since through play, we can encourage exploration of this in a safe way.
Invite your child to move their body through their environment, experiencing different sensations while wearing costumes that invite strong, powerful actions. Encourage big muscle movements – use a scooter or pull on a swing as a car to defeat the scary character and return to the safety of their fort before venturing out again to challenge the scary things. If they have a touch sensitivity, add different touch experiences with textures of stuffed animals or objects in play. If they find movement to be overwhelming, playfully incorporate different ways of moving their body.
Unaware yet Deep Thinker
This Sensory Emotional Personality™ benefits from big sensory experiences! Our unaware yet deeply thinking children tend to be under-responsive or hyposensitive to input from their body or environment. They are slower to respond to actions, initiations, or social bids for attention. They can seem more unaware or inattentive or spend more time thinking deeply and asking big questions. These children benefit from play that ignites interest, engagement, and exploration – encouraging building connections with other people and exploring with their bodies to feel connected to the world.
Invite exploration by going on different adventures – animal safari, outer space, or anything they are passionate about with toys and objects placed around the room to help set up the adventure. Encourage big muscle movements in play – jump to different islands, crash into the water, spin in the helicopter, or fly to your destination.
Confused yet Full of Wonder
Our confused but full of wonder children tend to have a tough time fine-tuning sensory input. There’s often a mismatch between how they are expected to respond and the way they respond and how they are moving their body – usually moving too fast or too much, using too much force or too little force – what they are doing with their body doesn’t match what should be happening in the environment. These kids sometimes feel confused or surprised – why can’t I move that way? And their bodies are full of wonder – what happens if I do this or what happens if I do that, but not how it fits in the current situation. These children benefit from toys that invite wonder and exploration – how do we set this up? What happens if? How do I?
Create a game to encourage your Great Kid to figure out the just right way to experiment with their bodies. Select a play theme with related objects of different weights, sizes, and textures to encourage various muscle movements. Experiment with how to balance, how hard or soft to throw to hit a target, and how to set up the course to make different levels of difficulty.
Needy yet Compassionate
This Sensory Emotional Personality™ tends to need extra support for their body. These children tend to experience low tone or core weakness. They need you more than you would expect for kids their age and need to be helped more often due to body weakness and low endurance. They also love to be helpers and love to love. These children benefit from toys that allow them to be helpers and feel strong and brave, as well as objects and games that strengthen their bodies.
Toy & Game Ideas
- Costumes: Firefighters, EMS, Police Officers, Superheroes, Safari Explorer, Astronaut
- Fort Building Kit
- Spinning or Jumping Games
- Building: Blocks, Building
- Stuffed animals that represent their favorite rescue mission: ocean, safari, arctic animals, aliens, dinosaurs
- Play and chore-type toys: brooms, vacuums, etc.
Create a mission that your Great Kid is the only one brave and strong enough to accomplish. Encourage big whole-body movements and resistive input to help strengthen their bodies (push, pull, carry, catch, shake) during their theme-related mission. Rescue dinosaurs, aliens, or animals at sea – Pick a mission your child would love to do and set it up so they can use their big whole-body movements to rescue all the creatures in their mission. Build a fort together to serve as mission control, allowing them to be a helper while supporting sensory motor development and strengthening their body.
Scattered yet Intentional and Passionate
Our scattered yet intentional and passionate children have a more challenging time making plans, sticking to plans, organizing ideas, and executing the plan. This can be called dyspraxia or difficulty with motor planning when it causes significant challenges in everyday life. They often experience frustration because they work really hard to try to accomplish something. In play, we want to encourage confidence and persistence through play roles as characters that can support these experiences.
Encourage play that invites planning, organizing, and building, like construction with giant trucks and scoopers, to encourage whole-body movements – to push, pull, stabilize, and scoop. Create a construction site together, build a city or a kingdom. While in character, we encourage building these lands (this can be with household items – chairs and blankets, couch cushions, pillows, etc.) and then developing a plan to defend the land from the bad guys. Remember, your Great Kid is the only ruler of the land who can do that (encouraging confidence, ability to persist, and problem-solving). In play, they complete different actions with their body, requiring coordination of their body in novel ways while also coordinating actions through the room to defend their land.
To learn more about Sensory Emotional Personalities™ and which one best matches your child, see Our Model.
Please visit our podcast, A Sensory Emotional Lens! In short episodes, you’ll discover the emotional expression of sensory and movement experiences and how this causes children to act and interact. You’ll also explore the connection between sensory, movement, and emotion and the importance of play throughout the day with these connections in mind.