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Sensory Circuits

Introduction

Sensory differences can impact significantly on play and learning as differences interpreting sensory information can have an impact on how an individual feels, thinks, behaves, or responds. This may affect how a child/young person is able to focus and engage in play and learning opportunities at any given time. Sensory circuits can be a useful way of providing some of the sensory feedback an individual might be seeking.

For more information about Sensory Differences: check out Leeds Mencap’s ‘Sensory Differences’ information

What is a Sensory Circuit?

Childrens Choice Therapy describes a sensory circuit as:

A sequence of physical activities that are designed to alertorganise, and calm the child. The sensory circuit aims to facilitate sensory processing to help children regulate and organise their senses in order to achieve the ‘just right’ or optimum level of alertness required for effective learning.

Many schools now incorporate this into the daily routine for children who may have sensory differences.

General principles

  • Sensory circuits can be completed by a small group of children in school or by your child at home
  • It should be done first thing in the morning and after lunch if possible. Some children may need more than this
  • Should last no longer than 15 – 20 minutes
  • Sensory circuits should be active, physical and fun!

How to set up a sensory circuit

  • Complete a sensory checklist about the child/children who are going to take part, to identify their needs. Make sure these are reflected in the activities in the circuit
  • The order of activities is important. When you put together a sensory circuit choose 2 alerting activities, then 2 organising activities and then 1 calming activity.

Alerting activities – provide both vestibular (movement and balance) and proprioceptive (awareness of body in space) stimulation as these can help the child to become more alert.

Organising activities – provide a motor, balance or timing challenge, and requires the child to plan, organise and/or sequence their movement.

Calming Activities – provide proprioceptive (deep pressure) input and heavy muscle work which can have a calming and organising effect. Ensure the child leaves the circuit and engages in their activities calm, centred and ready for the day ahead.

Examples of activities

AlertingOrganisingCalming
Jumping on a trampetteCatching a ball or beanbag, throwing a ball or beanbag to a targetMassaging hands, feet, arms or legs
Sitting and bouncing on a gym ballBalancing on wobble boards or walking along a gym benchChair or wall push-ups
Star jumps, marching, step-ups, skippingCrawling through a tunnelChild lies on their tummy over a gym ball and rolls over gently, backwards and forwards
Bunny hops/crab walks/ frog jumping/squat jumpsJumping through hoops (3-5 hoops)Having balls rolled over their backs (ideally medium/large gym ball
Lying over a gym ball on their tummy, roll forwards and weight bear through the armsLog rolling – with hands clasped and arms stretched out above the headFor older children, stretch a theraband or resistance bands in front of their body or above their head. Repeat 5-10 times
Spinning a hoopBlowing bubbles or blowing a paper ball to a targetHot-dogs (rolling child/young person up tightly in a blanket)
Action rhymes – Row, Row, Row your Boat, Heads and Shoulders etc.Skipping and jumping over a moving ropeLying under a weighted blanket

What are the benefits of Sensory Circuits?

The primary benefit of sensory circuits is to focus concentration in readiness for learning and the day ahead, however Sensory Surroundings Ltd  say they can be other long term benefits including:

  • Development of motor skills
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Improving co-ordination and balance
  • Improving behaviour

Can I set up a Sensory circuit at home?

Yes!

Setting up a sensory circuit at home is easy. You could set up a circuit in your garden, go to a local green space or set it up indoors. Some of the activities don’t need equipment or use things that you may already have at home.

View examples of sensory circuit activity cards in our sensory resources section here.

Check out ideas for setting up a sensory circuit at home here: Example sensory circuit info and ideas for home.pdf (starsteam.org.uk)

Did you know that Leeds MENCAP has a Toy Library?

This is a fantastic way to try out some equipment to use as part of a sensory circuit. Parents are carers can loan up to 4 items at a time for up to 4 weeks for an annual membership fee of only £25.

Click here to browse the Leeds MENCAP Toy Library

Examples of Toy Library equipment suitable for a sensory circuit:

Alerting Activities:

Whizzy Dizzy
Rhyme time bag
Pedal Roller

Organising Activities:

Wobble Balance Board
Trace and balance board
Rainbow balance snake

Calming Activities:

Body sock
Weighted blanket
Weighted sausage dog

Additional support from Leeds MENCAP

Speak to other parents with children with SEN and disabilities on our closed Facebook group.

Follow us on Facebook to hear about our upcoming events.

Check out the rest of our Family Support offer. We have:

  • Weekly Chats and Tots coffee morning
  • Family Support workers who can offer advice, signposting and support
  • Lots of tips and resources about sensory differences and sensory circuits on our website

Additional support and resources

This information is not affiliated with Leeds MENCAP.

For more information about sensory circuits:

Children’s choice therapy information page

Sensory Circuits A Quick guide with resources.docx (live.com)

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