Collaborative blog post with Pure Living Journey
Written by: Angela Blymiller and Rachel Harrington, COTA, AC
I am so excited to be teaming up with Hearthsong and my favorite sensory professional, Rachel Harrington from The Sensory Project. You’ve all been following our journey with autism and know how sleeping can be a huge issue for mister Theo boy. You all laughed and “Oowed and Awed” over Theo’s naptime acrobatic shows that he put on in his crib (using our wyze cam). You all thought he was amazing that he could make it from his crib to his bedroom door in 3 seconds flat whilst wearing his sleep sack. While his agility and coordination is impressive to watch, it was time to get Theo a bed. We first looked into the medical grade tent beds but when insurance wouldn’t cover it we had to start looking for something a lot more affordable than $4K for a tent bed. My mom came across this one below, and bought it for his birthday. It has been amazing. Not only are all of Eva’s friends jealous of his bed, but he actually stays in it at night!!! No more opening the door in the morning to finding him laying on the hard carpet floor.
When I opened up the Hearthsong catalog I was so surprised to see all of the sensory items that they had for such an affordable price. I feel like as soon as I’m recommended a therapy item for Theo I automatically know that it will be triple the price, just because it’s a sensory item. Not at Hearthsong. Everything is so reasonably priced and serves both neurotypical and neuordivergent kiddos.
Rachel and I picked the top 10 items that we would use in our everyday life and she gave a brief description of why they are beneficial and some practical uses for them.
Take a look below!
“Bed tents like this amazing Galactic Bed Tent, are secret lifesavers for exhausted, sleep deprived mamas. They can be adapted for the need of each specific child! Here are some reasons why our sensory kiddos can benefit from these night tents:
- Kiddos are afraid to sleep by themselves
- They want to play, instead of lay down
- Their room could be overstimulating
- They are unsafe to have access to the items in the room
Here are some modifications to try with them:
- Incorporate a lycra sheet or weighted blanket
- Keep the flaps closed to have a more enclosed feel.
- Place it on the floor or on a box spring
The tent swing or HugglePod. These are so much fun! We attached cute little lights into ours (using a battery pack light system). These swings are oh so very calming! The variety of ways you can use these swings are endless: hang them inside, hang them outside, incorporate into an obstacle course, throw pillows and blankets inside to make a fort / hideout from overstimulation, etc!
Have your child sit criss-cross in the middle of the swing while you try to ‘knock them over!’ This will address postural control and righting reactions plus it’s so fun! Place a variety of targets around and have your child work on timing to toss different items to the targets while swinging. Spinning is also great for the vestibular system!
Ok real talk for a second: I have never seen a Climbing Dome Slide Combo before! We have a typical climbing dome (like this one, but without the slide), and it’s a little larger, but we use it in so many fun ways! I really like this one with the slide because it’s basically an obstacle course all in one! We like obstacle courses so much, as they work on a ton of skills, i.e. praxis (ideation, motor planning, execution), strength (upper body, lower body, core and hand strength), problem solving, balance, etc.
Some fun ways to use this multi-functional piece of equipment includes:
- Go fishing! Make some cute little fish and have your child catch them with a simple fishing pole, without getting off their boat!
- Place puzzle pieces on one side, the puzzle board or flat surface on their other side, and have your child roll some dice that tell them how many puzzles pieces to take across each time to complete the puzzle. Incorporate math / number identification skills if possible!
- Water balloons? Sprinkler? Swimming pool? Need I say more?
- Find a parachute or a large sheet to cover the climbing dome to make an awesome fort or sensory hideout!
- Climb the inside and hang upside down to facilitate core strength and vestibular input! Place items on the ground inside and have your child identify a way to retrieve them without touching the ground.
- If you have them, add a pop-up tunnel and swing on either side to make a fun obstacle course for the older kids!
- Use large clips to attach items to the bars to address hand strength.
The Double Jumper Jump 2 It! I love this because it really facilitates reciprocal play, social skills and teamwork! If you have a lower functioning kiddo, this trampoline would be great for imitation, eye contact, and safety skills with the adjustable central handle. You can also incorporate positional words while you play, i.e. under, over, around, through, etc. Trampolines are great sensory breaks, too!
This is another swing that has so many functions! It’s a must have, in my opinion. The sturdy webbing material facilitates core strength and postural control, and is ever so durable and easy to clean! Depending on your kiddo’s level of functioning, here are some of my favorite ways to use this swing!
- Projected action sequencing, aka, timing. Catching, throwing, hitting targets, etc. Such a great skill for all ages!
- Have your child lay on their tummy to complete a task on the floor below
- Have your child lay on their back and attach a rope between the suspension ropes, so they must reach up to complete the task above their head. This is one of my favorite shoulder strengthening tasks!
- Fine motor work is always more fun on a swing. If you homeschool or if your child is working on homework and you notice them getting worked up or antsy, switch it up and let them work while on this swing!
- Bubbles are always a great option to play with on swings!
- There’s room for two on this swing, which is great for so many reasons!
- This is a great messy play swing with it being so easy to clean! Here are some fun textures to explore on the swing:Shaving cream
- Pudding / jello / tapioca
- Spaghetti noodles (cooked)
- Sand, moon sand, and all the sands, really.
- Any texture or food your child doesn’t like to eat, play with it on the swing, just don’t have them eat it while swinging!
- Last but not least, you can probably guess what I’m going to say… OBSTACLE COURSE!
I wish I had these Fantasy Forts when I was a kid… getting creative is way easier now, then it was back when I was young! I love all things constructive for our special needs kids. Here’s just a few of the skills this activity can address: logic and reasoning, problem solving, social skills, safety and body awareness, visual spatial relations, intrinsic hand and proximal strength, praxis, and imaginative play! You can even join in the fun, which you should do with this activity! Think of all the teachable moments that could happen! Just remember, don’t do the building for your kids! Teach, demonstrate, provide hand over hand assistance, and help them, but please don’t do it for them, no matter how much they beg!
The Aquapod!!! Such a cool activity! A lot of our kiddos are mesmerized and ever so motivated by water, which is why these are super fantastic. It can be used as a reward at the end of an obstacle course, a brain break during challenging tasks, and a foot fidget (if you’re brave enough to use it inside under the table)!
Have your infant try tummy time or work on crawling (seriously supervised, of course), it’s a great tactile medium to explore! The possibilities are endless with this one!
Animal Jumpers! These are amazing! Think Hippity Hop, but child sized and safer… The benefits of these little guys are amazing! Fantastic for your sensory seekers, and works on motor planning, postural stability, core strength, timing, lower body strength, balance, intrinsic hand strength, and so much more. Guess what, you can also use these for obstacle courses! After they complete the multiple sequences of the course, they have to get on their animal and hop back to the start!
Pop Up Tunnels like this Fairy Village! I love these for so many reasons! Start with infants and toddlers, push a ball through them and have your babe crawl through! Crawling is a developmental milestone that you DO NOT want your child to skip! It is a foundational skill required for everyday tasks as your child grows. Make an obstacle course, requiring your child to gather items from one side and crawl through the tunnels to complete the task on the opposite end. If you have any other equipment, make sure to add that in as well! In addition to gross motor tasks, the tents create a calming, sensory environment, great for participation in all things fine and visual motor. To make it more challenging, place the tunnel on an uneven surface, i.e. across a crash pad, couch cushions, beanbags, etc! If indoors, turn off all of the lights and give your little one a flashlight to navigate the dark caves! The activities are endless so make sure you use your imagination!
Since chalk is one of my favorite therapeutic activities, we had to include Chalkscapes. I love stencils because they facilitate bilateral integration by requiring your child to stabilize the stencil with their opposite hand and color with their dominant hand! This is a HUGE skill! You can also use these indoors with a variety of coloring mediums; so don’t be afraid to mix it up! Chalk is an interesting texture, so if you notice your child is aversive, help them work through it! Don’t facilitate avoidance. Make it positive!”
The next thing on our list is for sure the dome slide and the HugglePod. Theo is going to love everything from this list. Don’t forget to check out Hearthsong’s other amazing products. We seriously can’t wait to make our next order from this awesome company who truly care about the kids they are creating for. Now, head over to my instagram for a chance to win your own tent bed!