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From Fidgeting to Focus: Empowering Kids with Autism or ADHD through Tactile Sensory Activities

Updated: Sep 12, 2023


Young boy playing with colorful sensory toy

Are you looking for effective ways to support someone with autism or ADHD who has sensory issues?


In today's fast-paced digital world, it's so important to also incorporate tactile sensory activities to fully support our kids who learn differently. Tactile sensory activities, such as playing with textured toys, engaging in art projects, or exploring sensory bins, offer a multitude of benefits for children with autism and ADHD. Not only do these activities provide a sensory-rich experience, but they also promote cognitive development, social interaction, and emotional regulation. By stimulating the tactile system, individuals with autism and ADHD can enhance their sensory processing abilities, improve focus and attention, and develop better self-awareness.

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Understanding Tactile Sensory Activities


Tactile sensory activities involve engaging the sense of touch to provide a stimulating and calming experience for children with autism or ADHD. These activities can help in improving sensory processing, enhancing focus, and reducing anxiety levels. By offering a range of tactile experiences, children can better regulate their sensory input and develop essential skills for everyday life.


The Benefits of Tactile Sensory Activities for Kids with Autism or ADHD


Children with autism or ADHD often face challenges with sensory processing, and tactile sensory activities can be immensely beneficial for them. Engaging in these activities can help kids develop better body awareness, improve coordination, and enhance their ability to self-regulate. Tactile sensory activities stimulate the nervous system, providing a soothing effect that can calm hyperactivity and promote a sense of relaxation.


Research has shown that tactile sensory activities can also improve attention and focus in children with autism or ADHD. By engaging the sense of touch, these activities help redirect attention from distractions to the task at hand. Moreover, the sensory input obtained from tactile activities can enhance cognitive functioning, memory, and problem-solving skills.


Sensory Processing Difficulties in Kids with Autism or ADHD


Children with autism or ADHD often experience sensory processing difficulties, which can affect their ability to engage with their environment. Some children may be hypersensitive to touch and avoid certain textures or sensations, while others may seek out intense sensory input. These differences in sensory processing can impact a child's behavior, attention, and overall well-being.


Tactile sensory activities can help children with autism or ADHD develop a more regulated response to sensory stimuli. By providing a controlled and structured tactile experience, children can gradually learn to tolerate and process different textures and sensations. This can significantly reduce sensory overload and enhance their ability to engage in daily activities with greater ease.


Types of Tactile Sensory Activities for Focus for Kids with Autism and ADHD


There are numerous tactile sensory activities that can be incorporated into a child's daily routine. These activities can be adapted to suit the individual needs and preferences of each child. Here are some examples of tactile sensory activities:

  1. Playdough Fun: Playing with playdough provides a great tactile experience. Children can squeeze, mold, and shape the dough, which helps in developing fine motor skills and enhancing hand-eye coordination.

  2. Sensory Bins: Fill a large container with different materials such as rice, beans, sand, or water beads. Children can explore these materials using their hands or various tools, promoting tactile exploration and sensory integration.

  3. Texture Boards: Create texture boards by gluing different textured materials, such as sandpaper, velvet, bubble wrap, or fabric, onto a board. Children can touch and feel the different textures, which enhances tactile discrimination skills.

  4. Sensory Bottles: Fill clear plastic bottles with a variety of materials, such as rice, glitter, beads, or water. Children can shake the bottles and observe the visual and tactile stimulation provided by the different materials.


A child's hands playing in colorful sensory dough

DIY Tactile Sensory Activities for Kids


Engaging in tactile sensory activities doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. Many tactile sensory activities can be easily created at home using everyday materials. Here are some DIY ideas:

  1. Shaving Cream Art: Spray shaving cream on a tray and let children draw and create designs using their fingers. The smooth texture of the shaving cream provides a satisfying tactile experience.

  2. Sensory Bags: Fill ziplock bags with various materials, such as hair gel, paint, or sand. Seal the bags tightly and let children press and manipulate the materials through the bag, providing a mess-free tactile experience.

  3. Sensory Walkway: Create a sensory walkway using different materials, such as bubble wrap, carpet squares, or foam mats. Children can walk barefoot or with socks, experiencing different textures under their feet.

  4. Nature Collage: Take a nature walk with your child and collect different natural materials like leaves, twigs, and flowers. Back at home, provide glue and paper for your child to create a tactile collage using the collected materials.

Incorporating Tactile Sensory Activities into Daily Routines


To maximize the benefits of tactile sensory activities, it's important to incorporate them into a child's daily routine. Here are some suggestions on how to do so:

  1. Morning Routine: Start the day with a tactile sensory activity, such as playing with playdough or exploring a sensory bin. This provides a calming and focused start to the day.

  2. Transitions: Use tactile sensory activities to help children transition between activities or environments. For example, offer a sensory bottle or a fidget toy while moving from one location to another.

  3. Homework Breaks: Take short breaks during homework or study sessions to engage in a tactile sensory activity. This can help children recharge and maintain focus.

  4. Bedtime Routine: Incorporate a tactile sensory activity into the bedtime routine to promote relaxation and a sense of calm. This could be a sensory bottle or a soft fabric for children to touch and feel.

Sensory Rooms and Sensory Play Areas for Kids with Autism or ADHD


Sensory rooms or sensory play areas provide a dedicated space for children to engage in various tactile sensory activities. These spaces are designed to offer a wide range of sensory experiences, promoting relaxation, self-regulation, and overall well-being. Here are some ideas for setting up a sensory room or sensory play area at home:

  1. Quiet Corner: Create a cozy corner with soft cushions, blankets, and bean bags. This provides a calming space for children to retreat to when they need a break from sensory stimulation.

  2. Tactile Wall: Install a tactile wall using different textured materials, such as corkboard, carpet squares, or textured wallpaper. Children can touch and explore the different textures at their own pace.

  3. Swing or Hammock: Install a swing or a hammock in the sensory room or play area. The gentle swinging motion provides a soothing vestibular experience, complementing the tactile sensations.

  4. Sensory Path: Design a sensory path on the floor using different textures, such as foam mats, carpet squares, or stepping stones. Children can walk or crawl along the path, engaging their proprioceptive and tactile senses.

Tactile Sensory Activities for Classroom Settings


Incorporating tactile sensory activities into the classroom can greatly benefit children with autism or ADHD. Here are some ideas for tactile sensory activities in a classroom setting:

  1. Fidget Tools: Provide a variety of fidget tools, such as stress balls, squishy toys, or textured pencils, to help children focus and self-regulate during class.

  2. Sensory Bins: Set up sensory bins with various materials, such as kinetic sand, rice, or water beads, for children to explore during free play or as a reward for completing tasks.

  3. Tactile Breaks: Incorporate short tactile breaks into the daily schedule. These breaks can involve activities like squeezing stress balls, touching textured objects, or playing with putty.

  4. Sensory Seating: Offer alternative seating options, such as bean bags, wobble cushions, or textured seat covers. These provide additional tactile input and help children stay engaged and focused.

In Closing


Tactile sensory activities hold immense potential in empowering children with autism or ADHD. By providing a range of tactile experiences, children can develop essential skills, improve sensory processing, and enhance their ability to focus and self-regulate. Whether at home or in a classroom setting, incorporating tactile sensory activities into daily routines can make a significant difference in the lives of our kids.


A child fingerpainting with different colors

All blog content shared through HealthSmart! Kids is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as medical advice. Always talk with your qualified health care provider for managing your health care needs.


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