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Young mixed-race child being spun around at the park.

If your child has a sensory processing disorder, he or she may be sensory craving, sensory seeking or exhibit sensory offensiveness. This is defined as highly interested in movement, lights, colors, sounds, smells and tastes that excite. What should you do to help satiate a sensory-seeking child? First, determine what your child wants to experience and then learn the effects of the items or behaviors that your child uses to fulfill these sensory needs. You can then work on sensory integration by redirecting to more appropriate sensory experiences or by providing small doses of what your child seeks over time to help integrate and reduce the behavior.

Examples of Sensory Seeking Behaviors

According to the book "The Out of Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder" by C.S. Kranowitz, examples of sensory seeking behaviors are:

  • Splashing in mud, seeking dirty types of play 
  • Dumping toy bins rummaging through them aimlessly
  • Chewing on objects or clothing
  • Rubbing against walls or furniture and bumping into people
  • Loves spinning in circles, amusement rides, and is constantly moving
  • Fidgets, has difficulty sitting still and takes bold risks
  • Frequently wants bear hugs and vigorous playground activities
  • Seeks visually stimulating screens, shiny objects, strobe lights, or sunlight
  • Loves loud noises, TV or music volume, crowds and places with lots of action
  • Problems sleeping
  • Enjoys strong odors, even unattractive ones
  • May lick or taste inedible objects and prefers spicy or hot foods
  • Frequently attempt to engage in rough play, such as wrestling

Discover Your Child's Sensory Craves

Begin by figuring out what your child likes  to experience. Brainstorm with another person who knows your child well (parent, grandparent, etc.) so you have a long list. Your  list may look something like this: “blue things,” “ocean  sounds” and “funny faces.” Ask your child, siblings and your child’s  friends and teachers what your child likes as well. Determine how you can engage in sensory integration to fit desired experiences into your child's routine.

Learn Effects and Balances

Learn how a sensory-seeking child's mind will change if you engage them in high-sensory activities often. Some activities, such  as playing with building blocks, are relatively harmless. Others, like  violent video games, can lead to addiction and social isolation. Work with  a professional to create an even balance. Limit screen time and use sensory resources like chewelry and fidget toys to help appropriately tame sensory seeking behaviors.

See if you can work toward appropriate sensory integration, especially activities that involve being with another person. Examples include taking a  gymnastics class, where a child would get to jump high on a large trampoline  with teammates, or cooking with a parent,  where a child would get to smell spices and experience the ingredients first hand while making a dish to later taste.

Start Small, Work Up as Needed

Too much of anything  is a bad thing. Make sure your child knows there are limits to engaging  in high-sensory activity. For example, if your child likes the pressure of bumping into other people or giving unsolicited hugs to other children, provide alternative options that support this type of sensory need like a weighted blanket. Watch how your child behaves before, during  and after sensory-seeking experiences. Learn what works, what is best enjoyed in  moderation and what should be eliminated. Give your child breaks and chances  to decompress.

Watch for Changes as Your Child Ages

Children’s tastes  change over time. As your child ages, peers and other adults will encourage  the pursuit of new interests. It's normal for a child to want to play  different sports, hear new types of music and engage in new artistic activities.  Be cautious but unafraid. Work with your child to allow experimentation  and growth. Over time, you will come up with additional safe,  appropriate and positive types of sensory integration for your child, together.


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