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Due to my training as a reading specialist my mind starts to whir each time I come across an activity that not only would help Chase with his Sensory issues, but would also benefit all children increase literacy!

Sensory Development

We enter this huge world with all five senses in tact (or at least we are supposed to!!). There are the five senses – auditory (hear), tactile (touch), visual (see), gustatory (taste), olfactory (smell) that we are all familiar with.  There is also the vestibular sense (aides in telling your body where you are in relation to the ground) and proprioceptive sense (this sense tells you where your body is in relation to other objects).  Imagine that any or all of these senses don’t quite work the way they are supposed to.  Finding activities that provides children with the opportunity to incorporate sensory play promotes language acquisition, reading, writing and critical thinking skills.  I know that any preschool worth its salt include sensory play in their daily curriculum.  Wouldn’t it be fun if sensory play was built into every school day from preschool through High School? (Delaney, 2009).

Here are three activities that your child or student can build literacy while developing their visual, tactile, and vestibular senses!

Feely Bag Game (Visual, and Tactile)

What's in Ned's Head?

What’s in Ned’s Head?

I first came across this idea when I served as a paraprofessional for a child with special needs.  The child spent several days a week with the speech therapist and the teacher had this great game called What is in Ned’s Head?  The kids LOVED playing this.  It had them feeling each item and figuring out what  they were.

During a school party last year I came up with a variation of the game where I put several holiday themed items in a cloth bag.  I had each child put their hand in the bag and take a guess of what the item was.  The kids loved the idea, except for Chase – he didn’t like the idea of reaching his hand in the bag without knowing what was in store for him.  It didn’t really surprise me, so I showed him what was in the bag and then let him try.  He loved that idea.

There are so many ways to tweak this game.

  • You can put letters of the alphabet and have your child name the letter.
  • You can put items in bags and have students describe what they are feeling – such as slimy, rough, smooth, etc.
  • As you discuss these descriptions write them on the board or a piece of paper, so that you are able to link speaking, reading and writing skills together(Church, 2012).   This activity is a fun and unique way  to build descriptive language skills.

 Swinging Eyes (Visual and vestibular)

I truly became excited when I read this activity.  My children love to swing, roll, and stand upside down.  Being able to combine a literacy activity with a vestibular integration activity revved up my lesson plan ideas, that is for sure.  You write shapes, individual letters, or words (to meet your child at their individual skill level).  While your child is rolling on a ball or on swing show them the cards and have them identify each one.  This activity encourages your child’s brain to integrate their vestibular and their visual systems, and an added bonus –  promotes letter and word recognition.

Alpha Bags with a Twist

I came across this idea as I prepared for my final Master’s project.  I originally tried it as the lesson plan suggests – but Chase was no where near ready for it.  To make it more appropriate I went around the house and collected toys that began with the letter t, c, and b.  They were the first ones that I found.  I then had Chase help me separate the toys into three bags – one bag for each letter. He loved it, and felt ownership in the game.  

Not only can this activity be used to build literacy skills, it can also be used for vestibular input, visual scanning, eye-hand coordination, and building fine motor skills.  Have your child lay on their belly on a swing, or an exercise ball.  Have them gently move back and forth while they use tongs to pick up the objects in your Alpha Bags.  Have them give you the items that start with a particular letter.  Or have them give you the item that doesn’t belong:

  • Car, cup, crayon, stuffed dog.  Have them choose the item that doesn’t start with the letter c.
  • Ball, round block, plastic Easter egg, car.  Have them choose the item that is different.


Church, E.B., (2012).  Group time: Feely bag games for problem solving Retrieved May 16, 2012 from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/group-time-feely-bag-games-problem-solving

Delaney, T. (2009).  101 Games and activities for children with autism, asperger’s, and sensory processing disorders.  New York: McGraw Hill.