Sensory Ideas for Distance Learning

Is my child the only one that finds hours after hours of Zooms and work at their desk tiresome and difficult?

My son takes more breaks then a 9-month pregnant woman who just drank a Big Gulp. He is up and down, on and off video on Zooms, moving from his desk to his bed to do work and this is just the first hour of distance learning.

     After a few days of this, we decided to sit down and talk about how to best help him with his distance learning. I’m hoping some of our ideas and thoughts can be helpful for you and or give you thoughts of what you can do for your child.

  • Get a fidget for them to play with during their Zooms.: There are so many great fidgets you can purchase or create for your child. Just having something in their hand to get them some sensory input is helpful in having them concentrate on what is being presented to them on a Zoom call. Make sure it’s something that isn’t a huge distraction for them, but just enough where they are getting the input they need and still able to attend to their schoolwork. Here is a great articles with some ideas:
  • Purchase a sensory ball to sit on: Therapy balls are great for our kids to use instead of a hard office chair. Again, this allows for sensory input as they attend to either a Zoom call or just doing work on their own. They are strengthening their core while having to keep themselves upright. It may be a little difficult at first, but once they get how to keep their balance, it will be like riding a bike (or sitting in an old office chair), but with much more input to their body. Here is a great blog all about therapy balls and school:
  • Use TheraBand on their chairs: This was one of the most successful things we did for our son. His Occupational Therapist suggested this when he was little. We got a TheraBand with not too much resistance, but also not too difficult to move. We tied it from one leg of his chair to the other (basically the two front legs of the chair). Then my son would put his feet behind the TheraBand, and he would kick his feet and get the resistance from the band while he was working. This became second nature to him, and he didn’t even know he was getting the sensory input that he needed to stay focused and concentrate on his work.
  • Create Sensory Breaks within their school day: Just knowing that there was a break coming up soon was a help for my son. You may want to purchase a timer (or use one on their phone or tablet) so they can visually see how much longer until they can have a break from what they are doing. For my son, his breaks were written into his 504 plan, so that at any time he can get up and move around a bit. It didn’t matter that it was during class (or Zoom), he is allowed to get up and stretch his body a bit or walk around a building at school. Anything to get his brain and body a break so he can recalibrate and get back to school. If your child is younger, make it something fun they can do (throw the ball around in the backyard or dance to their favorite song) but also getting some sensory input that they might not be getting while sitting in a chair. Just like we take “coffee breaks” at work, our kids need Sensory Breaks while distance learning.
  • Healthy snacks and drinks during school time: Making sure your child has something healthy to eat and something healthy to drink can really help with their focus and attention. So many of the quick snacks that they can grab in individual packages are filled with empty calories, artificial dyes and flavors and sugars that don’t help keep your child successful as they try and concentrate on their Zoom class or work online. Snacks with complex carbohydrates (not simple carbohydrates) such as nuts, fruits (even dried), vegetables or whole grain crackers are great ideas to keep your child fulfilled but give them what they need.

So, check out this list and see if there is one place you can start. You don’t have to do every one of these things, as sometimes they might not work for your child. Start with one for about a week and see if you see any success. Then add another or just keep what is working if you want. It’s all about baby steps in helping our kids through these unchartered waters.

by Amy Kendall


  • Chris Reed | Pastor to Parents | Saddleback Church

    Chris married his beautiful bride, Tina, in 1990. They have three wonderful adult children, Jacob, Kaylee, and Macie Joy. Chris began pastoring at a church in Los Angeles in 1995 where he was the Children’s and Student Pastor. He was the Executive Pastor of Student Ministries at John Maxwell's church in South Florida before he came to Saddleback in 2008 as our Pastor to 20s/30s. He has since served as Pastor to Singles and Pastor to Marriages. He is currently our Pastor to Parents leading the charge for all things Parents Ministry at Saddleback. He earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Biblical Studies and his Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership.

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