Orchestra seating? Balcony seating? VIP seating? Sensory seating coming through! As a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, it is essentially and ironically my job to help children with their occupations of daily living. Babies and young children have the distinct joy of play being the focus of their primary occupation—lucky them! This allows them to move freely about the cabin for most of their day, with their bodies getting both a wealth of versatility and, most importantly, movement. However, the new culture developing around us has children as early as daycare and preschool, being required to sit more and more throughout their days. By the time children enter primary school, sitting has become at large during their focused and learning activity times, peppered throughout a significant part of their day.
This type of curriculum shift progressively leaves children less and less time to keep their bodies active and moving, essentially to be children! As the priority focus turns even further inward on comprehensive curriculum and content, events like free time and recess become apparitions and myths of childhoods past. Concurrently several problems that drastically affect learning, such as sensory processing, attention and executive functioning difficulties in children, are on the rise. Simply put, YIKES!
Medical and learning research suggest that activities that utilize the senses such as movement, music, touch and visuals, to name a few, help the brain to focus, attend and learn better. These modalities help with skills such as short- and long-term memory, making predictions, sequencing, reading, math computation, attention, focus, handwriting and organizational skills. Adding more sensory opportunities and vestibular sensory input, in the form of movement breaks and movement incorporated seating, can be a small part of a greater progressive solution to addressing this environmental vulnerability. This helps children to fully participate and reach their potential in learning activities and environments.
Many skilled occupational therapists and educators alike understand and respect the correlation between sensory and learning and have explored and used both sensory and movement breaks, as well as sensory seating cushions to help promote attention and learning in children of all ages. Seating cushions are perfect for facilitating good sitting and attention at home, school, restaurants car rides, plane trips, story time, movies, dentist visits and haircuts. I wanted to share some of my favorite choices with you here. Make way for the sensory cushions!
1. Movin’ Sit & Movin’ Sit Jr. by Gymnic
This inflatable seating cushion is a long-time therapist favorite. It thoughtfully addresses the need for sensory movement input, while promoting proper posture sitting mechanics with the incline. It also offers both a smooth and bumpy side to appeal to the tactile sensory system. With two different size options, this product can be used for children as little as three years old up to adults. Recommended age: 3 years and up. SRP – $34.20 BUY NOW
This innovative seating cushion is different from the rest, combining both air and small pellets, giving it a different feel entirely. It provides great sensory input to the proprioceptive and vestibular systems, good anchoring of your pelvis, as well as gentler weight shifts. Recommended age: 3 years and up. SRP – $37.19 BUY NOW
3. Bitty Bottom Cushion Seat by Abilitations
Designed for smaller bottoms, as the name suggests, this cushion offers a unique and more stable feel to the sitter. This circular inflatable seat cushion offers a trim line design, which fits just about any chair style or stool. Composed exclusively of small pellets, this cushion offers good stability while providing gentle weight shifts and subtle sensory input. Recommended age: 3 and up. SRP – $18.37 BUY NOW
4. Plushy Jelly Pillow by Senseez
This unique cushion takes on a whole different angle, by adding vibration sensory input to their wiggle. Senseez also offers a large variety and versatility in their shapes textures and upholstery. Recommended age: 4 and up. SRP – $44.99 BUY NOW
Rae Suba is a Certified Pediatric Occupational Therapist specializing in Sensory Processing Disorders, Dyspraxia, Developmental Delays, Genetic and Autism Spectrum Disorders, who understands the need for children to explore and engage their senses to stimulate their development. She is also the Executive Director of Child’s Play Clinic, LLC in Westport, Connecticut, and an author and speaker on the topics of child development and sensory processing.