Water and Your Sensory-Seeking Child

By Laura Richards

Image Courtesy of Yookidoo

Sensory play is crucial for babies and young children because it’s one of their first forays into understanding the world around them including concepts like cause and effect. Children with special needs may require extra sensory engagement to encourage interaction with their environment.

When my legally blind, hearing impaired son was small, he enjoyed his doorway bouncer because it gave him sensory feedback. His Teacher for the Visually Impaired would come to our home and put different objects with varying degrees of sensory feedback underneath his feet so he could feel different sensations as he bounced up and down. It helped him to feel and understand where the ground was when he couldn’t see it well experiencing different textures, temperatures and more. Some he liked, some he didn’t but with every bounce he was learning.

Bath and pool time could be challenging because the rush of the water would sometimes startle him, yet he loved water play. Water is a perfect sensory activity, but some are afraid. Here are some tips to help kids acclimate to water play:
Hand them a hose. If they don’t like grass or cement underneath them, lay down a towel, plastic tablecloth or shower curtain and turn the hose to a light stream. Show your child how you can run one finger at a time through the stream or just watch it spray in front of you. Show them how it creates a puddle and how you can dip your toes in.
Hand them a bucket. Let them fill it and see what happens when you put things inside. Cups, action figures, rocks. Do they sink? Float? Put a bath toy inside. If they’re ready, have them put their hands in the bucket.
Get wet incrementally. Take a wet sponge. Drip a few drops of water along your shoulders, legs, arms. Ask your child if they would like to try too then do the same with them. Ask them how it feels. Have your child step on the wet sponge and describe how it feels. You can do this with a washcloth or a loofa as well, but keep the big water activity in sight. Remind them that the pool is filled with the same water.
Give them a funnel. Show them how it swirls down and drips from the bottom then have your child pour water into the funnel.

Baths are another perfect way to incorporate the sensory feedback our kids need and crave.

Yookidoo has a popular bath toy line that’s fun for all kids but in particular special needs children as it incorporates bath and pool time into a multisensory extravaganza full of full of touch, sound, sight, spraying water, colors and more. For my son, bright colors and fun toys were extra important to him due to his visual needs but this is true of other kids with special needs like Autism where engagement with spinning and moving parts can be so important.

A few favorite Yookidoo bath and water toys that are specifically helpful for sensory development are:

Musical Duck Race
·A battery operated bath toy that draws water from the tub and creates a unique fountain and race track.
·Cheerful music plays along while four colorful ducks race each celebrating bath time!
·Each duck features a unique different water spraying effect!
·Leaf lever activates nine random sound and water effects.
·Automatic shut-off after three minutes.

Developmental Benefits:
·Encourages learning through sensory play.
·Introduces children to the cause and effect processes.
·Develops eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills.
·Introduces children to concepts such as: full/empty, float/sink.
·Water recycling toy — maintains water level and temperature.

Submarine Spray Station
· A battery-operated submarine with a water circulation pumping system that draws water from the tub and recycles a safe stream of water without wasting water from the tap.
· Water magically streams through the diver shower head especially designed for easy grip and activation by small hands.
· Direct water flow into the water activity center to generate a chain reaction of surprising magical water effects in the bathtub!

Developmental Benefits:
· Encourages independent play and exploration
· Grasping the showerhead and filling the water activity center encourages development of fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination.
· Spraying action stimulates the child’s senses of sight and touch.
· Teaches children cause and effect processes.

Spin ’N’ Sort Spout Pro
· A battery-operated bath spout that easily attaches and draws water from the tub creating an endless stream without wasting water or worrying about hot water burns from the tap.
· Supports STEM by introducing children to sorting, constructing and putting physics into play with spinning gear movement.
· Boosts fine motor skills and hand eye coordination while promoting reasoning and problem solving as children create moving experiments with spinning, colorful action.
· Three interchangeable, brightly colored bath cups work with spout to create different water effects for spraying, straining, and floating fun.
· More than 10 different water activities engage little ones in learning while playing in the tub!
· Easy for kids to operate. Specially designed for small hands.
· Swiveling arm holds the bath cups — for playing, stacking and storage.

Developmental Benefits:
·Teaches the basic properties of physics.
·Promotes sensory development.
·Spinning sorter teaches how gears work and that spinning one will spin the next.
·Hones thinking skills and problem solving.
·Develops fine motor skills, accuracy and hand-eye coordination.
·Introduces child to put and take play, colors, shapes, sorting, and more.

Submarine Spray Whale
· A battery-operated submarine with a water circulation pumping system that draws water from the tub and recycles a safe stream of water without wasting water from the tap.
· Water magically streams through the diver shower head specially designed for easy grip and activation by small hands.
· Run the water flow into the floating whale to create a cool spraying action!
· Direct the water flow at the whale to see him float and swim like a real whale.
· Fill the whale and now he’s a water pouring funnel!

Developmental Benefits:
·Encourages independent play and exploration.
·Grasping the shower head and filling the whale encourages development of fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination.
·Spraying action stimulates senses of sight and touch.
·Teaches children cause and effect processes and concepts such as full/empty, float/sink etc.
·Closed water circulation system saves water and promotes safety by maintaining water level and temperature.

Some children, like my son, were hesitant around the water so going at their pace is key. And making it more fun with toys helps.

It’s also important to note that water in general is not just important for sensory reasons it can help our special needs kids build muscle tone through gentle resistance, increasing the opportunity for muscles to develop in a low impact, low pressure setting. It reduces body weight, increases mobility and can decrease physical and emotional stress. For kids who are in a wheelchair or bound by physical limitations, the water can also be relaxing and soothing.