Give Me Gum, Give Me Greatness

Uncategorized May 24, 2021

Why Do Children Have Sensory Needs?

This is a great question! Children have sensory needs for the same reason that adults have sensory needs. 

We are all born to explore the world through our senses, and some of us have a need to explore more through sensory-based stimuli, such as tactile experiences.

Personally, when I am in a meeting, if I have gum in my mouth it helps me to stay focused on the task at hand. I don’t even have to chew the gum, but I can just keep it in my mouth and feel focused. Is it the texture of the gum or the peppermint flavor? It could be either or both.

The peppermint can activate the hippocampus in the brain, which causes a person to focus and have stronger mental clarity, and enhances memory. The Mayo Clinic mentions peppermint and rosemary as beneficial components to promoting brain clarity, so flavor can promote mental awareness.

I also know that having something in my hand keeps me focused and on task. For example, when I unwrap the piece of gum, I will often keep the wrapper in my hand, bending it and creating shapes with it. Does this mean I am not focused on the task or the speaker I am listening to? No, it is simply a way for me to stay hyper-focused. 

There you have it, GIVE ME GUM, GIVE ME GREATNESS.

I also know that it is not always appropriate to have gum in my mouth or a wrapper in my hand, so I also have learned that note-taking keeps me focused on the presentation and task at hand. Personally, I prefer specific pens that have a shape to them, such as a triangular base or that can create a very thin line. I have also learned that scented pens can be helpful to some people. 

Coffee is another sensory-based mechanism that many people will use to stay mentally alert. Is it the scent that promotes the effect? Many studies would support that the scent alone will boost mental clarity.

Can you relate to any of these things? Gum coffee, scents, pens?

Now, let’s think about our children, they also have sensory needs, but they must know what is appropriate and inappropriate for a learning setting. 

Sensory needs for children should be acknowledged and provided for. Many products can help children stay focused and engaged while learning.  

We all want our children to reach the highest aptitude in their learning experiences, so here are three points to helping your child who has sensory needs. 

Let’s Navigate APT! (Aware – Provide – Teach)

  1. Aware: Be aware of your child’s sensory needs. Does your child consistently put things in their mouth or are they constantly touching things? How do they react around different textures, scents, and weight? Look for their needs, comforts, and ability to adjust and focus.
  2. Provide: As you discover your child’s specific sensory needs, provide them with different stimuli to meet their needs. Here are some examples:

    • Does your child put things in their mouth? Provide them with gum, water, juice, pretzels, small crackers, dry cereal, nuts, dried fruit, or licorice.

    • Does your child constantly touch things? Provide them with fidgets with textures, soft stuffed animals, feathers, writing utensils that are different shapes and weights, or textured compounds such as playdough, kinetic sand, or slime.

    • Does your child react to specific scents or the lack of a scent? Provide your child with essential oils, scented soap, scented lip balm, scented crayons or markers, snacks that activate scent, or wash a special stuffy or blanket in a laundry detergent that your child prefers to hold the scent in the fabric.

      Note: Some children prefer no scents at all and we should be aware of this too!

    • Does your child prefer certain clothing? Provide layers of clothing for your child to feel comfortable, consider appropriately weighted blankets or stuffed animals, cut tags out of clothing, be considerate of types of materials. 

  3. Teach: After providing your child with sensory items, teach them the time and place to use each item. Remember, we are helping our children build soft skills that will help them function with intentionality and purpose in their everyday learning experiences.

Sensory based acquisition and learning is key to developing a strong focus, building learning strategies, and increasing mental awareness. 

Just like each adult has preferences, our children are the same and we should acknowledge their sensory needs.

Here are some items that can be found on Amazon that are sensory-based. This is simply a list to give you ideas of products that can help you build a sensory box for your child. Many items can be found at the dollar store. 


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