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We usually think of the library as a quiet place, right? The sound of pages flipping, soft carpet to muffle footsteps, hushed voices. Most kids associate the library as a place to hold in noise and act accordingly.
But, some kids with sensory modulation issues physically cannot keep themselves quiet or relatively still for long periods of time. Kids who are sensory seekers need sensory input, which often manifests itself in loud ways.
How can parents (or teachers or librarians) help sensory seekers focus and enjoy library visits?
5 Ideas to Help Sensory Seekers When Visiting the Library
- Arrive early. Spend a couple of minutes outside or get into the storytime room a few minutes early to allow your kid to run, jump, fidget before he or she has to sit for a program. Take advantage of transition periods in storytime, too. Help your child dance with the music or do three jumps in place with you when the librarian shifts to a puppet show. (Librarians: If you can, help provide a movement option during transition times. It helps all kinds of kids.)
- Have something for their hands. Many children (not just sensory seekers) actually listen better when they fiddle with something in their hands. Different kinds of fidget toys exist, but you also know your child best and can choose the most appropriate option. A few other suggestions: put playdough in a plastic bag inside a sock to squeeze, a squishy sensory ball, or a finger puzzle.
- Have a special seat. Depending in your library, you might be able to sit in the same place most of the time. Or, bring a carpet square or circle for your child to sit on. Even though this doesn’t provide sensory input, having a signal helps many children remember what to do.
- Help them see what they can do. Sensory seekers crave deep sensory input, like messy play and jumping, crashing, climbing, and pushing motions. This behavior can be disruptive or is often seen as misbehavior when sensory seekers actually need this deep input to regulate their nervous systems. Help your child know what they are allowed to do during library and storytime visits (rather than your child just hearing “no” throughout your time). They may not run, but they can walk a couple laps around some of the bookshelves if needed. They may not shout, but they can call out appropriate answers during storytime.
- Provide stronger sensory input to one of the five senses, especially touch or taste. If your library allows snacks, storytime might be an appropriate time for a light snack. (Always ask first.) If your sensory seeker likes to chew, take a safe chewing toy with you to the library. (Ark Therapeutic offers multiple types of chewing tubs and oral motor probes.) My sensory seeker responds well to the sensory feedback from stickers right now. A few stickers might help him sit quiet(er) for 10 or 20 minutes!
It takes more energy and preparation, but sensory seekers can thrive at the library, too!
How do you help your sensory seeker maintain control in quiet spaces? If you’re a librarian or teacher, how could you use one of these ideas to help some of your students?