5 Ideas to Help Sensory Seekers Focus in the Library

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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 {LibraryAdventure.com}

5 Ideas to Help Sensory Seekers When Visiting the Library

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

About Caroline Flory

Caroline is a wife, homeschooling momma to two undeserved blessings (one of whom has special needs), writer, picture book fanatic, decaf coffee drinker, former public school teacher, and major library advocate. In addition to writing posts on special needs here at The Library Adventure, she blogs about family, faith, and books at Under God’s Mighty Hand. (including free printables!), contributes monthly to a couple of other sites, and loves to connect on Twitter.


  1. Love this! Especially #4 – I realize now I need to think of some good “can do” alternatives to saying no to kids (usually my own sensory seeker!) during story time – THANKS!

  2. Thanks for the fidget toy links! I need these at home when we do read aloud time, too.

  3. This is a great post. I don’t think my 4-yr-old daughter necessarily falls into this category, but some of these suggestions would definitely help her sit through a storytime!

    • I agree with you, Emily. These suggestions can absolutely be modified for many kids, those with special needs or those who are typical-developing. Let me know if anything in particular helps! 🙂

  4. I am in tears right now. I have just realized that my two year old son sounds just like this. I once left our local library in tears wondering why my kid couldn’t behave like all the others and vowing never to return. It is so emotional to finally think that maybe I am not crazy or a bad mother but could have a son withS PD! I can never thank you enough.

    • Oh, Andrea. If I could give you a hug, I would. This definitely doesn’t make you a bad mother! Try some of these ideas, and see if they help. Maybe he just needs to get into a very specific routine. (That helps my fella some, too.)
      Also, I will say SPD (sensory processing disorders) and full “sensory seekers” *can* be a bit different. Some kids with SPD can have some sensory seeking tendencies, but others have sensory “avoidance” behaviors.
      Some kids who are strong “sensory seekers” have more of a “sensory modulation” issue (which kind of means being able to balance nervous system needs with action control). If you want some more ideas, or just another momma to talk with, please feel free to email me! (undergodsmightyhand (at) gmail (dot) com)
      I’m so glad you left a comment, and I really do hope one of these ideas helps. Give your boy an extra big squeeze! 🙂

  5. Such a great post. Not every kid learns the same way, or plays the same way. At our library, storytime includes stickers, singing and clapping with “Wheels on the Bus,” and book-related crafts. It’s not only fun, but a great way to get kids involved in the books.

    • You’re so right; everyone learns and plays differently. I love when libraries include book-related crafts during storytime! Not all libraries do that, and it’s a great addition. Thanks for your comments, Stacy!

  6. Caroline, Thank you for this wonderful article with your insightful strategies! I will definitely share it, as I feel it is a great resource for parents, teachers, AND librarians! Thanks again!

  7. Cristy S. says:

    Thank you so much for this! I’m a homeschooling mom to a sensory seeking girl, AND a children’s librarian who does preschool storytimes! I do wish I had this list when my daughter was younger, but she did make me better at storytimes, by forcing me to discover ways to incorporate everyone in my planning!

    To your readers, please don’t ever leave a storytime because you think your child ‘can’t behave like others!’ Most who run storytimes will tell you it is SO common for children under 4 to not ‘get’ sitting still or shouting out … or a myriad of behaviors that are so very common for young children! We really have seen it all … and your precious child will get it eventually, either by repetition, or with some of these wonderful sensory helps!

    Thanks again for the great article.

    • Oh, wow. I’m so thankful for your comment here today, Cristy! Thank you for having such a welcoming attitude to all kinds of kids at your library. And, so glad this article encourages you, too!


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