What is a Sensory Diet?

By June 4, 2024 June 13th, 2024 Occupational Therapy
child doing sensory diet in Occupational Therapy session in Bondi Junction and Mascot

A sensory diet is a carefully planned set of activities and strategies designed to meet the sensory needs of young children. It is like a balanced diet with different foods keeps our bodies healthy. A sensory diet provides a variety of sensory experiences to help children’s brains and bodies function well. Sensory diets are especially helpful for children who have sensory processing challenges. However, they can benefit all children by supporting their development and well-being. Let’s explore what a sensory diet is, why it’s important, and the benefits it offers for young children.

What is a Sensory Diet?

A sensory diet consists of activities and experiences. These provide the sensory input a child needs to stay focused, calm, and organised throughout the day. These activities can include things like swinging, jumping, deep pressure (like hugs), or playing with different textures. The goal is to help children process sensory information more effectively. As a result of this, they can better manage their emotions, behaviour, and attention.

Sensory Processing Explained

Sensory processing is how our brains receive and interpret information from our senses. This includes what we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. It also includes our sense of movement and body position. Some children have sensory processing challenges. This means they might be overly sensitive (hypersensitive) or under-sensitive (hypo-sensitive) to certain sensory inputs. For example, a child who is hypersensitive to sound might cover their ears at loud noises. A child who is hypo-sensitive to movement might seek out activities like spinning or jumping to feel more balanced.

Components of a Sensory Diet

A sensory diet includes a variety of activities tailored to a child’s specific sensory needs. Here are some examples:

  1. Movement Activities: These can include swinging, jumping on a trampoline, running, or riding a bike. Movement activities help children who need more vestibular input (related to balance and movement).
  2. Deep Pressure Activities: Activities like squeezing a stress ball, bear hugs, rolling a weighted ball over the body, or using a weighted blanket provide proprioceptive input, which helps children who need more body awareness and calming sensations.
  3. Tactile Activities: Playing with different textures like sand, playdough, or water can help children who need more tactile input (related to touch).
  4. Oral Activities: Chewing crunchy foods, blowing bubbles, or sucking on a straw can provide oral sensory input, which is helpful for children who seek out oral sensations.
  5. Visual and Auditory Activities: Watching calm visual patterns or listening to soothing music can help children who need specific visual or auditory input to feel regulated.

Benefits of a Sensory Diet

A sensory diet offers numerous benefits for young children, particularly those with sensory processing challenges. Here are some key advantages:

  1. Improved Focus and Attention: By providing the right sensory input, a sensory diet can help children stay focused and attentive during activities like learning, playing, and completing tasks.
  2. Better Emotional Regulation: Sensory diets help children manage their emotions by providing calming or alerting activities as needed. This can reduce tantrums, anxiety, and emotional outbursts.
  3. Enhanced Motor Skills: Engaging in sensory activities helps children develop both fine and gross motor skills. For example, playing with playdough can strengthen hand muscles, while jumping on a trampoline improves coordination and balance.
  4. Increased Social Skills: When children feel more regulated and comfortable in their bodies, they can interact more positively with peers and adults. This can lead to better social skills and stronger relationships.
  5. Greater Independence: As children learn to recognise their sensory needs and use sensory activities to meet those needs, they become more independent in managing their own behaviour and emotions.
  6. Better Sleep: Some sensory activities, especially those providing deep pressure input, can help children relax and sleep better. A well-regulated sensory system can promote a more restful sleep routine.

How to Implement a Sensory Diet

Creating and implementing a sensory diet involves understanding a child’s specific sensory needs and preferences. Here are some steps to get started:

  1. Observe and Assess: Pay attention to how your child responds to different sensory inputs. Notice what activities they seek out or avoid and how they behave in different sensory environments.
  2. Consult with a Professional: Occupational therapists (OTs) specialise in sensory processing and can help design a sensory diet tailored to your child’s needs. They can provide guidance on which activities will be most beneficial and how to incorporate them into your child’s daily routine.
  3. Create a Routine: Incorporate sensory activities into your child’s daily schedule. This might include morning movement activities to wake up, calming activities before school, and tactile play after school.
  4. Be Flexible: Sensory needs can change, so be prepared to adjust the sensory diet as needed. Pay attention to how your child responds and make changes to the activities or their timing as necessary.
  5. Involve Your Child: Encourage your child to participate in choosing activities they enjoy. This can make the sensory diet more effective and fun.


A sensory diet is a powerful tool for helping young children manage their sensory needs and improve their overall well-being. By incorporating a variety of sensory activities into their daily routine, children can develop better focus, emotional regulation, motor skills, social interactions, independence, and sleep patterns. Understanding and meeting a child’s sensory needs can make a big difference in their development and happiness. With the right support and activities, children can thrive and enjoy a more balanced and fulfilling life.

We’re here to support you

At OneOnOne Children’s Therapy, we believe that every child deserves the opportunity to grow and thrive.

Our clinics are not just a space for therapy – it’s a place where children can discover their strengths, overcome challenges, and reach their full potential.

By combining innovative therapy techniques with a stimulating and supportive environment, we’re proud to offer a holistic approach to paediatric therapy and early intervention that addresses the unique needs of each child we support.

Reach out for support

If you’re concerned about your child’s regulation or want to learn more about how our Occupational Therapists use sensory diets to help your child, OneOnOne Children’s Therapy is here to help. We have clinics in Bondi Junction and Mascot – in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs.

Call our Bondi Junction and Mascot clinics on (02) 80657837 or email. You can book a free 30 minute phone call with us to discuss how we can support your child’s unique journey