A Better Way To Swing Your Kids


If it’s warm or cold, doesn’t matter. Find a place outside to get moving with your kids! It’s good for you and your kids, and babies especially love movement play. Fresh air, natural light, and good old fashioned movement stimulation for the brain! Ahhh….life is good!


I took my little one and first grader out for a swing ride, and although this may seem simple, there is an easy way to get provide great movement with little effort. All you need to know is the Sensory Movement Hack!

I can assure you these smiles you see are the real deal. Baby loved her time in the swing, as did my first grader, but having a developmental therapist as a mom, well, you get a little more bang for your buck!

The official name for movement input, in sensory integration theory  is “vestibular” input. (OT Nerd Alert!  🙂 The term was first coined by Jean Ayres, Phd., OTR/L, an American occupational therapist, educational psychologist and pioneer in sensory integration theory. She wrote many books and published many research articles in her day, as well as made great contributions to the field of occupational science. She was the one who started it all. Without her, we might not think about sensory play in the same way we do today.

Her groundbreaking book in the 70’s was entitled Sensory Integration and Learning Disorders.

I was fortunate to have one of her colleagues as my master’s thesis advisor. My advisor worked with Dr. Ayres in California for years before switching to University life. I somehow won the lottery to get her as my advisor! Jackpot!

And so began my complete obsession with all things development and sensory. I have been learning ever since, and have enjoyed applying my findings to thousands of kiddos. Let me share my #1 favorite sensory hack for movement play so you can indulge yourself in a little movement play geek-dom too!

Movement Hack for Brain/Language Development

When you are providing linear movement for your baby or child (like swinging!), make sure you stop every 30-60 seconds to ensure that you re-activate the brain. After approximately 1 minute, there is a brain habituation process that happens. Habitu-what?? Brain habituation means that the brain detects the sensory input coming, but quickly gets used to the input and stops sending signals to the higher brain centers. To short circuit this habituation process, you simply have to change the movement.

Remember to keep the movement linear, and simply stop the movement and restart the movement. That’s all you need to do. Tell the brain movement is starting. Then tell it that it is stopping. Then tell it again it is starting over and over, every 60 minutes or so.

Do this in a consistent manner, and bingo, you have sent the upper centers of the brain all kinds of great movement input that not only is calming and organizing for your little kiddos, but also great for developing their gross motor skills. Plus, calm and organized kids = healthy emotional development. 

sensory play movement play

2 common questions I get from parents:

1. Do you have to change the direction of movement? You can if you like. But stop and go movement works the same way.

2. Should I add some spinning or circular movement? Well, you can, but for truly                    calming and organizing input you want to keep it linear.

So, try this on your backyard swing. Try this playfully in a swimming pool as you play tug boat, or in a wagon on a trail. Just remember this hack is a simplicity hack. Simple is best.

For even more giggles for babies, I usually add the game of “stop” and “go” with sign language to engage language skills. I have noticed significant increases in how my baby initiates sounds and words during this type of play. This actually makes sense scientifically because the movement receptors are located in the inner ear, so, of course we see greater language engagement! Movement and language play- all in one!

For my older kiddo, I usually play “red light/green light”. Giggles ensue, I promise you.

One last piece of advice, be sure to have fun!! Make memories with this simple hack, that you will remember long after your kids are grown.

For more fun outdoors,  try to design some fun outdoor time with your kids. It’s Easy!

movement play on a swing






Baby Sensory Play: Don’t Make the #1 Mistake (I did!)

how to do sensory play with kids without mistakes

As a developmental therapist, Montesssori homeschool teacher, and mindful mama, I frequently think of how to set things up so they go smoothly. This time however, it went all wrong. Hopefully, this learning moment for me will help you avoid the same mistake with your little one!

So the scene is set.  My little cutie is ready to play and I have all my materials and a whole bunch of space in the family room. Perfect! Let’s do sensory play!

Montessori-based Sensory Set Up

I set up my special textured rug first. It was soft to the touch, with fringes throughout, and vertical lines and love bugs all over it. After that, I put our a soft red blanket, a winter bear, and Montessori inspired toys including wooden balls, wooden snowflake cutouts, wooden bowls, spoons and little non-edible puff balls. Lastly, I went with the soft and warm theme and had a basket of hats, gloves and scarves.


Before we even got onto the rug, baby was ready for sensory play. She wanted the puff balls and pushing them into her sock made her giggle. She enjoyed the added sensory feeling on her toes and liked the challenge of using her thumb and pointer finger to get them out!


The room was quiet, the sun was shining and baby was headed for the center of the carpet. First the bowls were interesting and the snowflake cutouts attracted her attention. Unfortunately, her attention didn’t remain on these items long, and I was a little curious as she usually spent 5-10 minutes with these items when seated at the table. She moved on to the bear and then the hats and gloves, then onto the puff balls again, and then back to the bear!

After several minutes of baby switching toys every other second, I realized I had made a sensory play mistake, one commonly made, but still, not one I thought I would make as a developmental therapist. I should know better!

#1 Mistake in Sensory Play: Set up too many items, or items that are over-stimulating. Baby loses attention and instead of exploring, they just go wild!

Result of Mistake: After sensory play, baby is all charged up, and hasn’t seen or processed any of the toys designed for exploration and learning.

Rule of Thumb to Avoid This Common Mistake: Make play balanced so that the sensory items are not over-the-top stimulating. If you have all the senses involved or too much of one sense at one time, baby can lose focus. We call this “shutdown” where the growing nervous system shuts down and focus can’t happen. Baby goes wild, or at the very least gets quite hyperactive.

In this case, I overdid the visual and touch senses. Too much color, too many toys, too many things to touch and explore.



After a few more minutes of play, as I tried to figure out how to correct my mistake, baby just about lost her marbles. Well, at least her puff balls. She went back and forth between snow cutouts, wooden balls and puff balls till she just couldn’t stand it any longer.


She handled it well for the most part, crawling off the rug and sitting her bottom in the basket for a giggle. I wish I could be so calm and jovial in times of stress!



Sensory overload! Too much visual stimulation with too many “feeling” toys on top of it all!

So I regroup and try again after a few minutes pass and baby calms down. I let her just crawl it off in her natural play space. Good thing she is a pretty good self-regulator.


Simple Montessori-based Sensory Play Set Up

My new sensory play set up, was much simpler. I scrapped the overly visual rug and went with the soft blanket. Still red and alerting, but just one tone. I also focused on the winter wear, thinking her positive experience with them in play would help when she needed to actually wear them, when we were headed out the door into the cold winter weather.


After spending 10 minutes with the winter gear, she approached the wooden cut outs behind her. She attempted to get them herself, and explored them for 10 minutes as well. Now I feel like I am doing something right. She is able to focus and learn within this new sensory set up.DSC_0019

After a few more minutes, she went back to the winter gear and showed me her skill at combining. Combining is a developmental milestone where babies take one toy they know about and put it with another toy they know about. You know, to see how they might work together, or not!


So after a total bomb at the beginning, this time, winter sensory play went well.

After working with thousands of kids, developing sensory plans and playing with them directly, I can only hope you realize as a mindful parent that there is a bit of trial and error that has to happen when it comes to your specific kids sensory play needs. My baby needed it toned down, but your baby might have been just fine with the original set up.

Mindful Parents Sensory Tip to Avoid Mistakes:

Simply look to see if your baby is able to focus on the items presented in the sensory activity. If they can’t, the set up is too much for them. If they can, you probably nailed it.

Our little ones learning through sensory play is the idea that we as mindful parents are trying to create. The very idea that you read this article till the end says you are well on your way to preparing a great sensory and Montessori play time for you child.  Most importantly, have fun! Remember, you are loving you baby when you spend time playing with them! Hopefully this little tutorial will help!


Baby Sensory Play for Halloween!

halloween cute bug

So it’s super easy, indoors or outside.

Outdoor sensory fun!

Grab these materials for some fun and some great Halloween pics. Smiles are easy with all the sensory fun!

Materials: Box, Blanket, Halloween costume, nature toys, pumpkins, different texture fabrics, camera


It’s good to pick a cozy blanket. This makes for a warm and nurturing base for exploration. The spandex costume makes for great deep pressure input, but costumes of any kind make for great new sensory experiences. They are wonderful to use more often than just on Halloween night.


Toys and blankets should be baby safe, meaning they are safe to explore with their mouth. Babies need input to their mouth and tags and strings are a real treat!


It’s even great that they explore all the parts of their costume. Babies are learning not only about their body and how it works, but also how it works in relation to the world. Let your baby explore her costume.


Different textures are a sensory explorer’s dream! Give your baby several different fabrics to explore.


Different toys are also great! This little bug had the chance to explore some stuffed nature critters. I went with a nature theme. A quick visit to the plush animal bin and we had all we needed.


We thought we would head outside for more fun and photos. I was amazed how curious baby was about this big pumpkin. Grass, cooler air, more texture, more colors. Nature based sensory play brings its own advantages.


Baby was happy for a long time out in nature. I was happy because she was happy AND I got some cute photos!

Happy and Calm Sensory Play Baby!

One good way to know your little one has enjoyed their sensory play, is to see them calm and eventually tired. We’re not talking about being over-stimulated from too much sensory input. Calm, fun, new exploration. That’s the way to go.


As a mom, I hope you use these ideas to get some great photo ops. As a developmental therapist, I hope you get the idea about great sensory play. It’s fun and exciting for baby, but in the end it’s calming as well.

Sensory play is simply the “work” of our kids!