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Fidget and Sensory Solutions for Kids on Vacation

Updated: Mar 26

Traveling can be an exhilarating experience, offering a break from the routine and a chance to explore new environments. However, for families with children, especially those who benefit from occupational therapy (OT) or have sensory processing needs, vacations can also present unique challenges. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey for everyone, consider packing these sensory-friendly fidgets and solutions.

1. Compact Fidget Toys

Fidget toys can be a great way to keep kids engaged and calm during long car rides or flights. Opt for compact, quiet options like:

  • Silicone Fidget Bands: These can be attached to seatbelts or airplane tray tables to provide a discreet way to fidget without disturbing others.

  • Fidget Spinners and Cubes: Classic and effective, these small tools can fit easily into a pocket or backpack.

  • Textured Tangles: These come in various colors and textures and are perfect for tactile exploration.

2. Sensory Chewelry

For kids who seek oral sensory input, chewelry (a combination of chewable and jewelry) can be a lifesaver. These non-toxic, durable necklaces or bracelets allow children to safely satisfy chewing needs without risking damage to clothing or other items.

3. Weighted Travel Accessories

Weighted items, such as small lap pads or stuffed animals, can provide comforting pressure that helps reduce anxiety and improve focus. Look for portable options designed specifically for travel.

4. Noise-Canceling Headphones

Loud environments like airports and crowded tourist spots can be overwhelming. Noise-canceling headphones can help reduce auditory overload, allowing children to enjoy the journey more peacefully.

5. Visual Timers or Schedule Cards

Transitions can be hard. Visual timers or illustrated schedule cards can help children understand what to expect next, reducing anxiety about unknown or changing environments.

6. Portable Sensory Bins

A small, sealable container filled with sand, rice, or beans can serve as a portable sensory bin. Include small toys or items for digging and finding, providing a focused activity that can calm nerves and engage the mind.

7. Aromatherapy Options

Consider small, portable aromatherapy diffusers or scented wristbands. Scents like lavender or chamomile can be soothing and help manage sensory overload.

8. Comfortable Clothing and Accessories

Pack clothes and accessories that are familiar and comfortable. Avoid new or scratchy materials that could become bothersome over time. Compression garments or snug-fitting hats can also offer comforting sensory input.

9. Sketchbooks or Journals

For visual or kinesthetic processors, drawing, writing, or journaling can be an effective way to manage sensory input and express feelings or anxieties about new experiences.

10. Appropriate Snacks

Hunger can exacerbate sensory sensitivities. Pack a variety of familiar, satisfying snacks that can help stave off hunger and provide a sense of comfort and routine.

Planning and Preparation: The Key to a Smooth Vacation

While packing these items, engage your child in the process, allowing them to choose which tools they think will be most helpful. Discuss how and when they might use each item. Familiarizing your child with these strategies before the trip can make a significant difference in how effectively they use them on vacation.

Remember, every child is different, and what works for one may not work for another. It may take some trial and error to find the perfect mix of sensory solutions for your child's needs. However, with the right preparation and tools, vacations can become enjoyable and memorable experiences for the entire family.

Click the link below to schedule a free 15 minute consultation with our AMAZING Occupational Therapist, Louise Schmitt, OTR/L for more sensory and OT solutions:

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