Super Sensory Play Ideas from an SPD Mommy

Ah disorders. So trendy, right? My disorder of choice is SPD – Sensory Processing Disorder. A super peachy neurological malfunction that means my senses sometimes send the right messages to my brain and sometimes they play nasty pranks on me. Like “AAACK! You’re being scrubbed with a Brillo pad! RUN! RUN! HAHA just kidding, your precious baby is just touching your arm.”or “Someone just wrung out your brain like an old sponge. You should probably puke now. GOTCHA! Something just brushed past your temple. That’s all. Wasn’t that fun?” Every day is April Fools Day up in my head.

Please DON’T pass it on

As you might imagine, I am desperately hoping not to pass this joy on to my children. So I’m always sneakily testing them to see if they inherited my sensory issues. It’s easier to treat if it’s identified in childhood, vs. waiting until you’ve formed all kinds of wonky coping mechanisms for SPD as an adult.

Testing through sensory play

baby sensory play with tricolor fusili pasta One fun little test that we like to do is playing with pasta. It’s cheap, easy to set up and clean up, and so far both kids have loved it. I’m not sure how effective it truly is as an SPD “test”, but I figure getting them comfortable with as many unusual textures and sounds as possible is a solid step toward proper neurological function. And if they hated this type of sensory play, that would be a big neon sign that something was awry. (By the way, this is totally fun even if you’re not secretly observing your baby for disorder symptoms.)

When Fiona was a baby, I sat her in front of a gigantic mixing bowl with a slotted spoon then I poured a whole box of pasta into the bowl, very slowly. She thought this was magic. She would stir it around, fling it out of the bowl, I’d pick it up, drop it back in, and we’d repeat the game for at least an hour. To keep things exciting, I’d count each piece of pasta as I tossed it back into the bowl. Because 8 months is not to early to learn numbers, right??

With Enzo, I got even more creative. This pampered little fella got tri-color rotini for extra color and texture. (Poor Fiona just got boring ol’ wheat penne.) I figured out that a ceramic serving bowl would make way better sounds than a plastic mixing bowl, so he got an upgrade in that department, too. His jar scraper wasn’t very useful, but it’s so hard wash a spoon, I just couldn’t drag myself to do it.

Surprises for Mommy

As soon as nearly-3-year-old Fiona saw her brother’s bowl of pasta, she wanted to play, too. I thought it was pretty cool that she remembered doing this so long ago, and also that she still finds it fun now. You would think a baby would try to put the pasta in their mouth, but neither of mine ever have. Perhaps due to the magical nature of the pasta playtime, or maybe it’s just a fluke and your kids will be chowing down on dry pasta. (Hopefully that’s not the case.)

All kids are scientists

Naturally, my kids’ favorite “tests” are the ones that involve smearing gross foods all over the place to test my response. (Picking soup out of carpet is sensory play for Mommy!) But you don’t have to have SPD to hate that test, am I right? The tactile sensation aspect is just one of many possible symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder, so I’ll be looking for and brainstorming other ways to secretly check my kids for SPD symptoms.

If you have any fun sensory play ideas or SPD advice or questions, please share them! And follow along as I continue to test my little lab rats for malfunctions. Er…I mean as we continue to explore how our senses operate in this beautifulcrazymessywonderful world.

About The Author


Mom to two little ones who are way cuter than they have any right to be. Locavore, bibliophile, ambivert. Lover of architecture, the desert, and raisins. Caffeine free. Probably hangry right now.
I wrote about desert landscaping and urban water conservation in my former life.