by: Red Door Pediatric Therapy Staff
Why does my sensory child not explore their environment?
As a parent, it can be concerning when you notice that your infant or toddler does not seem interested in exploring the world around them. Perhaps they don’t like the feel of grass or other textures, or they never seem to put things in their mouth like other children their age do. You may be wondering if this is related to sensory processing and what can be done to help your child. In this article, we will explore the possible causes of this behavior, how it may be related to sensory processing, and what you can do to help your child explore more.
Possible Causes of a Lack of Exploration
There could be several reasons why your toddler is not interested in exploring objects around them. One such cause could be temperament. Temperament can affect a child’s level of curiosity and interest in their environment. Depending developmental stage, toddlers go through phases of exploration, and some may be more interested in certain types of objects than others.
Lack of exploration could also be related to sensory processing. Sensory processing refers to the way the brain interprets and responds to sensory (touch, smell, pressure, vision, sound, taste) information from the environment. Some children may have sensory processing difficulties, which can affect their ability to explore their environment in typical ways. For example, a child with sensory processing difficulties may avoid certain textures or tastes, or they may be overly sensitive to certain types of stimuli, such as loud noises or bright lights.
How Sensory Processing Issues Can Affect Exploration
Children with sensory processing issues may have difficulty exploring their environment in typical ways. They may avoid certain textures or tastes, which can limit their exposure to new experiences. For example, a child who does not like the feel of grass may avoid playing outside, which can limit their opportunities to explore nature and other outdoor environments. Similarly, a child who does not put things in their mouth may miss out on important sensory experiences, such as exploring different tastes and textures. On the other end of the spectrum, you may find that a child puts everything in their mouth to the point of being hazardous.
How to Better Understand Your Child’s Sensory Processing
If you suspect that your child’s lack of exploration may be related to sensory processing, it is important to better understand your child’s unique sensory needs. You can observe your child’s behavior and take note of what seems to bother or interest them. For example, you may notice that your child avoids certain textures, or that they seek out certain types of sensory input, such as swinging or spinning.
It can be very helpful to consult a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in sensory processing. An occupational therapist can help you better understand your child’s unique sensory profile and provide strategies for helping your child explore their environment in a way that is comfortable and safe for them.
How to Help Your Child Explore More
If you are concerned that your child is not exploring their environment as much as they could be, there are several strategies you can try to encourage them to do so. Here are a few ideas:
- Create a sensory-rich environment: Provide your child with opportunities to explore different textures, tastes, and smells in a safe and controlled environment. For example, you could set up a sensory bin with different types of beans or rice, or provide your child with a variety of soft and hard objects to play with.
- Gradually introduce new stimuli: If your child is hesitant to try new things, start by introducing small amounts of the new stimuli and gradually increasing the exposure. For example, if your child is afraid of grass, you could start by having them touch it with their hand, and gradually work up to having them walk on it.
- Use positive reinforcement: Praise your child for their efforts to explore their environment, even if they are only taking small steps. Encourage them to try new things and offer plenty of support and reassurance along the way.
- Consult with a professional: A pediatric occupational therapist can provide customized strategies and support to help your child explore their environment in a way that feels comfortable and safe for them.
To speak to a highly trained occupational therapist, you can call Red Door Pediatric Therapy. Our Bismarck team approaches sensory concerns using a multidisciplinary approach. Our other locations administer the same philosophy in looking at children from a whole-child perspective. If you have questions, do not hesitate to reach out!