DIY Sensory Feel & Find Me Box


                               (Developmental Age: 5 years onwards)

We all are very much in love with different sensory activities as they are engaging, fascinating and nurturing,keeping us calm, alert and organised in our day to day accomplishments. Besides activating (alerting sensory activities) or relaxing (calming sensory activities) different sense organs, these tasks improve self-regulation, fine motor coordination, eye-hand coordination, laterality and dexterity.

At the same time, sensory fun can rescue our ASD, ADHD and SPD children from meltdowns, anxieties or sensory overloads due to their nature and character. 

This post discusses an activity which is awe-inspiring for children having touch (tactile) discrimination difficulties.

Let’s discuss Tactile discrimination in brief, and how it affects our sensory system & kids?

Tactile Discrimination:

It is the ability to receive precise information about an object in hand. It supports in carrying out functions such as tool usage, grasping, releasing ,gripping and in-hand-manipulation skills. Putting Lego pieces together, being able to discriminate between different fabrics, or recognising our loved ones’ touch with eyes closed, happens due to sharp tactile discrimination abilities. 

Often children with sensory issues (tactile hyposensitivity,sensory seekers or hypersensitivity) display poor tactile perception and discrimination. 

During normal developmental progression, an infant (5-6 months) shakes a rattle, sucks his thumb, tries to flip pages of the book, as he grows (7-11 months), starts clapping hands together, gets messy with the food items,tries to hold sipper with both the hands and mouths everything. His tactile (touch) abilities also develop  such as the ability to discriminate different fabrics (soft blanket or stuff toy and wooden surface), sizes (small and large Lego pieces) develop. 

Factors such as hand skill development, touch (tactile) exploration, visual skills, environmental adaptation are involved while carrying out these developmental activities. However, children with tactile discrimination difficulties struggle to identify where they have been touched on the body with vision and without vision.

Many times parents of SPD or ADHD children have questions such as,

"Why my child is not able to do his laces?"

Or "Why his handwriting is so poor?"

Or, "Why is he so clumsy?"

Or, "I am having a battle teaching him how to use fork and knife!! He is a messy eater."

Children face difficulties in the tactile (touch sensations are not registered in the brain or they register very slowly), proprioceptive, auditory, visual or vestibular systems due to which their behaviours are challenging. Sometimes hyperactivity, disruption and unacceptable behaviours in public places become a cause of embarrassment for parents.
It is important to address and rectify these issues in the early hood so that, as a child grows, he does not lose his self-esteem and self-reliance.

So lets, begin with activity and we will discuss task's benefits too later in the post.

Activity Requirements/Resources Needed:

  • Empty Chocolate or cookie box so that different items  can fit in different shaped compartments or sections. 
  • Thread
  • Different sized coins
  • Different sized keys and locks
  • Pipe cleaner
  • Earrings/ring/ (any jewellery items small in size)
  • Paper clips (different sizes)
  • Paper holders
  • Large and small buttons
  • Beads
  • Ring
  • Hair Band and hair pins, safety pins
  • Plasticine
  • Rubber
  • Lego pieces
(You may put different objects available in surrounding, according to child’s preference. Resources to put inside the box are quite general, simple and easily available in most of setting meaning school and home).


A) Without resources: (Feel shapes)

To start with the simple activity, show the child empty cookie or chocolate box and ask him to feel different shapes designed within it using his index finger. Let his fingertips explore the shapes slowly. This will help in developing brain mapping about shapes (about edges, sides, corners) and size of shapes. This will also support in improving visualisation skills and attention span.
Now blindfold him (with due permission to touch or he may close the eyes) and rotate the box partially (180 degrees) once in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction in the case of young and adolescents (because our kids are clever to memorise shape and trick!!). Ask the child to place his finger on any shape.Ask about it.
Which shape is it?
On making right guess encourage him to feel more shapes however on the wrong guess, untie his blindfold and let him see and feel the shape. 
On repeated experiences of touching different shapes, the brain will get used to them and child will finally able to recognise them on visual occlusion too.


B)  With Resources: (Blindfold with No Time limit):

In this modification of activity, put all the items in different compartments and let the child see, touch and feel items for further exploration. 
Discuss distinguished shapes, sizes, textures and alloy of items with the child with ease & comfort. 
After sometime ask the child to close the eyes or blindfold him.
Ask the child to randomly pick any object in his dominant hand and feel its physical characteristics (size, shape, weight form).


C)  With Resources: (Blindfold with Time limit):

We will repeat the task as above, however, this time, to make the activity more challenging it has to be time-framed

Show the child all items placed in different compartments initially for 3-4 minutes and then ask him to close his eyes. Let him pick any object with his eyes closed and make guesses. 

Correct guesses can be rewarded with stars,thumbs up or smiley stickers.

As the child progresses the skill, reduce the time for visual sense (eyes) to memorise what object is placed in which compartment. Reduce the time limit depending upon child’s visual memory (ability to see and memorise information about the object, place or person) and touch system. For example, if the child is able to feel and judge objects clearly, time can be reduced to 1-2 minutes for guessing a maximum number of objects. Time factor can be variable depending upon child’s abilities since every child is different.


D)     Use both Hands:

Another modification of this activity can be the use of both the hands. When a child has progressed well to above modifications, ask him to close his eyes and simultaneously give him two objects, one in each hand to feel and make a guess. 
This is a complex act, therefore, make sure that child has the capability to perform the challenging task. It is essential that his self-esteem should not be lowered by any activity performance or end up in a meltdown.

Benefits of Feel & Find Me:

Tactile Discrimination: 
    Touch experience = Improved Tactile perception + discrimination.
Holding and feeling different objects which have varying physical characteristics (size shape, density, texture, weight,) will increase tactile perception, exploration and discriminatory sense. When a child holds different size coins or keys, this helps in recognising variation in the circumference of coins.

Body Scheme: 
    Body Scheme =  Movement of body parts in relation to each other.
Picking, touching, and exploring objects involves the movement of different body parts such as shoulders, hands, wrists and fingers. Child’s muscles, ligaments, and bones move in relation to each other which helps in developing body scheme or kinaesthetic awareness. A child with body scheme disorder will have reading and writing difficulties especially PE or gymnasium activities will be troublesome along with coordination issues

Midline Crossing: 
Midline Crossing = Child crossing an imaginary line to use the other side of the body.
Picking different objects from the box, parallel and across the body will help in developing Midline Crossing. Making eight in horizontal and vertical planes helps to develop midline crossing. The child passes the imaginary line, which divides the body into left and right sides. Development of Midline Crossing is nessasury  to carry out various day to day activities such as throwing or catching ball and writing.

    Laterality = Helps in establishing hand dominance
    Using dominant hand to pick and feel objects will support in defining hand laterality. This can be defined as Internal awareness of two sides of the body. A child with the lack of laterality will not have defined hand dominance, so the activity helps to develop hand preference when a child uses his hand to rub the different textures on tiles.
 Visual Memory: 
 Visual Memory = Improves visual & memory skills.
 The sequence of seeing the objects,closing eyes, touching & recognising different things helps to develop visual memory skills. to memorise which object is kept in the periphery, making its image in the brain is the part of visual memory. however, to pick it up and feel is part of tactile discrimination.

 Fine Motor Skills:
 Fine Motor Skills = Causes improved self-care (buttoning, laces)
   As child holds and manipulates different objects in hand his fine motor tasks are being challenged. Using prehension and In-Hand -Manipulation skills such as picking coins, rubber, thread and shifting or rotating them between the fingers and thumb will be defined as fine motor skill.