Dough is one of the most common tools in my OT toolkit, and there are about a million ways to use it. In today’s post, I want to highlight a great local product and a few ways to use it to build emotional regulation skills. Handful Sensory Dough is made of food grade ingredients, coloured with plants, and made without any artificial preservatives. They recently launched their Winter Doughbox, and it’s full of fun materials for both independent and guided play. Check out their website for all the details.
If you’ve been with us for a while, you might be familiar with emotional regulation. If you need a refresher, head to Regulation 101. Being regulated means that your energy level is appropriate for the situation that you are in. It’s walking calmly beside an adult while you’re at the grocery store, and then being able to run and shout when you’re playing with your friends.
Kids who are having difficulty with emotional regulation may:
-Act overly silly or “out of control”
-Struggle with transitions between activities
-Have difficulty waiting or taking turns
-Grab or touch objects without permission
Regulation is also tied to impulse control - so when your sibling grabs a toy out of your hand, you are able to resist the urge to smack them to get it back.
We start the work around regulation with learning about emotions. To accompany the latest Doughbox, we’ve developed winter themed emotional regulation activities. And the best part - there are sneaky fine motor skills involved too.
Use the Handful Dough to make three circles - small, medium, and large. Then, invite the kiddos to create different emotions on the face of the snowmen. If the child is under 3, focus on basic emotions: happy, sad, mad. However, if you’re working with an older child, challenge their emotional range with more complex feelings: confused, nervous, and tired are things that they may be feeling. By introducing these concepts during play, we are giving them the language that they’ll need later to reflect. You might start a conversation with, “I wonder how you were feeling when your sister told you to go away?”
From here, continue the conversation in your day-to-day life. Talk about what other people you see in books and at the park might be feeling. Point out the things you are noticing to your kiddos - Mayson’s eyebrows are scrunched together; she looks mad.
More often than not, we need to do something with our kids that will calm their bodies and brains. This is called co-regulation, since an adult is almost always involved in helping to guide the child in becoming more regulated. Use the Handful Sensory Dough to practice breathing, mindfulness, and even heavy work to calm and organize your body.
Breathing is one of the best ways to calm our body when we are dysregulated.
Open the jar or take out a small amount of the dough and hold it in your hands. Take a big breath in through your nose, smelling the peppermint. Fill your belly with air and then hold for a few seconds. Breathe out through your mouth and repeat 3-5 times.
Pretend that you are a winter storm: take a deep breath in through your nose and then blow out through your mouth to freeze the snowmen. See if you can knock them over with your big breaths!
Grounding techniques keep us in the moment and can distract or reduce the overwhelming feelings your kiddos are having.
Practice mindfulness by focusing on the dough. Take the dough out of the jar and try out a variation of the grounding exercise from Tame a Tantrum.
How does the dough look?
What does it smell like?
How does it feel against your skin? Is it smooth or rough; hot or cold?
Place dough in your hands and focus on the muscles of your hands and upper body. Tighten and release the muscles to release any tension that is in your body.
Working with your hands can help increase your attention and relax your muscles.
Take out all of the dough and place it in your hands. Try kneading, rolling, flattening, and punching the dough until your brain and body are feeling more organized.
Roll small balls and then squish them with your index finger.
Hide the jewels in the ball of dough and then work to find them.
What other ways do you use your dough to calm your body? Don’t forget to head to Handful Sensory Dough and order your Winter Doughbox!