Tag Archives: sensory play

Cinnamon-Scented Ornaments

by Alyssa Brief MS, OTR/L & Rachel Rosenblum MS OTR/L

Occupational Therapy activities can multiple therapeutic benefits…in addition to being fun! Below is wonderful activity that is sure to be a hit!

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  1. 3/4 cup Applesauce
  2. 2 bottles of ground cinnamon (2.37 oz each)
  3. Parchment paper
  4. Ribbon or yarn
  5. Cookie cutters
  6. Toothpick


Mix applesauce and cinnamon into a mixing bowl, stirring or kneading until material reaches dough consistency. Scoop out a handful of dough and place onto parchment paper on flat surface. Place another sheet of parchment paper over dough and flatten until dough is about 1/4″ thick. Peel top sheet off of dough and stamp cookie cutter into dough, peeling away the excess dough around the border. Use a toothpick to make a hole in dough towards top of ornament. Depending on thickness of dough, ornament will need at least 24 hours to dry into hardened ornament. Once dry, thread ribbon through the hole and tie a double knot at desired length.

Sensory benefits of activity: Using the spice of cinnamon stimulates the olfactory sense, or sense of smell. Kneading and flattening the dough provides tactile input through the sense of touch. It also provides opportunity to explore and discuss the texture if it feels sticky, smooth, wet, mushy, etc. Interacting with the dough provides a sensory-rich play experience.

Motor benefits of activity: Pouring in the ingredients works on using graded movements, or knowing how much force is needed to complete a task, to avoid spilling. Kneading and flattening the dough promotes fine motor hand and finger strengthening. Mixing the dough and stamping cookie cutters provide opportunities to use a variety of grasp patterns during functional tool use. Stabilizing the mixing bowl with one hand while stirring with the other encourages bilateral coordination, or using both hands to complete a task.

Cognitive benefits of activity: This activity requires completing steps in a certain order, or a sequence, in order to be complete. This can promote understanding of how a task can be completed start to finish, and can reinforce the concept of “first ___, then ____” while having fun!

Self-Care benefits of activity: A hand-washing routine can be incorporated in this activity such as before and after to work on this skill. Also the clean-up process provides an opportunity to practice cleaning up after oneself such as wiping the table or making a trip to the garbage.

Hope you enjoy!

Sensory with a purpose

by Melissa Caiazzo

Everyone loves sensory play! It is full of cool textures, sights, sounds, and smells. It can help children self-regulate, fulfill different sensory needs, explore, and interact with their peers. All children can benefit from sensory play and for children with special needs, it is crucial to have sensory play integrated into the day. However, sensory play isn’t just fun, it serves another important purpose- to help children learn. Children learn about their world through their senses and quality sensory experiences can help children develop an understanding of the world around them. When we as adults create sensory experiences for children, they should have a purpose. Use fun materials that feel cool like Play Dough, Moon Sand, and shaving cream but also give children a prompt or a challenge when playing with these materials. Fill a bin with rice and cups for scooping, but also challenge children to explore what it means to be full, empty, heavy, and light. Instead of creating materials for children to play in all of the time, use real-world materials to provide a sensory experience and help children learn new skills (like planting seeds in dirt). Sensory bins can be themed to help students explore different topics and make connections to stories and songs, and sensory bins can help students learn pre-academic skills such as letter and number recognition, counting, colors, and shapes. We as adults just have to make sure that when we provide these sensory experiences for children, they are rich with opportunities for children to discover new things and develop new skills.


In this sensory bin, children explore size, weight, and color using dirt, pots, and toy bugs!


In this autumn sensory bin, children practiced colors, counting, and finding out how many leaves and pumpkins they could fit into a basket.

Melissa Caiazzo has been teaching Special Education for 4 years, working in high school, elementary school, and preschool. She also spent 4 years as a head counselor in a camp for children and teenagers with special needs. She has been with Easter Seals for about two and a half years both as a substitute teacher and classroom teacher and has had the opportunity to work with all kinds of kids with different disabilities. Her favorite part of her job is watching each young child grow and develop in his/her own way. Melissa is also a musician and you can catch her singing and dancing with her students (and teacher assistant!) on a regular basis.