Monday, July 13, 2015

Sensory Play and Stims

Ms. M writes: 

Hi Philip,
I have a question. Last night, E found a jar of Nutella. He played with it on the carpet. I know that it is a sensory thing. He also likes mashing bananas and anything creamy. Sometimes I give him a box with beans or rice in it so he can have his sensory play. But why does he like putting things on the carpet? And he keeps on repeating this.

Dear Ms. M,
I like that you are asking me about sensory play. I am a sensory seeker. I am a messy person too. I like to use all my senses to play. Maybe that is why I am most messy. I always want to teach myself through my senses. I am able to learn by using my senses. My manner of play is different than most kids. I am exploring my world by no one's standard. Play makes me happy in my own way so don't think it has to have a purpose. Good play makes all my senses aroused. For example, flowers are pretty to look at. They smell nice. They feel nice twirling in my hands. I even like their taste. I can be messy by leaving bits of flowers all over the house. Mom sometimes gets upset and makes me clean it.

My sensory play can also take me to a place in my mind. I can think more clearly. I am thinking about all the questions I have about life. God really speaks to me. Stimming is like a moat around a castle.  I surround myself with things to keep myself out of danger from sensory bombardment, which make me feel overwhelmed.  I zip along attentively looking for my favorite objects to stim on. Meaningful objects like flowers or my favorite happy wooden tapping stick attract my attention, keeping me from taking in every sensation. I peacefully manage my days this way.

I think your son is stimming on Nutella because it pleases his senses. It feels and smells and tastes good. I am not a fan of creamy textures so I can't answer for him. My advice is to try caring to understand that sensory play is important. You might try making mushy things to play with and let him play where it is allowed. Good luck.


At the Botanical Gardens July 2014

Copyright 2015 Philip Reyes.  All rights reserved.


  1. I might suggest to get a piece of remnant carpet from a carpet store - get a different color than what is in the house, maybe let him pick it out and put his name on it so that he knows it is only his own - that he can use just for his mushy sensory play.

  2. My son has had good experiences with a supported typist. He is now 16, speaks well enough to communicate most of the time, but epilepsy has taken his writing and drawing skills. Through typing, he has been able to express feelings and thoughts as well as answer questions about many things that we never knew before. A window has been opened wide. May your son teach you many wonderful things!