Sensory Motor Regulatory Patterns
Purpose: Calm and organize nervous system
Promote emotional attunement
Establish “facial gazing” and “emotion sharing”
Establish adult as soothing support when distressed.
Use very simple interactive activities, such as peek-a boo, “I am going get you”, rocking back and forth, sandwiching/squishing with bean bag, etc. that provides repetitive, rhythmic interaction patterns.
Sit (stand) face to face, at eye level, with close physical contact. This allows you to regulate activity, keep child focused, and encourages facial gazing.
Add rhythmic singsong or chatting (like “row, row, row your boat”) to the rhythmic pattern. This uses your voice, touch, and facial expression to engage the child.
Use exaggerated gestures, animated facial expressions, and exciting vocal noises to engage the child, establish facial gazing, and share enjoyment.
Your primary objective is to establish facial gazing so that the child can reference your emotions. Start the rhythmic pattern and establish facial gazing. If child averts his gaze (turns away), hesitate and pause the interaction until child returns gaze, than immediately restart pattern. If needed you can stutter or exaggerate the movement, slow it down or speed it up, or raise or lower your voice to draw child’s gaze back to you.
You can greatly enhance the emotion sharing by spotlighting the exciting part of the pattern. Hesitating, pause, exaggerate, or draw out the moment just before the climax (just before dropping, tickling, etc.). For example, in peek-a-boo, just before showing your animated face, draw out the words “peek, aaaaaaaaaaa, boo!”. This creates anticipation and excitement.
Stay with same pattern for a while to create sense of predictability and familiarity. As the child becomes comfortable with the pattern, you can add simple variations to the pattern. Keep it very simple at first and add small variations to provide novelty and excitement. If child seems too anxious by the change, back up to previous pattern.
Try to pick only a few patterns to start out with. Keep them simple and do them the same way at first so that they become familiar and predictable for the child.
Eventually you we feel the child start to help regulate the activity. As you hesitate, child may actively attempt to regulate the pattern.
It is important that you lead the activity, and don’t let the child control or direct the interaction. You want the child to learn to follow your lead and allow you to regulate interaction.
Remember what your objectives are. You are focusing on establishing “facial gazing”, “emotion sharing”, and “engagement”.
Most importantly, engage the child and have fun!
- Rocking, swaying, or dancing together. Standing or sitting, hold child’s hands or arms, and rock, sway, or dance in a simple rhythmic movement. Chant or sing.
- “1,2,3…bop!” Gently clap hands and tap cheeks. Take her hands in yours, clap them softly together to the count of “1..2..3” and “bop!” tap her hands to your cheeks. Than, repeat to her cheeks.
- Peek-a-boo, using child’s hands or feet. Animate your facial expressions and voice.
- Leg presses. Lie child down. Knell in front of him and bend his knees so they are up in the air, with your face between them. While counting to three bounce his knees slightly. Chant “1..2..3…pause/hesitate…PRESS!” and press his knees down and in toward his chest. Allow your face to follow so it comes into close to his gaze.
- Blowing up balloon. Adult blows up balloon with animated expressions. Gently let air out on child’s hand or neck, make squeaky noises while letting air out, or let go of balloon to fly around the room. Variation: have child press against your cheeks as you blow. . In addition, tie the balloon and gently tap it back and forth.
- Blowing bubbles, face to face, while child touches, claps, or tries to catch them. Get close, wait to child references your face before blowing the bubble.
- “Up..up..up…drop!” With child lying down, hold her arms and gradually lift her upper body with stuttering pauses (“up..up..up”). Hesitate, than let child drop back down with animated excitement.
- “I am going to get you, get you, get you!”….than tickle, poke or kiss the child.
- Rocking/rowing back and forth. Sit facing each other, holding each others arms. Slowly rock back and forth (to “row your boat”), or pull each other (stretch) back and forth.
- Crash, fall, or jump together into bean bags. Stand side by side, count to three…pause.. and fall together. Lie there a moment and tickle each other.
- Push child backward into bean bags. With child’s back to bean bags, count 1,2,,3 and push child to fall backwards into bean bags. Cuddle and tickle together on bags.
- Pillow press with bean bag or large pillow. With child lying down, chat, “I am going to get you!” and squish him with a beanbag. Keep your face close to his for emotion sharing.
- Friendly pillow fights. Use animated faces and excited vocals to create anticipation.
- Sit and bounce together on therapy balls. Hold hands and bounce or sway together. Add excitement by creating a chant and falling off!
- Toss a ball back and forth, or try to hit each other with a soft ball.
- Clapping hands or drumming to music. Get face to face, take her hands and clap them to a simple beat, with animated singing.
- Swinging. With child in a swing. Stand in front of her, take her legs and swing her back and forth. On the way up, hold and pause to elicit anticipation, than let her drop and swing back. Variation: As she swings, grab feet each time she comes back. Variation: Pretend to be kicked each time child comes back at you.
- “This is the way the cowboy rides!”. Sit child on your knees, facing you. Take her arms and gently bounce her on your knees. Start with “this is the way the lady rides”, than “gentleman rides”, than “cowboy rides” as you increase the intensity of bouncing.
- Making a sandwich. Make a sandwich with the child as meat. Lie child on a large pillow or couch cushion. Child pretends to be their favorite meat. Pretend to spread mustard, catsup, pickles, etc. on her in tickling fashion. Next place another large pillow on top of child and pretend to eat her.
- Rolling prone on ball: Lie child prone on a ball. Holding his hands, roll him back and forth to “Row, row, row your boat”. Pause and go faster for “merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a DREAM” and roll child off ball into your arms.
- Bounce and fall off ball. Knee in front of child. Hold child and bounce him on a ball to Humpty Dumpty. Pause and draw out “h...a..d….a…g..r..e..a..t…..” and bounce child off onto a bean bag to “FALL!”
- Rolling ball on child: With child lying down, roll therapy ball over body and sing (to rhythm of “Mary had a little lamb”) “Were rolling out the cookie dough, cookie dough, cookie dough, repeat, …pause/hesitate….and bouncing it to pieces (bounce ball on child)”.
- Swinging. Hold child’s legs and swing back and forth while chanting. After a few swings, swing child up and hold…pausing (sharing excited facial expressions) and letting him drop.
- Making a hot dog roll: Lie child on one end of a roll out blanket. Pretend to make a hot dog roll. Put on mustard, catsup, relish, etc and than roll him tight in the blanket…and pretend to eat him.
- Sit child on top of the back of a couch, that is up against a wall. To “Humpty Dumpty”, when you get to “had a great….pause/hesitate….FALL” pull the child so he slides down the couch to the cushion.
- “Wheels on the bus”: Sit child on your lap. Hold arms and rotate to “Wheel on the bus go round and round”, then back and forth to “Wipers go swish, swish, swish”, then bounce to “people on the bus go up and down”.
- Using face paint, sit face to face and paint each others’ faces.
- Sit with your child in front of you. Let the child brush and “do you hair” with ribbons, curlers, barrettes. Make funny faces and excited statements.
- Sit side by side in front of a mirror. Take turns tracing each other’s face on the mirror.
- Sit face to face and feed each other ice cream out of a bowl. Use animated face and excited vocal to “emotion share”.
These are only the beginning! Use your creativity and improvise as you go along. Any simple interactive games can be adapted for facial gazing, social referencing, and emotion sharing.