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picture-bookFor learning, for pleasure and for consistent adult-child time, nothing seems to beat cuddling up to read picture books together.  However, sometimes sensory needs distort the ideal image of such read-together times.

Some children cannot sit still long enough to finish a book.  Others cannot tolerate the closeness of cuddling.  Still others crave physical contact so much that they sit practically on top of you while you read.  With every child who has sensory processing challenges, the challenge of read-together time is different.  However, looking at picture books through Sensory Savvy Lenses can help bring the beauty of read-together times back into focus.

Today’s Challenge: picture books

Original Purpose: learning and enjoyment through text and pictures

With Sensory Savvy Lenses: a catalyst for activities which include

  • auditory input
  • fine motor practice
  • proprioceptive input
  • tactile input
  • visual input

Sit, Stand or Lay Your Own Way
No one says read-together time needs to be laptime or cuddle in bed time.  While for some children who seek physical contact, such positioning works wonderfully, other children may need a different arrangement in order to enjoy read-together time more.  Try allowing children to swing, sit on a bouncy toy, stand and pace or do whatever else the child finds soothing and comforting while reading together.  Be willing to accept changing positioning while a single story is read.

Act Out the Action Verbs
When reading, be on the look out for colorful action verbs that children can mime.  If a child is wiggly, pause after reading the sentence or page containing such a word and suggest acting the word out immediately.  Otherwise, once the story is done, take a proprioceptive movement break by asking children to recall some of the action words in the story to mime.

Discover Details
Exercise visual discrimination and perception by time to examine illustrations together.  Hunt for specific details, such as objects of a certain color, people who look like they are experiencing different emotions, etc.  Play “I Spy” with busy illustrations.  Notice lines and color in simple ones.  Count objects, such as small animals or flowers that are shown in different variations on successive pages of books.  Guess at what art media was used to create the illustrations.  For example, are their visible brush strokes or lines that hint at collaging?  It is amazing what details the eye can take delight when perusing quality picture books.

Get Artsy
After reading a story, do connected art work, such as painting, beading or cutting-and-pasting.  Creating such picture book inspired art can encourage fine motor practice and provide tactile input.

Make Sensory Story Baskets, Trays or Bins
If the artwork in a story uses primarily warm or cool colors in its palette, create a sensory bin out of similarly colored rice, pasta or other sensory materials.  Add in some small objects or paper cut outs that represent characters in the story and enjoy this tactile sensory extension before or after the story,

Similarly, choose a key object or animal from the story.  Make or buy playdough in colors that will help children make models of it and set up a sensory tray to play with while you read.

Or, find or make small figurines and mini props related to the story, put them all in a basket, and enjoy retelling the story.


Courtesy of Training Happy Hearts.
Courtesy of Training Happy Hearts.


With this [easyazon-link asin=”0064400557″ locale=”us”]Charlotte’s Web[/easyazon-link] book basket (picture to the right), children can enjoy both proprioception and tactile input.  They can move their bodies all around while re-enacting parts of the story and received tactile input by using the soft, cuddly stuffed pig and mouse and the hard, plastic spider.


Courtesy of Training Happy Hearts.
Courtesy of Training Happy Hearts.


With this [easyazon-link asin=”0310730120″ locale=”us”]The Legend of the Candy Cane[/easyazon-link] basket and tray (picture to the left), children can practice fine motor skills by putting red and white beads onto the pipe cleaners.

Picture books provide endless opportunities for sensory fun.  What Sensory Savvy ideas will you use in connection with your next read-together time?

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Martianne is a homeschooling mom with over 20 years of experience in education, youth work and dramatic arts both in the United States and abroad. With certifications as a Middle School Generalist and English 8-12 teacher, plus a drawer full of certificates from a wide variety of professional development workshops and graduate courses, she brings a comprehensive "traditional" background to her present-day creative pursuits. Visit Martianne at Training Happy Hearts.