Children are fun, active, curious, and definitely unique, with each child expressing and experiencing learning and developmental behavior.
Every child has their own individual way of learning new information and interpreting sensory stimuli present in their surrounding environment.
In fact, sensory stimulation and sensory development in children are paramount for optimum development, especially during their initial stages of development.
While most children often depend heavily on their senses to develop an understanding of the world that surrounds them, others often face setbacks due to sensory processing disorders or even developmental delays.
Children with developmental delays and sensory processing disorders such as Sensory Modulation Disorder, Sensory Based Motor Disorder, and Sensory Discrimination disorder can affect one’s way of living significantly.
Most children exhibit behaviors of craving or seeking new and unique sensory stimuli, often getting into anything that comes their way while others often exhibit sensory resistance or offensiveness.
Sensory Seeking is common behavior exhibited by children with sensory processing disorders making the child highly interested in what something tastes, feels, looks, or smells like.
If you have a child who is incredibly active, excited, and highly curious when finding new and unique objects and materials, do not panic.
Here is all you need to know about sensory seeking to help you redirect your child’s focus on more valuable and meaningful sensory stimuli.
What is Sensory Seeking Behavior, Exactly?
Children during their initial stages of development are always in need of a variety of sensory stimuli.
While some children are sensitive to sensory input, others have a higher threshold for sensory input.
Kids with a higher threshold for sensory input often seek different stimuli in their surrounding environment to compensate for the lack of stimuli.
Sensory Seeking behavior is part of a large class of sensory behaviors exhibited by children.
This form of behavior often causes the child to develop a tendency to seek out different sensorial experiences of all five of their senses i.e., visual, tactile, gustatory, auditory, and olfactory senses.
Sensory Seeking is one manifestation of sensory processing disorder where the child craves sensory input.
Individuals with sensory seeking sensory processing disorder often try to obtain as much sensory feedback from their surrounding environment as possible.
While most children who exhibit sensory-seeking behaviors are thrill seekers, not all children exhibit the same characteristics of behavioral patterns.
What are the Characteristics of Sensory Seeking Behavior?
Children who exhibit sensory-seeking behavior are highly active, curious, and excited to sense different objects in their vicinity.
These tiny thrill seekers might jump, skip, hop, run, or bounce around to compensate for the lack of sensory stimuli.
While most children are highly active and curious, most of them have their unique way of exploring and experiencing sensory input.
Hence it is imperative to understand and identify different characteristics possessed by children with Sensory Seeking behaviors to provide them with the right meaningful sensorial activities.
Here is a list of some characteristics of sensory-seeking behaviors in children:
Children with sensory-seeking behaviors often indulge in repetitive patterns of movements and usually prefer moving around, playing on swings, and slides, or even enjoying being held upside down.
Every child during their initial stages of development loves to jump and bounce around the house.
However, children who exhibit sensory-seeking behaviors enjoy jumping from higher places or elevated levels such as staircases, playground equipment, furniture, and platforms.
Smelling or Tasting Objects:
Smelling or tasting objects in their immediate environment is another way to compensate for a lack of stimuli.
Most children who exhibit sensory-seeking behaviors like to explore different objects by sniffing, smelling, licking, or even biting them.
Tactile Exploration is another way for children to make sense of the world that surrounds them.
In fact, most children during the early stages of development often explore their surroundings through tactile activities and experiences.
Children who exhibit sensory-seeking behavior also like to tactically sense their surroundings and often stroke another child’s hair, and different textured fabrics, or rub the pieces of fabric together.
Inability to Sit Still:
Children with sensory-seeking behaviors have the inability to sit still or sit in one place. They might get bored or underwhelmed easily when confined in one place.
Children with sensory-seeking behaviors often possess the natural ability to be agile and flexible.
While some children with sensory-seeking behaviors are clumsy or uncoordinated, others are coordinated, agile, and do not get hurt even when partaking in risky activities.
Inability to Feel Pain:
Children who exhibit sensory-seeking behaviors have the inability to feel pain even if they accidentally get a cut on their hands or bump their heads.
Accidentally breaking things or hurting people:
If you have a child who exhibits sensory-seeking behaviors you may notice them bumping into things, accidentally dropping objects, or even bumping into people by accident.
What can Cause Sensory Seeking Behavior in Children?
Since each child possesses different characteristics of sensory-seeking behaviors, the causes of such behaviors are also varied.
If you as a parent are perplexed as to why your child exhibits sensory-seeking behaviors, the causes and reasons behind such actions are listed below:
Thrill-seeking is a common characteristic exhibited by children with sensory-seeking behaviors.
Thrill seekers might be coordinated with their movements and highly agile, with close to no motor disruptions.
Children with hindered sensorimotor perception have the inability to coordinate their gross motor movements.
Such children are prone to bumping into objects, doors, or walls, and often falling down due to a lack of motor control and uncoordinated movements.
Children with Proprioceptive Processing often struggle with comparing their bodies with respect to the objects present in the surrounding environment.
Children with poor proprioceptive processing have poor spatial awareness and are unable to achieve age-appropriate gross motor milestones.
Such children have poor bilateral control and are comparatively slower in learning how to walk and crawl.
The vestibular system is responsible for movements such as muscle coordination, speed of body movements, motor control, and the comparison of the body with respect to the surroundings.
Children with poor vestibular processing have the inability to identify the space between them and an object and tend to easily bump or fall.
Obstacles in Motor Coordination and Sensory Awareness
Obstacles or struggles in motor coordination and sensory awareness pertain to several neurological disorders that make individuals unable to receive and comprehended different sensorial stimuli.
Children with such disorders or developmental delays are unable to sense physical sensations.
Such children have the tendency to get hurt and the inability to feel pain, they often jump from elevated levels, might scrape their knees, and even bump their heads.
Gifted or naturally talented child
Gifted children often have the tendency to seek different sensory stimuli as their natural nervous system is more sensitive.
While most children often get overstimulated by excessive sensory stimuli, gifted children often enjoy sensorial experiences.
Children with sensory-seeking behaviors have unnatural movements when walking or running. Their movements might resemble the movements of a Gumby doll or a robot.