Inside: Help create a calming environment where your loved one feels secure with these 75 Engaging Sensory Activities for Adults with Disabilities.
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Whether you have a parent with dementia or an adult child with a disability, you may be looking for ways to bond in a way that’s comfortable for your loved one.
Sensory activities are a great way for adults with disabilities to engage with their surroundings while creating a calm and relaxing environment. The goal is to help them feel safe and create conversation starters that can help ease their communication struggles.
It’s important to help adults with learning disabilities and dementia stay attuned to their surroundings, so they can continue living rich and rewarding lives. Sensory stimulation is a great way to give adults with disabilities the same sensory aids they’d get naturally through their day-to-day lives, but find hard to obtain.
With that said, let’s take a look at some examples of sensory activities for adults with disabilities!
What are sensory experiences for adults?
Sensory experiences for adults are activities that engage any of the five senses. For instance, this could be using sight to look through a photo album of relatives or smelling someone cook your favorite childhood meal.
Specifically for adults with dementia, these sensory experiences can trigger past memories that foster positive emotions. For adults with intellectual disabilities, sensory experiences can help them communicate what they are feeling and create trust with a caregiver.
Ultimately, sensory experiences can help an adult with a disability live a more enriching life.
What are some activities for special needs adults?
Some opportunities for adults with disabilities to participate in sensory and other educational activities both indoors and outdoors include:
- Try tasting different types of apples and explain what you see, feel, smell, touch, and taste.
- Make homemade playdough together using this recipe and describe what you see, feel, smell, and touch.
- Create on a canvas using different types of paint and describe the different colors, textures, and shapes.
These are just a few examples of grade activities because they use a multitude of senses.
Now that we’ve explored why sensory activities are important for adults with disabilities and a few options, let’s get into the ultimate list of ways to engage an adult with a disability through sensory stimulation.
75 Engaging Sensory Activities for Adults with Disabilities (That Are Fun!)
Sensory Activities for Adults with Disabilities that Engage Sight:
- Jigsaw Puzzles
- Building model cars, trucks, trains, boats, etc.
- Looking through a kaleidoscope
- Read it through a magazine and describe the photos
- Stare up at the clouds
- Go for a walk in nature
- Visit a Botanical Nursery
- Use glow-in-the-dark paint to create a picture that can only be seen when the lights are off
- Look at a liquid motion bubble machine
- Watch lava float in a lava lamp
- Color on a sensory table
- Watch ocean waves on a projector
- Organize beads according to their color
- Decorate the house with colorful decorations
- Use a full-length mirror to describe reflection
Sensory Activities for Adults with Disabilities that Engage Touch:
- Play with a busy board
- Explore with magnets
- Pick up items out of a bin using tweezers
- Use chopsticks to eat
- Create a sensory bin with different types of dry rice and pasta
- Wash your hands using different types of soaps and scrubs
- Play with Play-Doh
- Play with a push pop bubble toy
- Place an ice pack on different parts of your body and describe what you feel
- Pop bubble wrap
- Do a gentle massage on different parts of your body
- Rub different textures like a feather and the tip of a pencil on your arm
- Use an electronic handheld fan
- Play with someone’s hair
- Practice stacking blocks
Sensory Activities for Adults with Disabilities that Engage Smell:
- Smell a fresh bouquet of flowers
- Make candles using different essential oils
- Make your own potpourri
- Play with scented Play-Doh
- Create art with scented markers
- Try cooking a recipe and smelling the different ingredients
- Go to a bakery and describe what you smell
- Do a blind smell test with air fresheners
- Smell the different candles around the house choose what you like best
- Try smelling the different scents in your makeup cabinet
- Tea Bag Matching Game
- Mix spices with paint and describe what you smell
- Create different fruit drinks and smell the ingredients
- Play match the smell with essential oils
- Play with scented water beads
Sensory Activities for Adults with Disabilities that Engage Taste:
- Make an ice cream sundae
- Taste different types of citrus fruit
- Lick an envelope
- Play match the taste with jelly beans
- Explore taste with edible plants
- Try cooking a recipe
- Go to a bakery and taste test the different desserts
- Explore tasting salty, sweet, bitter, and citrusy foods
- Explore tasting fruits from different parts of the world
- Explore tasting vegetables made in different ways
- Try a tea taste test
- Try tasting different types of nut butter
- Mix together different foods not commonly found together and see if anything tastes good!
- Try tasting different varieties of apples
- Try tasting different varieties of cheese
Sensory Activities for Adults with Disabilities that Engage Sound:
- Explore the different sounds from vehicles
- Explore the different sounds in the kitchen
- Listen to the different sounds of biting into food
- Explore the different sounds on a sound machine
- Listen to birds chirping
- Try listening to acapella music
- Explore the difference between an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar
- Explore the sounds on a keyboard or piano
- Play a variety of music types on the radio
- Paint a picture and describe what you’re doing through every stroke
- Read a story out loud
- Listen to a podcast
- Go outside and listen to the different sounds of nature
- Listen to wind chimes
- Tell a story from your past
Final Thoughts on 75 Engaging Sensory Activities for Adults with Disabilities (That Are Fun!)
I hope these fun and engaging sensory activities for adults with disabilities helped you find some things to do to bond with your loved one or a client. They will appreciate you taking the time out of your day to enrich their lives.
Did I miss anything? What would you add to this list? Tell me in the comments below!
Allie Schmidt is a rare disease advocate and disabled mom living with motor neuron disease. She founded Disability Dame in 2020 to provide tips to other moms living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
In her spare time, you can find her traveling with her husband (she's been to 38 states and 16 countries!), watching reruns of Survivor, or tending to her near-constant sunburn from spending too much time outside. You can follow her adventures here.