Has your child ever had a sensory meltdown in a store or an airport? Do you worry about managing sensory overload while you’re at a school concert or visiting friends or relatives?
Even if you’ve found tools and strategies that help your child, sensory overload can be harder to manage when you’re on the go. This is when a sensory travel kit can help.
A sensory travel kit is packed with tools that calm a child who’s overwhelmed. Here are three different types of travel kits you can make. Depending on where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone, you may want to make more than one of these kits. (Choose the specific items that will help with your child’s particular needs. You won’t need every item.)
How to make a sensory travel kit for your childPDF
Sensory travel kit for quick trips
When you go to the store or to a school event, you’ll only be gone for a short time. You can also leave if you need to. In this case, it helps to have a small sensory regulation kit in your purse, bag, or coat pocket — rather than lug a big bag of sensory tools.
A roll-up makeup bag can often hold what you need. It has sections, so you can store the items neatly. It’s also compact enough to tuck away.
Here are items you can put in it:
- Earbuds, folding headphones, or earplugs to help make noise less overwhelming
- Sticky notes to put over sensors for automatic flushing toilets and hand dryers
- A small bottle of hand lotion to soothe your child’s need for touch
- “Smellies” (like scented lip balm)
- A small fidget or stress ball
- Silly Putty or Wikki Stix
- Oral sensory tools like gum, Chewelry, or chewy and crunchy snacks
Sensory box to keep in the car
Lots of parents and caregivers spend a lot of time driving kids to and from places. If you do, too, you may want to keep a larger and better-stocked sensory kit in the car.
A tackle box or craft box with sections and a handle is sturdy enough to handle bumps on the road. It’s also easy for you and your child to sort through. The tackle box can include the same items you’d put in the quick-trip travel kit, along with bigger items that wouldn’t fit in a makeup bag.
These items might be:
- Noise-reducing headphones to reduce traffic noise
- Sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and/or car window shades to reduce light
- A timer to help with transitions
- A small weighted lap pad, stuffed animal, or sensory pillow to provide calming pressure
- Play-dough or clay
- A jump rope (to use at rest stops or at your destination)
- Sensory calming bottles
- A harmonica, kazoo, or other small instruments
Sensory backpack for vacations
Traveling to new locations or visiting family can be exciting. It can also be stressful for kids who seek or avoid sensory stimulation. It might help to keep a sensory backpack within reach in the car or on the plane. This way your child will have sensory tools handy while you’re driving or otherwise occupied.
You can also pack things in the backpack that will be useful while you’re away. These might be items your child uses as part of a daily sensory diet. You could also pack:
- Familiar toiletries, like shampoo, soap, and toothpaste (so your child can have the usual smells and tastes)
- A washcloth and towel with a texture you know your child will tolerate
- A change of clothes
- Coloring books with scented markers, a travel-size Etch A Sketch, or a squishy or textured handheld ball
- A weighted vest or weighted blanket to provide calming pressure (if your child has an occupational therapist, check with them first)
- Your child’s favorite music on a mobile device
- Gummy or crunchy snacks (like fruit snacks or pretzels)
- Straws or a water bottle with a straw/spout
A sensory travel kit is just one way to help your child handle sensory overload. There are plenty of other strategies you can try.
Learn ways to manage meltdowns and tame tantrums. You may also want to read about a mother’s own sensory meltdown, and how it helped her understand what her children experience.
Tell us what interests you
About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.
Keri Wilmot is an occupational therapist who works with children of varying ages and abilities in all areas of pediatrics.