Tricks to settle your fidgeters, wigglers, and fingernail biters

The right ‘sensory diet’ might help kids focus at home.

Salt Lake City mom Christina Lau Billings has her 11-year-old all set up for distance learning with a quiet space, a desk, and … a yoga ball.

“When he doesn’t have to be on camera during a Zoom class, sometimes he’ll switch to the yoga ball and bounce for a bit,” she says. “I think it’s very helpful in having him be able to focus on his online classes.” Similarly, over in Stamford, Connecticut, teacher Jessica Gerson remembers students who’d improve their focus by squeezing DIY flour-filled balloons during class.

Lau Billings and Gerson are using what occupational therapists and neuropsychologists call a “sensory diet.” It’s a collection of feel-good sensory input, which are techniques that use a child’s senses to help with emotional regulation, learning, and memory. Therapists often turn to the sensory diet when developing a child’s ability to calm themselves and focus—something many kids are struggling with now.