Sensory Pathways Made Easy: Definition, Examples & How-To’s
Looking for a simple, easy, and cost-effective solution to get kids moving and enhance their learning? Sensory pathways are the way to go (pun intended!).
A growing body of research suggests that sensory play and physical activity that includes sensory play have positive effects on cognition, academic performance, brain development, and self-regulatory behavior.
And the best part is that incorporating sensory pathways into your school or classroom isn’t hard.
This quick guide is all you need to get started. It explains what sensory pathways are, lists their main benefits, and wraps up with a few handy tips for building sensory experiences for kids.
Let’s dive right in!
What Are Sensory Pathways?
Sensory pathways are essentially a series of visual cues that direct/guide children to perform physical exercises as they move along a particular route, such as down a hallway or across a playground. The instructions may ask kids/the child to hop and balance on a pattern, stop and do a few lunges, or complete any other set of movements.
An important aspect of these pathways is sensory stimulation. They not only get children to move but also engage their sight, touch, and spatial awareness to help improve kids’ balance, coordination, and other fundamental locomotor movement skills.
Sensory Pathways Examples
Sensory pathways come in various shapes, colors, and patterns. You can paint or adhere the designs onto any flat surface — hallway and classroom floors, gyms, playgrounds, blacktops, sidewalks, and even walls — using paint, spray chalk, reusable stencils, or sensory stickers.
Some types of sensory pathways are student-led, enabling independent use, while others are instructor-led and require an adult to direct children along the route.
Key Benefits of Sensory Pathways for Kids
Here are five ways sensory pathways for schools help improve children’s health, development, and learning:
1. They Get Children to Move More
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children aged 6–17 spend at least an hour daily doing moderate-to-vigorous physical activities. Yet, only 24% of kids do this every day.
Sensory pathways invite children to move their bodies in ways that are fun and creative and don't feel so restrictive or repetitive. Pathways also provide an opportunity to sneak some exercise into a busy day, such as while walking to class or during a brain break.
2. They Improve Kids’ Locomotor Skills
Children who regularly practice locomotor skills like running, jumping, hopping, and skipping tend to be more coordinated and agile than those who don’t. Unfortunately, with the increase in the use of technology, many kids don’t develop their locomotor skills optimally. Sensory pathways are specially designed to stimulate the use of these crucial skills.
3. They Enhance Learning
Mounting evidence suggests that increased physical activity may facilitate academic performance by boosting brain health and cognitive functions such as attention, memory, and sensory perception. This makes sensory pathways effective and budget-friendly tools for enhancing the learning process.
4. They Support Children with Special Needs
It Is reported that as many as 1 in 7 children demonstrate signs of sensory processing disorder. Building sensory activities into kids’ daily routines can help stimulate and improve their senses and encourages their brains to create new connections enabling complex sensory tasks.
5. They Help Educators Optimize Resource Use
Sensory pathways for school hallways or walls allow teachers to make the most of underutilized parts of the building. Previously ignored, “utilitarian” areas transform into spaces full of learning potential. This helps maximize available resources at a relatively low cost, which can be especially beneficial for schools with tight budgets or limited space.
How to Integrate a Sensory Pathway into Your School
Are you ready to start your sensory pathway journey? Here are a few practical tips for building successful sensory experiences for kids:
Set clear expectations: Is your sensory pathway going to be self-guided or instructor-led? Who will be its target users — preschoolers, kids with sensory processing issues, middle-schoolers?
Assemble a multidisciplinary team: Collect feedback from teachers, school psychologists, custodial staff, parents, children, and any other stakeholders. This will help you understand kids’ needs and how best to meet them.
Strike the right balance: The pathway design shouldn’t be too busy or too bland, too crowded, or too far apart. The movements must be developmentally appropriate for the intended users’ age and ability. Remember, busy graphics can easily overwhelm someone with SPD or other learning challenges. The right balance is key.
Build the level of difficulty up: Movement sequences should start basic and increase in complexity. Culminating activities should include mindfulness activity and or a warm down.
Create Easy and Effective Sensory Pathways Your Kids Will Love
Would you like to discover hundreds of other ways to add movement in the classroom?
For more tips and tricks, download our free Mega Guide. You’ll learn how to get kids moving, receive principal approval for your sensory pathway, and more. As a bonus, we'll also throw in a 10% OFF coupon for ordering a sensory pathway from our Super Stickers®, Reusable Stencil, or Roll-Out Activities® product lines.