10 signs of Toddler Sensory Issues

Does your toddler have sensory issues? How can you tell if it’s sensory or just a normal toddler quirk? 

Is this just a personality or temperament thing or should you be getting your toddler some extra help

You don’t think it’s a major red flag that they have a developmental delay but you want to understand your toddlers development better 

toddler covered in paint, could it be a sensory issue?

Sensory issues in toddlers are treatable!

Sensory toddler issues are treatable and by seeking the appropriate help of an occupational therapist, early on, you mama have the power to:

  1. Drastically reduce some of these challenging behaviours in your toddler today (win!)
  2. As well as, effect the trajectory of your toddlers life from:
  • Your toddler’s ability to function in a school environment
  • Make friends
  • Succeed academically
  • And even their mental health as young adults

10 Signs of sensory issues in your toddler

toddler jumping on trampoline

Falling frequently or being very clumsy: 

As your tot is learning to walk it’s natural that they will fall frequently but if you notice that 3-6 months after they are an established walker that they are still falling, or even seem to enjoy falling or that they are very clumsy– it’s worth speaking to an occupational therapist about. 

This could be a sensory issue or related to wearing the wrong toddler shoes. 

Hates getting dressed

There is definitely a normal amount of toddler resistance to getting dressed but if your toddler has a very strong preference for certain clothes, type of fabric or only agrees to wear clothes that are very tight it could be a sign of sensory issues. 

toddler holding parents hands while walking

Doesn’t seem to feel pain

If your toddler doesn’t seem to notice when they scrape their knee or fall down hard, it could be a sign that their pain receptors are off. 

These are so important for kids to learn not to do dangerous things. 

If you think this is your toddler it’s critical to speak to your pediatrician 

bowl of cereal for toddler with sensory issues

Picky eating  

It’s quite normal for our toddlers to vary in the amount of food they eat and to have phases of different preferences as well as toddlers trying to exert their independence by refusing to eat

However if you have a gut feeling that this is more than just a phase and your toddler has been picky about eating for over a month it may be a sensory issue. 

Some examples of what would be described as picky eating are: 

  •  Your toddler only eats certain food types or groups (like only plain or bland foods or only crunchy foods), 
  • He eats only a very limited selection of foods 
  • Or insists that food has to be prepared in a very specific way (for example: they will eat your chicken nuggets but not from a restaurant). 
  • It could also be that you notice your toddler gagging at the sight, taste, and smell of foods 
toddler looking sad

Find transitions or new things extremely hard 

Often toddlers compensate for sensory issues by becoming very familiar with their normal environment and the sensory challenges they may experience in that environment. 

When you change it up- for example- try a new shopping centre it can feel very overwhelming for the toddler with sensory challenges. 

You might also notice this in your toddler really struggling with moving from summer to winter clothes or getting a new pair of shoes. 

toddlers playing in the sand

Mouthing everything 

Your toddler putting everything and anything from spicy food to fingers to shoes in their mouth could be a sign of sensory issues. 

You would expect that this is not only when your child is teething. 

You may or may not also notice that your toddler is eating non food items (like furniture or sand) and biting you or other kids when seemingly unprovoked. 

toddler running on the shore

Hates getting dirty or wet  

Within the normal range of sensory processing there are people that just don’t love getting dirty.

A toddler fussing because of ice cream spilt on her dress or muddy hands could be completely normal

What you want to look out for is that getting dirty (whether it be hands, feet, clothing or face) causes the child distress and consistently holds them back from normal toddler play experiences. 

toddler at birthday party very bright showing no sesnory issues

Avoids social situations or seems fearful

You might notice that your toddler hates birthday parties, preschool, shows or going to the mall. 

They might try to run away from these events or close their ears or cling tightly to you to the point where it seems above and beyond the normal social anxiety or fear of separation from their mama. 

toddler on swing showing no sensory issues

Avoids Movement 

Another sign of a possible sensory issue is a toddler that avoids movement: 

  • they cry if you swing them around
  • Your toddler does not like the playground or going down the slide
  • She isn’t interested in riding a push or balance bike
  • You have noticed that they don’t dance around like other kids and you hardly ever see them running or jumping. 
person toe walking could be a sign of a sensory issue

Toe walking: 

Do you notice that your toddler walks more on her toes than on her whole foot or steps toe first instead of heel first? 

This could be an indication of sensory issues for your toddler. 

What should you do about sensory issues in your toddler? 

If any of these sounded “oh so familiar” to you, I encourage you to reach out to your pediatrician or an occupational therapist for further assessment. 

As I said previously, Sensory issues in your toddler are treatable and investing in therapy early on can really reduce some of those daily frustrations around eating and dressing.