The Sensory Pencil Case

Photo by Nik on Unsplash

If you’re anything like me you’re counting the days till the children are back to school. No matter how much you love them.

It’s been a weird old summer for us. I’m laid up with a broken foot. We’ve been very restricted about what activities we can do and where we can go. I’m grateful for who ever invented the X-box, the Switch and any film director in the last 40 years. Also Past Me for deciding to live near our family and the local park. My two are teenagers now, and much more self sufficient. But they are neurodivergent teenagers nonetheless, and we’ll all benefit from school routines.

So the back to school topic is at the forefront of my mind. I thought I’d start a mini series of posts to help out. First up, replacing the fidget spinner with good ideas for providing your child with sensory support in school. I’ve got some really fabulous products that fly under the radar of the Confiscation Police.

Dodging the confiscation police

Loading a sensory pencil case is a balancing act. Like most parenting, to be sure. You want to ensure that you have a variety of aids in there to ensure your child has choices. But they all need to be stealth objects to avoid your child getting in trouble at school. Your small person doesn’t need any more anxiety.

Now I’m an old hand at this. My eldest had a particularly difficult time at her first, very busy, very fast paced, mainstream school. She’s happy in her new placement, but we had to tool her up at the beginning of high school.

So, obviously, fidget spinners are not going to cut it in the classroom. So lets get a little more creative and fill their pencil case with items that shouldn’t really cause a problem. Although, a quick message to your SEND or pastoral team in school would also be a good idea. Let them know what you’re sending in and why. Especially if you’re not already in contact with them.

I have a good relationship with school. I do understand that’s not the case for everyone. But hold the line, and keep the conversation open, if you can.

8 top choices for the sensory pencil case.

Here are my top items for the sensory pencil case. We have used most of these items, so I’m happy to recommend them. Any items I haven’t used, I’ve said so in the text. Some items are new to me but I’m buying them myself for my children to use this year.* I’ve also run the list by my two and they agree that these are all super helpful.

1. Retractable pens and pencils

The first thing is to replace biros and pencils with retractable ones. Lost lids are the bane of my life. Not only due to ink soaked into blazer linings, but some children, mine included, fixate on lost caps. The last thing you need in school is something keeping your child from engaging with learning.

There is also the clicking top which can be useful as a hidden sensory support. Help your child understand when to use this. Depending on the amount of background noise in the classroom you could annoy the other students.

2. Pencil grips

Another value added item. Not only do pencil holders help improve handwriting (and decrease anxiety, because your child will start to get praise rather than complaints from the teacher) , put it’s another thing they can fiddle with without raising eyebrows. Also, some children find pencils (in particular) uncomfortable to hold, so pencil holders are a great sensory pencil case addition.

3. Bendy pencils and beadable pens

Who knew these existed? I’ve got some of these for my teens for this year. The pens in particular were a new find for me and I’m thrilled. You get a craft project, no losts lids, a pen, and a classroom fidget toy all in one go. And if your children are still at the age of parties, and you need to make party bags, bendy pencils and beadable pens (with a little sealed bag of beads handed to mum on the side) would be a great addition. Just not for the teeny ones where choking is a hazard!

4. Bendy rulers

We love a good bendy ruler! They are extremely practical as they are less prone to shattering and chipping than ordinary clear plastic rulers, but they’re also super tactile. My kids like them more because they feel nice and you can fidget with them.

5. Big erasers

Pop the largest eraser you can find into your sensory pencil case. Not because I think your child will be making loads of errors in the coming term, but because this is a fabulously stealthy sensory toy. It can bend, and wiggle and flex. If necessary you can rub bits off which make teeny tiny sensory bits (or if your child enjoys picking at things like fingernails or skin when anxious, this makes a terrific alternative…ask me how I know).

6. Sensory stickers

Another new to me product that I’ve purchased for the coming year. Sensory stickers! Stick ’em on your exercise book (or inside if school frowns upon that kind of thing). Wrap ’em around your pen or pencil so you’ve always got them in hand. A line of them up a bendy ruler would be awesome. So many opportunities to give your child some sensory support at school.

I particularly like the ones to the right which give children quick, easy activities to actually do when they’re feeling worried to help them calm, focus and manage their feelings.

7. Wobble cushion

Ok! I know! Not strictly an item for the sensory pencil case. But, if your child is always in trouble for wriggling in class, a wobble cushion could be their new bestie! And not just for the first week of school, before dumping you for the kid with the pony!

Wobble cushions are pretty self explanatory if you’ve ever been to a pilates class. I personally find they are a form of torture. But, for a child with any sensory seeking behaviour, they are a wonder. ADHD, Autism, Sensory Processing…it can work for all of them. And many more.

Basically, they are a softly inflated circular or wedge shaped silicone cushion. They have nobbly bobbly bits all over one or both surfaces, and they encourage your child to engage in active sitting. Simply put the cushion stimulates movement in the child’s body in the same way that walking around does. It gives them the same sensory feedback they would get from wriggling but allows them to sit, focus and learn.

They are also great for homework, family dinners, eating out, brownies or scouts……you get the idea. A simple, inexpensive and very effective piece of kit. School might already have some, so check before you spend your own money. Or they might have the budget to purchase one on your child’s behalf. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

They are also more discrete than fitness balls. A ball can take up a lot of room but is equally effective. If you have one for home workouts, it can do double duty. It’s a great option for kids that struggle to sit and watch a film. Plonk it on the floor. Plonk the child on the top and watch them relax. Bonus….there is more room on the sofa for you to put your feet up and chill.

8. The sensory backpack to hold your sensory pencil case

We don’t have these, I’ll be upfront about this. My daughter only needs a small bag to hold her lunch and trainers for PE. My son’s back pack is absolutely full of stuff. All the exercise books. Reading books. Pencil cases (plural). I swear the military could use it for terrain fitness training in Bannau Brycheiniog**.

Our conversation asking him to remove stuff to make it lighter fell on deaf ears. It was a regular topic of conversation in our house. Then it struck me….he’s using the back pack for sensory feedback. It acts as a soothing mechanism when moving from class to class. He’s in the same tight corridors with 1300 pupils that his sister so struggled with.

Sometimes our kids are so much smarter than we are.

However….your child might not want to carry every book they need for the week to every class. This is where a sensory backpack come in. It has special pockets and weights that you can load to their comfort level.

Alternatively, if you’re crafty, sew some little bags. Fill them with lead shot. Slip them in the front pocket of their current bag. You could even make a long flat one the that will lie at the bottom of their bag, incognito!

Get in touch

Do you need support with any of the challenges discussed in this post? Would like some impartial, non-judgmental advice about anything related to neurodiversity in your family? Book your free call here.

I’d really love to help.

* This is not an ad. These are just really useful items that might make your child’s life easier, which in turn makes everyone happier.

**The Brecon Beacons to us oldies!

All pictures are courtesy and copyright of All items can be purchased at Amazon, but are also widely available from other suppliers.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *