Taking your sensory engagements outside is a wonderful idea. First, most sensory activities are very messy, so you will have less to clean up! Second, you have the ability to utilize nature as your playground. This helps increase the amount of movement you can introduce to your child in a safe, natural setting. You can also utilize the environment to enhance speech skills, such as having your child talk about what they see, hear, and smell.
Here are a few fun activities for you to do with your child outside.
This is a fun and simple activity for you to have your child use their visual and sensory skills. If your child is young, you can draw pictures to symbolize what you want them to look for. If you want to hide their favorite toy truck, ball, or doll, you can draw a visual chart for them so they know what to look for. For older children, you can challenge their critical thinking skills by using vaguer descriptive. For example, “find me something yellow” or “find me something that falls off a tree”. You can also start with a few items and have them work their way up to finding more.
Paint Rock Pals
This is such a fun and easy activity. Have your child locate rocks. Then have them wash them in a bucket or bowl, using a sponge and soap. This will help your child develop fine motor skills and work on their tactile input. Leave the rocks to dry. While they are drying, ask your child what they would like to paint. I have made simple animals (dogs, cats, turtles, crabs), or even a sunset. You can prep the rock if your child is younger and have them paint in the lines.
This is one of my favorite ways to work on Sensory Processing. You can fill a bin with anything from shaving cream, dried rice, dried beans, make Rainbow foam or sand. Once it is filled, have your child locate hidden items in it. You can use a puzzle or their favorite toys. Encourage them to dig so their hands get used to the texture. They can use a shovel or spoon to practice scooping. You can have your child practice writing letters/numbers or shapes in the sensory bin.
So many of my Sensory Kiddos enjoy water play, I make a “car wash”, station. First, we take a toy car and make it dirty (I put a little mud or shaving cream on the car). I have the child use a spray bottle of water and they need to spray the car to help remove the dirt. If it is really dirty, they can use a bowl of water. The spray bottle helps develop hand strength, finger isolation, and fine motor skills. Have your child dry the car and state “Wow, great job, it is all clean.” By doing this, you are helping a child with sensory problems realize that getting dirty is not so bad. They will see that you are able to wash away the dirt and it is no big deal. This will help decrease anxiety associated with getting dirty.
There are so many opportunities to teach your child about nature and science. One of my favorite experiments is making little volcanoes. I have children use a turkey baster, food coloring, and baking soda. First, scoop a tablespoon of baking soda into cups or bowls. Place a few drops of food coloring in each cup. Using a Turkey baster, add 2 Tablespoons of vinegar to each cup. Watch the colorful bubbles overflow.
I love this activity, all you need is a piece of paper, tape, and one broken crayon with its paper removed. Have your child look for items such as leaves. Place the objects under the piece of paper. Tape the sides down to prevent the paper from moving. Holding the crayon horizontally (not the typical way you would write), have your child rub the crayon over the objects. This is a great way to develop a proper grasp of your child’s writing utensil. It also gives feedback to your child’s hands as they rub their crayon over the objects. Lastly, this is fun to watch visually as the items magically appear.
Make an obstacle course
I was once playing with my children at a local park when I was approached by a mother who asked me if I do birthday parties. It was hard for me to contain my laughter. Having fun with your child at the park is a great way to bond with your child. I use the equipment at the park to make simple and fun obstacle courses. If you have a swing set or large backyard, you can create the same movements. Have your child jump like a frog, swing or jump on a trampoline, climb up and go down a slide, or wheelbarrow or crab walk. Pick 3 items and have your child repeat them 3 times. For example, jump like a frog to the slide, go down the slide, crab walk back to the end. You can add at the end of the obstacle course that they have to retrieve an object and bring it back to you. It could be from a puzzle, shapes, or toys. As they improve, you can make the challenges harder, you can also call out an object they have to retain from the beginning to the end. For example, before they start the obstacle course, state “Bring me back the circle”. Completing sensory input increases balance, attention, coordination, and eye-hand coordination. I usually start my sessions with some sort of movement.
These are just a few amazing outdoor sensory activities. Enjoy exploring textures, sounds, and movement outdoors!