Outdoor play can be one of the most rewarding and developmentally beneficial activities for a child to engage in. On the flip side, however, it can also be one of the most challenging activities and experiences for to child to partake in if they have any kind of sensory processing difficulties or sensory defensiveness. Here are a few sensory based activities and ideas to allow a child to explore and learn about their different sensory systems and how they affect their bodies:
- Water tables are a great option! Even something as simple as water in a bucket allows a child to learn about interoception (wet vs. dry; warm vs cold). By adding color, rocks, bubbles, toys, etc a child can learn to be comfortable around water which then will begin to transfer to acceptance of bath times, etc.
- Sand play is also a great option. While some kids may not feel comfortable getting dirty in a sandbox, having sand in a small bucket for them to play with and explore is a great option. This can provide the chance for some great imaginative play, as well as a chance to work on tolerating messy hands, and learning about tactile exploration.
- Swinging can also be another activity that some children can’t get enough of while others would prefer to stay far away. Swinging can help to regulate a child with the use of vestibular and proprioceptive input. Some children love to swing in fast circles, some love linear or back and forth motion, while others love slow long circles. Whichever your child prefers, working into trial of all different methods can help them to better understand aspects of their body!
- Any kind of jumping, skipping, hopping, ball kicking/catching, and moving that you can do is beneficial! Not only does it help with the overall health of a child, it also helps a child to develop improved bilateral coordination and kinesthesia (body awareness) skills. What this means is that a child is learning about how to move all the parts of their bodies together at once, which can be a big challenge for our kids that struggle with praxis (movement) deficits!
- Playing iSpy, naming games, or searching for words that are out in the community can address many aspects of development. The most obvious is letter recognition and identification. What is not as apparent, is all of the visual motor skills that these activities can address. These visual based activities work on visual tracking, appropriate eye movement, visual discrimination (identifying things in a messy background), and overall visual processing. These are all important developmental skills that also have an impact on school performance.