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Home for the Summer: Sensory Activities to Implement

outdoor sensory activity

Each person’s sensory systems are tied to almost every task they do throughout the day. Both adults and children have different levels of seeking or avoiding different types of sensory input. These levels can vary between sensory systems and one’s needs can change over time as well. You may have heard the terms “sensory seeker” or “sensory avoider” which can refer to how a child responds to sensory experiences and how much input they need.  

The summer season often leads to changes in routines since school is out, allowing for children to be home during the day for longer stretches. This can often mean less sensory stimulation from not being at school or daycare where they have at least visual, auditory, olfactory (smell) and tactile (touch) input that is different than at home where they are most comfortable. In some places, as heat waves come through, it means more time indoors and cooped up, which can be difficult for some children who are seeking sensory input. If it seems like your child is needing constant stimulation in the summer, you might try offering some extra sensory input to their day. There are many ways to incorporate tactile sensory activities with simple items that you have around the house.  

Tactile Sensory Activities: 

  • Sensory bins – You don’t need to have a sensory table to create a space for your child to explore. Use an empty plastic storage bin, large mixing bowl, or cake pan that you already have at home to create sensory fun with the following materials. You can supplement with various tools and gadgets you also have around the house such as measuring cups, whisks, funnels, tongs, measuring spoons, cups, etc. 

  • Water  

  • Ice cubes 

  • Ice toys – freeze small toys in water in a cupcake tin that your child can “excavate” out using tools or water to melt the ice 

  • Foamy water – mix dish soap, bubble bath, or shaving cream with water and use a whisk to get it frothy 

  • Bubbles – you can make your own bubble solution using Dawn dish soap and water 

  • Colored water – mix food coloring, paint, or liquid watercolors in with a few cups of water that your child can pour and mix 

  • Citrus water – cut up lemons or oranges to add to water 

  • Dirt – you can keep it dry or mix with some water to make mud 

  • Oobleck – mix cornstarch and water for a messy experience 

  • Dry pasta – try mixing various shapes  

  • Dry rice – you can color it using vinegar and food coloring and allowing it to dry out again 

  • Dry beans  

  • Cotton balls  

  • Squish bags – Put water, hair gel, or paint in a gallon-size Ziplock bag, and get as much of the air out as you can before sealing it, to create a mess-free sensory experience for your child. Adding in small toys such as animal figurines or beads adds to the experience and gives your child fine motor practice as they use their hands to move the toy through the gel. For younger children, using painter’s tape to secure it flat to a table to help reduce frustration with the bag moving as they touch it. 

Along with tactile sensory activities, many children can also benefit from sensory activities that stimulate the vestibular and proprioceptive systems, which are responsible for balance, spatial orientation, and body awareness. These sensory needs are frequently met during outside play time such as during recess, time on a playground, or just running around the backyard. When children are cooped up inside more frequently due to elevated temperatures outside during the summer months, indoor activities that stimulate these systems are also important. These can be more challenging to do indoors at times as they involve larger body movements, so you can adjust these based off the space and materials available in your home.  

Vestibular & Proprioceptive Sensory Activities: 

  • Blanket burrito – wrap a blanket around your child’s torso and roll them into and out of a blanket burrito 

  • Laundry basket push – place some heavy items (like books or a load of laundry) in a laundry basket that your child can push across the floor 

  • Singing and doing hand motions – start with simple songs like “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” or “The Hokey Pokey” 

  • Rocking – use whatever you have at home like a rocking chair, exercise ball, rocking horse, hammock, swing, or just rocking back and forth together with your child 

  • Challenge course – create a mini “course” in the house with areas to do challenges, like spinning, balancing on a line, doing a somersault, wheel-barrow walking, crawling, jumping jacks, or holding a yoga pose 

  • Crash pad – create an indoor space where your child can jump, crawl, or do somersaults, such as by using couch cushions, a gymnastics mat, bed, etc. 

As the summer months progress, consider adding in sensory activities to your child’s routine. Sensory activities can help with fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and regulation. Many sensory bins provide practice for independent play as well. It may take some trial and error to figure out what types of activities engage your child and help them get the appropriate amount of sensory input for their personal needs. To learn more about how to help your child regulate their nervous system and emotions, schedule a free consult with one of our Child Life Specialists here!  



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