These outdoor sensory activities are shared by our special needs consultant Dr. Melissa Liguori, Ed. D.
When heading outdoors there are many sensory filled sights, sounds and textures to explore together. For some children, these sensory experiences may be difficult. Children can be either over or under responsive to conditions outdoors and may need some extra convincing to willingly experience all nature has to offer.
Fore example, many children don’t like to get their hands or feet dirty or manipulate different textures. This may prevent them from taking a barefoot walk in the grass or on a sandy beach or even finger painting in the art room. One way to tackle these issues to it to offer your child many sensory experiences to get them used to the feeling and the process. It is best to start small with these activities and build up a tolerance for the various experiences.
A great way to start exposing your child to various sensory activities is planting a garden! Here children can have the experience of cleaning out a place to plant, moving twigs, pulling weeds, and raking the dirt. For those children who are hesitant to do this at first, wearing a pair of gardening gloves is a great first step.
Next, you can hide various items in the dirt and have your child find them. This is also a great activity to do in a large bowl of uncooked rice as an indoor activity if the weather is not cooperating. Simply hide small items such as plastic figures, coins, erasers, etc. and have your child get to work searching through the soil. You can make it a joint activity and search along with your child. This type of parent modeling is great for children to see and helps them understand that it is a safe activity and it is OK to try.
To make the fun extra special, have your children plant some seeds, water them and watch their efforts come to life. Children will feel a great sense of accomplishment as they see their seeds start to grow! Also, having them push or pull the soil in a small cart or wheelbarrow is a great sensory activity. Having this resistance exercise as a part of the plan provides children with a special means of getting input into their muscles and joints, and can also even increase their attention span, helping them focus on the task at hand.