It’s finally cooling down–or maybe you live where it’s already cold! Either way, this is my favorite season of the year. I LOVE the colors, the crisp cool air, and honestly, I think fall is the best time of year to enjoy the outdoors. For kids with special needs and sensory challenges, the outdoors is the perfect sensory playground. I’ve picked my favorite activities, and if you have others, then I say, “Go for it!” Don’t pass up this special time of year!
1. Heavy Body Work on a Hill
So this is my favorite fall activity: rolling down hills. I don’t know why, but finding a great hill and just going for it seems to go together with this season. Rolling encourages large motor coordination, vestibular orientation and motor planning. If you have a child who doesn’t like to roll, get a cardboard square and find a dry grassy hill to slide down. My mother-in-law used to do this with my twins, and I can tell you now, it is their favorite memory. Oh…and she was 78 at the time. No excuses.
2. Heavy Feet
Have a pile of leaves? Well, someone does. Go find it and jump in! The crunchy sounds and smells are just enough to get a great workout and sensory integration therapy all at once. Stomp, jump and roll around! Then have your kids stuff them into lawn bags or a garbage can and jump in those too!
3. Heavy yard work
Speaking of leaves…Grab a couple rakes and let your kids do some heavy work in the yard: raking, dragging branches, pulling the leaf bags down to the bottom of the driveway and sweeping all promote muscle tone, circulation and a good work ethic. Plus you may get a well manicured yard…but don’t count on it!
Hit the trails. Don’t forget some good shoes for walking or hiking, water bottles, a backpack with snacks and cell phone. You can search online for walking trails where you live. October is a perfect time of year to do this, but you can hike well into the early parts of the winter too.
5. Sidewalk chalk
I love sidewalk chalk for its heavy handwork benefit and creative outlet. Draw circles for jumping in and out of, or draw a hopscotch board. Have your kids trace their foot over and over again in a row, and then make the footprint into horses. When they are done, they can wash the sidewalk off with a water hose and watch the colors mix and swirl together.
6. Treasure Hunt
Give your kids a list of items to find that are seasonal: red leaf, pinecone, naked stick, rock, and so on. Then send them off to bring back these autumn treasures. Spill them all out and let them tell you where they found each one. This is a great speech/language activity as well as fine motor and motor skill activity that brings organizational skills to the forefront, as well. You can even pull one object from the bag, hide it and see if they notice which one is missing.
7. Noodle hop
It’s time to do something with all of those swimming pool noodles. Spread them out across the lawn and have the kids leap over the noodles. If you have round ones, use them as targets for tossing.
8. Ladder toss
Grab an outdoor ladder. Hang the numbers 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 on the rungs. Now have your kids toss balls, beanbags or even pinecones through the rungs, scoring points for when they make it through each rung. A great visual tracking and visual motor skills.
9. Make a Face!
Fall and pumpkins go together. If you prefer, you can cut out a face, but you can also just have your kids dig out the guts with you. It’s a great tactile, sensory activity. Have them separate the seeds from the guts. You can dry the seeds, count the seeds and even cook them. And, you can make pumpkin pie!
10. Camp out
Most people think of camping out as a summer vacation activity, but the fall weather is great for kids who are sensory sensitive. Grab a tent, sleeping bags, matches, hotdogs or hamburgers with the fixings and head for a campsite. Your kids may not remember every moment of the fall, but they will remember a campout!
Enjoy the weather, the smells, the feel and the joy that comes with a great sensory outing this fall. You won’t regret it!
Shared by friendship circle. Written by Ilana Danneman
Ilana Danneman is a product developer for Fun And Function. She has worked with therapists, teachers and parents of special needs children for 20 years and has been a physical therapist herself since 1986 with experience in acute care, spinal cord injury (Shepherd Center), outpatient rehab and pediatrics. Ilana has a passion for writing and teaching kids (and adults) how to move! She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org