Summer is a time for children to play and explore. Summertime play is also a great opportunity to incorporate sensory-based activities and introduce new sensory experiences. Most pediatric Occupational Therapists feel strongly about the benefits of providing kiddos with sensory input throughout their day and can vouch for the positive effects on a child’s overall self-regulation. Though the opportunities for sensory play are endless, described below are some fun and easy ideas that might come in useful over the Summer months.
If you’ve read this far and are asking yourself, “Sensory? Like the five senses?” you’re on the right track! To successfully navigate and function within our surroundings, our bodies are constantly receiving and processing sensory input from the immediate environment. In addition to the five senses of touch (tactile processing), smell (olfactory processing), sound (auditory processing), sight (visual processing), and taste (gustatory processing), Occupational Therapists include body awareness (proprioception) and balance (vestibular processing). Some children may have challenges processing sensory stimuli in one or some of these areas, demonstrating under- or over-responsive reactions. These varying processing abilities may sometimes be severe enough to negatively impact their overall functioning. Occupational Therapists are skilled in their ability to identify which sensory system is affected and recommend effective strategies.
Touch (Tactile Processing) – Frozen Shaving Cream Ocean Play
What you NEED: Shaving Cream, Freezer Safe Deep Container or Tray, Food Coloring or Paint, And Ocean Toys (or any other figurines)
What to DO: Fill your bin with shaving cream and add a few drops of blue food coloring or paint. Swirl with a wooden stick or utensil and throw in some sea animals or ocean toys. Place in the freezer until frozen (few hours).
Ways to PLAY: Allow your child to play around with the mixture and try to retrieve the figures from the shaving cream “icebergs” and “ocean water”!
Body Awareness (Proprioception) and Balance (Vestibular Processing) – Outdoor Sensorimotor Pathway
What you NEED: Chalk
What to DO: Create an obstacle course for your child outdoors - include jumps, hops, spins, stomps!
Ways to Play: Follow the course along to some music or a song for extra sensory input. Try the course forwards and backwards to make it more challenging!
Sight (Visual Processing) – Rainbow Painting
What you NEED: Ice Cube Tray, Water, Food Coloring, Popsicle Sticks
What to DO: Fill an ice cube tray with water and add a small drop of food coloring to each cube. Cut a popsicle stick in half and use the flat edge side to mix the water and food coloring. Leave the popsicle stick inside and freeze the tray overnight.
Ways to PLAY: Bring a blank piece of paper to life by creating colorful and bright patterns, images and letters!
Enjoy exploring new sensory experiences with these summertime activities. Have fun and happy learning!
Author: Tamara Zakarian, MOT, OTR/L