The weather is warming up and summer is just around the corner. If you’re looking for some outdoor sensory activities, you’ve come to the right place.
Get ready to put away the sensory bins and check out these outdoor sensory activities to enjoy with your kids this summer.
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Benefits of Outdoor Sensory Play
Sensory play is an essential part of childhood development.
Our senses provide us with vital information thousands of times per day and starting from birth children use their senses to explore and learn about the world around them.
This is why it’s important to provide opportunities for sensory play for your kids every single day.
There are so many benefits for children with autism, SPD, or ADHD to engage in regular sensory play – including cognitive development, increased brain function, improved emotional regulation, and heightened ability to process new information. In other words, it helps them learn.
Benefits of Playing Outside
There are also many benefits to playing outside! According to Fisher-Price, it allows children to:
Summer Sensory Activities
There’s no better time than the summer to get outside and enjoy the benefits of sensory play with your children.
I’ve compiled a list of what are, in my opinion, the best sensory experiences and activities to try outside this summer.
A Trip to the Beach
There are a ton of unique sensory experiences waiting for your little one at the beach. To start, j
1. Walking in the sand
Walk along the cool wet sand where the ground is firm, yet just soft enough for your toes to sink down.
Afterward, walk along the dry, warm sand and feel the heat on your feet and let the sand get stuck in your toes, as you
The opposing sensations are great for little sensory explorers and walking on the beach is great exercise too!
2. Bury them
Bury your child’s legs (and torso, if they’re okay with it) under the sand. The deep pressure from the weight of the sand provides unique proprioceptive input that you can’t experience anywhere else.
3. Collect objects on the beach
You can find a lot of different, and cool stuff on the beach. Grab a bucket and collect different things for your child to touch and feel for a new tactile experience. For example, y
4. Jump Over Waves
Head out into the water and try to jump over the waves as they come towards you. Or race to shore, trying to get back onto dry sand before the waves wash up over your feet and get you wet.
Swimming is a great source of proprioceptive and vestibular input. It also helps children build bilateral coordination and gross motor planning.
6. Build a Sandcastle
Building a sandcastle incorporates various tactile experiences as your child works with wet sand, dry sand, and water. It also requires a bit of heavy work to fill and lift buckets filled with wet sand.
Water play is an amazing way to cool off on a hot day and you don’t even need to leave home.
Plus you can relax in the sun (or the shade) while your child reaps the benefits of outdoor sensory play.
7. Wet and Dry Slide
This wet and dry slide is kind of like a slip and slide but you can use it dry too, so it can be used all year round.
8. Water Table
Water Tables are great for sensory discovery activities and there are so many creative possibilities.
I love the ones with two sides like the one pictured below because you can fill one side up with water, and then fill the other side with whatever you want!
9. Sprinkler Play
Attach a sprinkler to your hose and you’re in for hours of fun.
Your kids will run, scream, laugh, get wet, and cool off.
Sprinklers are a great way to cool off and get tons of exercise and sensory input at the same time.
10. Splash Balls
Splash balls are soft, fabric-covered foam balls that can hold a fair amount of water …making them perfect for a water fight!
These are softer than water balloons which can even leave welts on the skin. Plus, they’re reusable.
11. Roll Down a Hill
Do you remember doing this as a kid?
Rolling down a grassy hill is one of the best ways for sensory seeking kiddos to get a huge burst of vestibular input all at once which can help with inappropriate sensory seeking behaviors for hours.
12. Monkey Bars
Hanging upside down from the monkey bars, climbing, and sliding are all great ways to get moving outside, improving gross motor planning and core strength.
Swinging can be beneficial for sensory integration because it engages all of the senses at the same time.
Try getting your child to swing on their stomach for a different experience, or if they like it, twist the swing up and let them spin as it unravels.
14. Walk along the beams
Most playgrounds have stepping stones or beams to work on balance and coordination as well.
If they don’t have any as part of the play structure, there is likely a wooden box surrounding the play area that you can use.
15. Heavy Work
Heavy work is recommended for children seeking proprioceptive input. Allow your child to help you in the yard with heavy work activities.
Helping you rake the grass after mowing, moving the lawn furniture, or gathering wood for a campfire all make great outdoor sensory activities for kids.
Check out these 60 heavy work activities that help keep kids calm.
Gardening is another great way to incorporate heavy work into your child’s day while also teaching them valuable life skills and having them complete chores! (win-win-win).
Get your child to help you with pulling weed and digging, or adding fertilizer to the garden. Playing in the dirt is also a fun tactile experience.
More Outdoor Ideas
There really are endless possibilities. We constantly use our senses to interpret the world around us, filter information and learn new things.
Related: 30 Unique Sensory Play Ideas
You can use pretty much any outdoor activity as a way to benefit your child and improve sensory integration
17. Ride a bike
18. Nature walks/scavenger hunts
19. Tree climbing
20. Canoeing or Kayaking
21. Have a campfire – roast marshmallows and hotdogs
22. Water gunfight
23. Hiking trip
25. Visit an amusement park
27. Don’t be afraid to get dirty – play in the mud!