12 Sensory Activities to Stimulate your Kids this Summer

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Sensory activities for your kids this summer

Ok, we might have gotten a little excited this week talking about sensory activities/experiences.  There are so many various ways to engage the senses and so many activities to experience!

Sensory play encourages learning through exploration, curiosity, problem-solving, and creativity.  It helps to build neural pathways in the brain and encourages the development of language and motor skills.  Did we mention the possibilities for play are almost endless?!

From shaving cream and water play to giant stability balls and balance boards, get ready to engage the entire body from top to bottom and inside out.

Sensory play provides an experience for your child that invites them to engage with their environment, explore their creativity and interact in ways that they might not explore otherwise.

 

We’ll be exploring:

  • Sight – From distance to shape to watching things move through space, the Visual Sensory system is the largest contributor to how the body takes in information and is closely connected to the auditory and vestibular systems.
  • Hearing – The fastest sense! Volume, directionality, and rhythm are a few ways the Auditory system provides information about how to move.  It also supports differentiating sounds and enabling our kids to connect with the world around them.
  • Smell – Also known as the olfactory system, the sense of smell sends signals to our limbic system, which is in charge of memory and emotion.  Does smelling fresh baked bread make you happy?  This is because the smell takes you back to wherever you first experienced the scent, causing those warm and fuzzy feelings. Also, bread is delicious 🙂
  • Taste – Salty, sweet, sour, bitter.  Our sense of taste allows us to perceive different flavors and in some cases, determine whether something is edible or not.  Does anyone else have a kid who ate grass?  Taste is a product of more than just taste buds, it’s a combination of how a portion of food smells, looks, and sounds – it’s a whole experience.
  • Touch – Also called tactile, this is where children learn about pressure, temperature, vibrations, texture, firmness and so much more.
  • Vestibular (Balance) – Rolling, spinning, hanging, swinging, and jumping, oh my! All of these movements contribute to your child’s development of balance.  The goal is to get your child’s head into as many different positions as possible.
  • Proprioceptive (Movement/body awareness) – If you put your hand behind your back, you know you still have a hand and you know it’s behind your back – that’s proprioception.  To know where they physically are in space and how their limbs relate to the rest of their body.

Visual

1. Memory and visual motor games

a. Follow the pattern – Remember the game, Simon?  Where you see a color order and then you had to repeat it?          We’re going to play the life-size version!

  • For younger children, start with 1-2 colors and increase as they can handle.  For older children, start with 3-4 colors and increase as they can handle.
  • Set up spots, colored paper, or items of different colors on the ground.  Can set them up close together at first and move them farther away to increase the movement challenge.
  • Show your child the order color and have them repeat it back to you, touching the spots or items. (If you see your child is struggling, you can have them verbally repeat the colors back to you before they move.
    • You can use markers/crayons or colored paper or simply color a circle of each color on different pieces of paper.
    • You can also say the colors instead of showing them
  • If you have them close together, you can ask your child to touch them with different body parts.
  • If you move them farther away, you can ask your child to move in various ways (crawl, skip, hop, crab walk)  or add a vestibular challenge and roll, spin, or jump to each color.

b. What is that? In this game, we’re going to challenge your child’s visual tracking (the ability of one’s eyes to follow movements of an object), eye fixation (maintaining focus on a single location), and visual perception (make sense of what you see) skills.

i. Visual tracking- Standing a short distance from your child, hold up a piece of paper or small item, at least the size of a tennis ball.  Have them track the item with their eyes as you move it up/down, left/right, and diagonal.

  • Increase the challenge: 

           a. Ask them to touch the item as you move it around.  Choose different body parts. 

           b. Move farther away from them.

           c. Time them, either just to touch the item or touch the item and go back to the start spot.

           d. Make the item smaller

           e. Move the item multiple times

  • Add other disturbances such as music or other kids running around

ii. Eye Fixation – Stand in one spot or place the item in a spot that is in line with your child’s eye line.

           a. Designate the spot where your child is going to move.

           b. Have them start with walking.  They are going to look at the object and move to the designated spot.

           c. As they improve, change the action for how they get to the spot (run, gallop, skip, hop, jump)

           d. Move the item farther away.

           e. To really increase the challenge, move the item as your child moves to the designated spot.

iii. Visual perception – Copy me – you’re going to do an action and then your child is going to copy you

           a. For younger children, you can start with simple actions, such as reaching your hands in the air, touching your toes, or jumping.

           b. For older children, you can start with jumping jacks, running in place, or side shuffles.

           c. Increase the challenge by adding in different tools, such as pool noodles, balls, and hula hoops.

           d. Do 2 or more actions in a row and have them copy each action

           e. Have your child be the leader.

2. Listening

a. Make musical instruments out of households and recycled materials.

  1. Look around your house for various items to use to make instruments (pots and pans, wooden or metal spoons, measuring cups, straws, or varying lengths) and make wonderful music!
  2. Find containers in your house to fill (oatmeal, pringles, tissue boxes) 
  3. Find items to fill those containers (rice, beans, pasta, popcorn kernels)  This is a great way to use foods that have expired so you don’t have to just throw them out.
  4. Fill the containers with your items, seal them with their lid or use different colored tape and shake, shake, shake.

b. What’s that sound?

         i. You can either make the sounds or find sounds on youtube to play for your child.

        ii. Have the matching items available for your child to find.

       iii. Play or make the sound and then your child will go to the item matching the sound.

       iv. For example, if you say, “choo choo” then your child will find a train.

        v. To increase the challenge:

  1. Turn the volume down
  2. Move the objects farther away
  3. Do 2 or more sounds and kids have to go them in order

       vi. If doing animal sounds, you can also have kids move like the animal after they retrieve it. 

      vii. Copy me – Have your child copy the sound they hear.

    1. Use claps and stomps 
    2. Use rhythm- ask kids to copy the sound and the rhythm.

3. Taste and Smelling

You’re going to smell or taste something with your eyes closed, have the matching items available in the play area and then move to the item.

 a. What’s that smell?

  1. Have a few bags filled with different items. 
  2. Place the matching item in the play area.

b. What’s that taste?

  1. Have a few bags filled with different items. 
  2. Place the matching item in the play area.
  3. Make a snack with one of the items they smell or taste

4. Touch

a. What can I squish?  Using various materials, explore the different feelings of squishy, sticky, hard, soft,                           gooey, stretchy, smooth, rough, and pokey.

  1. Use cooked pasta, beans, rice, rocks, marbles, grass, sand, feathers, birdseed, cereal, pom poms, beads, packing peanuts, popcorn kernels, shredded paper, and more!
  2. Place materials in a container and let kids explore and play.
  3. Use more than one material at a time so kids can compare and contrast.
  4. Add different size and shape containers for kids to fill and dump
  5. Place the containers on the floor and let kids step on the various materials
  6. You can add paint to this and add to the collaborative artwork you have been working on this summer if you have been playing with us the last few weeks.  You can go check out the other art ideas in our previous posts.

b. Catch and throw items of different textures.

  1. Use a squishy ball, spikey ball, softball, heavy ball
  2. Use balls of different sizes
  3. Use items that are different shapes
  4. Use other types of materials such as pillows, socks, t-shirts, or stuffed animals

5. Vestibular

a. Just do it! 

  1. Rolling across the floor – Try to keep legs straight and arms straight up over the head.
  2. Spinning – See if there’s a difference depending on where you place your arms (overhead, out to the side, next to your body, one over your head, and one next to your body…)
  3. Hanging – Find sturdy objects that are safe to hang from (tree branches, monkey or pull up bars, back of the couch…) 
  4. Swinging – You may have to go to the park for this one if you can’t place a swing in your yard.  Aerial silks are also great if you can hang those from your ceiling.
  5. Jumping – If you have access to a trampoline that’s great as it improves coordination and dexterity and increases bone density.

b. How much can you move?  

  1. Place a bunch of balls or rolled-up socks or small towels or small toys in a container. Can also use small weighted balls.
  2. Place another container across the room or backyard.
  3. Choose one of the vestibular movements and see how many items your child can take from one container to the other while rolling, spinning, or jumping.
  4. You can also time them to see how fast they can move all the items.
  5. Change up the movements so they don’t get dizzy.

6. Proprioceptive

a. Push, pull, and jump – 

  1. Find various items in your home that kids can push, pull and jump over.
    • Push and pull chairs of different sizes, bean bags, old tires, and bags filled with rice or sand.
    • Jump over a line on the sidewalk, pool noodle, a small pillow, and shoes.
  2. Explore items that are different weights, sizes, and textures
  3. Set up a start and finish line and time your child to see how fast they can move the item.

b. Obstacle course

  1. You can visit our pool noodle post for a fun obstacle course idea
  2. Use anything in your house that kids can jump over, crawl under, run around, roll under or through, dive into, spin around, and whatever else you or they can come up with!
    • Jump over paper towel rolls, crawl under chairs, run around cones or use shoes, roll under a blanket, dive into a pile of pillows, roll through streamers… 

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