Top Sensational Outdoor Activities
Winter has finally let go, passing the weather reins onto spring. Thank goodness! Now we can open our windows, clear out the cobwebs and, most importantly, get outside. Yes, there are wonderful activities we can do inside during the colder, blustery winter days, but it just isn’t the same as getting out in nature and enjoying warm weather and much-needed sunshine.
For those of you out there who have ‘sensational’ kids, you know how edgy they seem to get this time of year. Their little bodies seem to crave the outdoors more as the weather gets warmer. I remember years ago, even on Jaimie’s most sensitive days, she seemed so much happier being outside. Plus, with summer being so short we need to get out there and enjoy it as much as we can.
We have four ‘sensational’ kids in our house, two whose sensitivities are more on the severe side. So the activities I suggest each day give each of them wiggle room to tweak it to what their bodies need at the time.
I’d love to share some of our favorite spring/early summer outdoor activities with you. Remember that each of our kids’ needs is very different so when trying out any of these suggestions, be sure to add whatever your little one needs at the time to gain the greatest benefits from the activity. If you need further suggestions, see what your OT or other therapist advises.
1. Water balloons
We love balloons in our house because they can be used in so many different ways for sensory fun. In the summer, we fill them with water and play baseball, catching games or pitch them at the fence or the side of the house. You can get balloons at the dollar store in different shapes and sizes to make it even more fun. Your kids will be getting great tactile, muscle input, proprioception and eye-hand coordination, to name a few. We only have two rules: no throwing them at other people and everyone has to help clean up the busted balloons.
2. Outside obstacle course
If you have a big backyard or, like us, live near a field try this one! Think of three to four activities that have your kids crawling, pulling, pushing, running, getting squeezed, crab-walking or other body-movement activities. We end all of our outdoor obstacle courses with a run up the big hill behind our complex and a roll back down. Excellent variety of input available there.
Yard work and gardening offer a huge variety of opportunity to get some sensory input. Things like raking, filling and pushing a wheelbarrow, pulling weeds, digging holes, picking fruit/veggies, watering not only give their bodies some needed exercise but also give them a sense of pride in helping out. Plus their little fingers are perfect for making seed-sized holes!
4. Water play.
Jaimie had a tremendous fear of water when she was little. It wasn’t just the feeling of the water on her skin but also temperature and pressure. Now, of course, it’s hard to keep her out of the water. We started with a wading pool, getting her used to the feeling, allowing her to play with her favorite toys. Introduce toys that spray, squirt and splash. Then you can move to playing with the hose, sprinklers and water squirting toys. I am not a fan of gun-shaped water squirters but found some other ones at the dollar store shaped like tubes that my kids pump to get the water out (great proprioception!). We also found a sprinkler that shoots out water in six different intensities and shapes. Another idea is to try a local water part (if your child can tolerate the busy environment. We have a free one close to us.) or swim at your local indoor or outdoor pool. Once a child gets over his initial fear, many ‘sensational’ kids find the water very calming. Keep trying!
5. Game carnival
Now that Jaimie is at the point where she’s able to self-regulate—which I never thought she’d achieve!—she comes up with some pretty brilliant ideas to get her input. The game carnival is where the kids come up with various games they and their friends try for prizes. Jaimie has bean bag tosses, balance games, guess-the-cup-the-ball-is-under, races and other activities. The most amazing part is that Jaimie creates games for different ages and abilities. Her awareness astounds me sometimes.
Chynna Laird – is a psychology major, freelance writer and multi award-winning author living in Edmonton, Alberta with her partner, Steve, and their three daughters Jaimie, Jordhan, and Sophie and son, Xander.
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This post originally appeared on our May/June 2012 Magazine