Summer Sensory Activities

  Filed under: Occupational Therapy, Parenting Tips

A summer break full of fun and sun may mean that your little one won’t actively see his or her occupational therapist, but that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate sensory play into your warm weather routine. There are plenty of engaging activities you can introduce to keep your child entertained as you provide new sensory experiences and help him or her increase motor skill development.

First, consult with your child’s occupational therapist to ask about ideas and strategies that will suit your child’s specific sensory needs. She will be able to make suggestions for the best activities to improve fine motor and attention skills and coordination as well as assist your child in using his or her senses to explore, experiment, and problem solve.

Some fun and supportive activities your therapist may share include:

Sensory Activities to Calm

Calming sensory activities help children feel calm, increase their attention span, and promote a state of overall comfort and happiness. These activities may help your child successfully transition from screeching and screaming to a calm and organized state of mind.

  • Bubble blowing
  • Swinging on a swing or see-sawing
  • Helping with simple household chores such as vacuuming or sweeping
  • Carrying weighted toys such as plastic sand buckets filled with water or sand for short periods of time
  • Using soft pillows or cushions to apply gentle pressure to comfortably “squish” your child
  • Holding vibrating toys or applying gentle massagers on their back, arms, and legs

Sensory Activities to Alert and Arouse Attention

Alerting and arousing sensory activities enable sensory-seeking children to feel something to support positive behavior and increase attention.

  • Bouncing a therapy ball
  • Spinning in a swivel chair or on a Sit ‘n Spin play toy
  • Jumping on a trampoline or a bed while supervised
  • Walking through an obstacle course using couch cushions, inflatable pool rafts and noodles, and more fun items that offer uneven surfaces
  • Jumping and crashing into soft pillows, play mats and cushions
  • Riding a scooter or tricycle
  • Playing physical games such as Red Rover tug-of-war or Ring Around the Rosie

Sensory Tubs Suggestions

A sensory tub is a simple shoebox or storage bin filled with a variety of materials that help promote sensory exploration by introducing different textures, sights, and smells. Children can place their hands in the box or bin to feel various materials, drive toy cars through them, seek special treasures hidden inside and more. Considering adding the following items to a sensory tub for your child:

  • Dried pasta, beans or rice
  • Cooked, wet noodles
  • Shaving cream
  • Finger paints
  • Playdough in various colors
  • Colorful paper confetti
  • Foam pieces
  • Salt or sugar
  • Dry or damp sand

Add even more fun in a sensory tub with:

  • Small cars and trucks
  • Kitchen utensils like spoons, whisks, tongs or a baster
  • Food coloring
  • Wooden or plastic blocks
  • Small plastic animals
  • Straws and pipe cleaners
  • Shovels, buckets, and funnels

Water Play Ideas

Water enhances any sensory play activity and can be incorporated very easily. Ideas to consider include:

  • Filling and tossing water balloons
  • Playing with a water table with boats and small floats
  • Using water to “paint” wood or concrete with paintbrushes
  • Adding food coloring to the water to watch the color changes
  • Adding glow sticks to the bath and turning off the lights
  • Creating an outdoor obstacle course with a sprinkler, slip-n-slide and baby pool