20 Activities for Outdoor Sensory Play — Keeping In Touch (2024)

ActiveforLife offer on their website an article offering 20 suggestions for outdoor sensory play activities, along with a free downloadable Outdoor Sensory Scavenger Hunt printout.

Sensory play engages young children’s seven senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, vestibular (movement and balance) and proprioception (body position).

This article demonstrates that you don’t need to go out of your way to create an elaborate setup for sensory play; everything your child needs for engaging sensory play can be found outside.

Young children rely heavily on their senses to orient themselves with the world, for example, by putting things in their mouths, grabbing things, and climbing on everything. Engaging with their senses through play, the article notes that they develop their:

· cognitive skills (developing knowledge)

· fine motor skills (grasping small items)

· gross motor skills (balancing and walking)

· language skills (learning words)

· problem-solving skills (reasoning)

· memory skills (remembering experiences)

· social skills (collaborating)

· emotional regulation skills (managing and expressing emotions)

The outdoors offers a range of sensory play opportunities: at a park, in the back yard, along a nature trail, on a beach or in a puddle, in any season of the year.

The article offers a cautionary note. Whilst it is important to give young kids the freedom to play and explore and even take risks, it is important to scan your environment for hazardous items or situations that can cause serious harm to your child, and either remove the danger or remove your child from the danger.

Suggestions for outdoor sensory play include:

· Play with rocks: pebbles, pea rocks and gravel are great for manipulating, holding, scooping, dumping, shoveling, digging and collecting.

· Walk barefoot on grass: Safety Tip – watch out for honeybees if there is flowering clover in the grass, and watch out for glass or other sharp objects.

· Roll down a grassy slope: this is a great way for developing a child’s vestibular and proprioception senses, while stimulating their sense of smell and touch.

· Play with water: splashing, stomping, scooping, pouring, and funneling engage all the senses. Safety Tip – always supervise young children near water.

· Make mud pies and finger paint with mud: If you have a yard, instructions for setting up a simple mud kitchen for mud play can be found at https://activeforlife.com/how-to-make-a-diy-mud-kitchen/

· Dig for worms: Quick Tip – worms come out after rainfalls and can be found along sidewalks and roads. This is a great option for holding a worm if you don’t have access to dirt for digging in, and you can save the worm’s life by returning them to nearby soil or grass so that they don’t dry out and die when the sun comes out if they are trapped on an impermeable surface like concrete or asphalt.

· Swing from a tree (or monkey bars): look for sturdy branches or monkey bars at parks or along trails.

· Make a sensory bin from nature items: help your child fill a bin or basket with items such as shells, pinecones, rocks, sticks and leaves to bring indoors.

· Jump in a pile of leaves: Children will love it if you join them in this activity!

· Play with sticks: challenge your child to find different types of stick (short, long, skinny, wide, lumpy, smooth, etc.)

· Go on a noise scavenger hunt: children don’t filter sounds in the way adults have learnt to do, one of the reasons they become overstimulated in noisy environments. Help them count the number of different sounds outside (wind blowing, leaves rustling, birds chirping, squirrel chattering, airplane flying, etc.)

· Balancing on a log or boulder: this helps to develop vestibular and proprioception senses. Safety Tip: avoid helping your child climb onto things that are beyond their own abilities, so that they will be more likely to be able to get back down safely on their own. To prevent a fall, you can ‘spot’ your child by staying close by with your arms extended towards them.

· Spinning in circles

· Playing in the rain: young children enjoy playing in the rain, especially when properly dressed for the weather in rain gear.

· Search for smells: encourage your child to smell flowers, leaves, evergreen needles, grass, dirt, pinecones, rocks, etc.

· Hug trees: what does it feel like – is the bark rough, the branches prickly. You can make bark rubbings to take home.

More details and a downloadable Outdoor Sensory Scavenger Hunt chart can be found at https://activeforlife.com/20-outdoor-sensory-play-activities/

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

As an expert in sensory play and outdoor activities for children, I can confidently say that engaging in sensory play outdoors offers a multitude of benefits for young children. The article provided by ActiveforLife on their website showcases 20 suggestions for outdoor sensory play activities, along with a free downloadable Outdoor Sensory Scavenger Hunt printout.

Sensory play is a crucial aspect of a child's development as it engages their seven senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, vestibular (movement and balance), and proprioception (body position). By actively participating in sensory play, children enhance various skills and abilities.

One of the key takeaways from the article is that creating an elaborate setup for sensory play is unnecessary. Everything a child needs for engaging sensory play can be found outside. Young children heavily rely on their senses to navigate and understand the world around them. By encouraging sensory play, children develop cognitive skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, language skills, problem-solving skills, memory skills, social skills, and emotional regulation skills.

The outdoors offers a wide range of sensory play opportunities throughout the year. Whether it's a park, backyard, nature trail, beach, or even a puddle, there are countless ways for children to engage their senses and have fun while learning and growing.

However, it's important to note that while allowing children the freedom to play and explore is crucial, it is equally important to ensure their safety. The article emphasizes the need to scan the environment for any hazardous items or situations that could cause harm. Removing potential dangers or relocating the child from hazardous areas is essential.

The article provides several suggestions for outdoor sensory play, such as playing with rocks for manipulation and collection, walking barefoot on grass (taking precautions for honeybees and sharp objects), rolling down a grassy slope, playing with water (with supervision), making mud pies and finger painting with mud, and digging for worms (with instructions on how to safely handle worms).

Other suggestions include swinging from a tree or monkey bars, creating a sensory bin with nature items, jumping in a pile of leaves, playing with sticks of different shapes and sizes, going on a noise scavenger hunt to help children recognize and count different sounds, balancing on logs or boulders (with safety tips), spinning in circles, playing in the rain (with appropriate rain gear), searching for different smells, and even hugging trees to explore their textures.

For more details and a downloadable Outdoor Sensory Scavenger Hunt chart, readers can visit the ActiveforLife website at .

Overall, this article provides valuable insight into the world of outdoor sensory play for children. By incorporating these activities into a child's routine, parents and caregivers can enhance their child's development while fostering a love for nature and the outdoors.

20 Activities for Outdoor Sensory Play — Keeping In Touch (2024)
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