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Outdoor Sensory Play Ideas
Outdoor sensory play is a fantastic way to engage children's senses and encourage exploration and learning. Here are some fun and creative outdoor sensory play ideas to try this summer.
Create a list of items for kids to find outdoors, such as leaves, stones, flowers, pinecones. Discovering different types of textures is great for tactile play. Use a checklist or a scavenger hunt sheet to keep track of their discoveries. Keep all your findings safe in these transluscent coloured buckets. Exploring nature kits are perfect educational kids for curious minds. Challenge kids to find and listen to different sounds in nature, such as birds chirping, leaves rustling, or water flowing.
For a twist on a nature hunt, why not try a shape hunt? These fantastic rainbow glitter shapes look amazing in the sunshine! Hide the different shapes around the garden and see who can find the most. Once you've collected them all they can be strung up against a window or across the garden to create fantastic shape shadows.
Mud kitchens are great fun and easy to set up using items round the house. Set up a mud kitchen using old pots, pans, and utensils or try an outdoor play kit. Let children mix mud, sand, water, and natural materials to create their culinary masterpieces. You could even try no mess playfoam for a different tactile experience. Great outdoor messy fun!
You could also try creating your own DIY Sensory bins. Simply fill large plastic containers with various materials like colored rice, dried beans, sand, or water beads. Add scoops, funnels, and small toys for hours of sensory exploration.
Sand and Water Play
There's great fun to be had with sand and water! Use sand and water trays or buckets from the house. Build sandcastles, create shapes with shape cutters or run sand through fingers for calming, sensory play. Great for developing fine motor skills. Try hiding objects and animals in the sand and encourage your child to dig to find them.
Sensory Obstacle Course
Practising balancing skills and creating your own obstacle courses can be so much fun! Set up an obstacle course that engages multiple senses, such as crawling through a tunnel, balancing on a beam, feeling different textures underfoot, and more. Spiky balance pods are great for jumping over, onto and walking across for a sensory foot massage. Wobble Cushions can also be used to stand on, to develop core muscles and practise balancing. For even more fun, try completing a (safe) obstacle course in a body sock.
You could also create a path with the step-a-stone plastic stones. Start with short gaps from stone to stone and help your child gain confidence as they move over larger gaps. Ideal for developing gross motor skills. Why not add timers and see if you can complete the obstacle course before the timer runs out!
Lay out various textured materials on the ground, such as foam, bubble wrap, sandpaper, and fabric. Let children walk on the textures barefoot to experience different sensations. Sensory Puzzle Playmats can also be used to create sensory paths inside and out. Available in bright colours, multiple textures & unique designs. As well as being great fun these help develop imagination, boost circulation, help to correct flat footedness, improve posture and develop the vestibular system.
Throwing & Catching
Time to develop those gross motor skills by practising throwing, catching and rolling. Incorporate a range of different balls such as sensory hedgehog balls, fleece covered balls, massage balls or weighted tactile beanbags for added tactile exploration. Try throwing games or line up your own buckets to try and throw the balls in, great for developing hand eye coordination skills.
Let kids explore a garden with their senses. Encourage them to touch the different leaves and flowers, smell the fragrances, and taste some safe edible plants like mint or strawberries. Tape a piece of double-sided tape around each child's wrist, sticky side out. As they explore, they can stick small natural objects like leaves, flowers, and seeds to their "bracelets."
You could also set up an outdoor art station with finger painting, chalk drawing, or using natural materials like leaves and flowers to create collages. Hunt for different materials to create patterns and shapes across paper.
Important to note
Remember to consider safety while planning outdoor sensory play activities and be mindful of any allergies children may have. Outdoor play not only provides fun and excitement but also promotes physical, cognitive, and emotional development in children.