If there’s one thing children love more than anything, its playtime. Not only because it means time to run around with their peers in enjoyment, but also because it offers them a chance to use their creativity in freely.
There’s more to play time than pretending to be a princess or running around with a ball.
Playtime is critical in helping kids learn how to socialize, develop their emotions, improve cardiovascular health, strengthen cognition – and so much more.
Taking playtime one step further is Sensory Play. These activities stimulate and evolve a child’s senses: touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight and hearing.
What’s great about sensory play is that it’s great for all ages and skills. From very young babies to children with disabilities, sensory play has important, rewarding benefits.
Since many of these activities can get messy, outdoors is the best place for sensory playtime. Plus the backdrop is a great for engaging the sense with all of the vivid spring colors and sounds.
As spring weather finally makes it’s way to New England, now’s a great time to plan some fun ideas for the family.
Even if your child doesn’t like some of the elements of the outdoors, this may be a good way to start to slowly introduce them to the sounds and textures at their own pace, in an environment where they feel safe.
Here are some great options for sensory play outdoors to try with kids this spring.
As your family prepares the yard for the upcoming warm season, think about making some fun out it. Gardening is a terrific sensory activity that allows a child to touch and feel dirt in their hands, plant seeds, pick flowers and smell them. There are many options.
Tip: You can create a garden sensory bin with a plastic container of choice. Fill with potting soil and allow kids to plant flowers, seeds and water and watch them grow.
Most of us can probably remember playing with bubbles as a kid. It’s one of those traditional playtime activities that never gets old. Bubbles can also present a great opportunity to add sensory play. In addition to blowing into the soapy wand and watching a bubble from and then float away, children can reach out and pop the balloons as they feel the liquid burst on contact. You can also have kids observe the rainbow colors that form on the bubbles and if you’re feeling daring – even have them mix their own bubble concoctions with water, soap and other additives.
Tip: Create a giant DIY bubble activity with a large tray, a special soap and water solution and different tools that kids can use to make bubbles from like a fly swatter, hula hoop, or a giant bubble wand made of straws and strings.
Messy Science / Fun Time
If you’re really feeling like some fun, there are a host of science projects and messy, fun options to choose from online. A quick search for outdoor sensory activities pulls up a myriad of different things you can create with household items for kids to enjoy. Some options include laying out shaving cream and using fingers to draw in it, making slime, or even making literal mud pies with dirt and water.
Tip: Create a more permanent area in the yard for kids to explore their senses. Use a raised garden bed or table with bin inserts. Fill with items like sand, water or other matter and lets kids roll their sleeves up and get to work.