By: PossAbilities | May 07, 2019

summer sensory activities

Warm weather and sunshine has us looking forward to summer!

If you’re looking for ways to keep your child active this summer, while also helping them maintain their motor skills, you’re not alone! 

Summer can be a wonderful time of year. There is often more flexibility and unique opportunities, such as attending baseball games, outdoor theatres, viewing fireworks, visiting the lake, and taking vacations. 

For children with sensory processing disorder, the sometimes-unpredictable summer schedule (or lack thereof) may be challenging. You can help your child stay regulated and have fun by incorporating the following sensory activities into your routine. 

Messy Play

summer sensory activities

It is so important for kids to get messy! Even though it can be stressful for us as parents, messy play is well worth the hassle and extra cleanup time. 

Messy play provides much-needed tactile (or touch) sensory input, which can lead to improved tolerance of different textures of clothing, and might even help your child try non-preferred types of food. 

Consider the following summertime activities:

  • Playing in sand

  • Drawing with sidewalk chalk

  • Water play

  • Walking barefoot in grass or sand

  • Plant a garden/dig in the dirt or mud

  • Kids love to make (and play with) “slime”

  • Finger-painting 

  • Water beads

Children who are sensitive to different textures may benefit from a proprioceptive or “heavy work” activity prior to engaging in these activities. Proprioceptive input can help prepare the body for a new or non-preferred sensory experience, as it has a calming effect on the nervous system. Animal walks, wheelbarrow walks, yoga, or even something as simple as a bear hug can provide this type of input. 

If your child is still hesitant to get “hands on” with messy play, provide them with the option of using a paintbrush (instead of their hands). They may gradually feel comfortable enough to try using one finger, and perhaps eventually try with both hands. 

Movement Activities

summer sensory activities

When we think about movement activities, there are two primary sensory systems involved: the vestibular and proprioceptive sensory systems. 

The vestibular sensory system is responsible for detecting movement. It tells us where we are in space, how fast we are moving, and if we are upright or not. Vestibular sensory input plays a crucial role in balance, posture, and overall coordination. 

The proprioceptive sensory system contributes to body awareness and understanding your body’s position in space. We receive this input from our joints and muscles. It enables us to complete a variety of motor coordination tasks. 

Some of our favorite summer movement activities include:

  • Swimming

  • Riding a bike

  • Playground equipment (think monkey bars, slides, swinging, and climbing!)

  • Hopscotch

  • Tetherball

  • Relay races

  • Throwing and catching

  • Swinging in a hammock

If your child craves vestibular and proprioceptive input, try incorporating these throughout the day to ensure she gets this sensory input in safe ways. 

If your child is more sensitive to movement experiences, perhaps start with less intense activities, such as yoga, walking, or gentle swinging back and forth.

Fine Motor Fun

fine motor fun summer sensory activities

It seems like summer gets shorter each year. In order to make sure your child is ready for the next school year, it is wise to work on fine motor skills at home during the summer.

For many school age kids, paper and pencil activities can seem boring. Try some of these creative, multisensory activities to keep them engaged, while also boosting their fine and visual-motor skills:

  • Use a spray bottle to mist flowers or plants – this builds hand strength!

  • Summer crafts – there are lots of great ideas on Pinterest

  • Use tongs or tweezers to pick up various objects (acorns, leaves, flowers, pebbles)

  • For practice with scissors, try cutting different objects, such as Play-Doh, grass, or hay

  • Inserting coins into a piggy bank – see if you can hold a few in the palm of your hand while slowly transferring one at a time to the piggy bank

  • Practice writing letters and numbers with sidewalk chalk, in shaving cream, whipped cream, sand, paint, Wikki Stix, Cheerios, or pebbles

  • Games, such as Operation, Kerplunk, Marbles, Darts, or puzzles

  • Fishing

  • Legos

  • Playing musical instruments, either for practice or just for fun!

Helper Tasks

summer sensory activities

One of the best ways to incorporate sensory input throughout the day is by involving your child in chores or household activities. 

Kids often enjoy being “helpers” and having their own responsibilities. This may also help them develop a sense of pride, knowing they contributed to maintaining the garden, watering the grass, cleaning up, etc. 

Giving children a task to complete can help them stay focused and provide structure to your day. Not to mention the help this can be to you as you check items off your to-do list!

A few helper task ideas include:

  • Pull the hose out to the garden/yard
  • Carry a watering can and water plants
  • Place buckets around for your child to fill with rocks, sticks, dandelions, or leaves
  • Push or pull the wagon
  • Create a “clean up” station at the door, with a brush and towels to clean their body and feet before going back inside
  • Sweep the porch or steps

If you would like additional ideas, or activities customized to your child’s unique sensory needs, please check out our “Sensable and Possable” summer group! This will equip you and your child with new, engaging sensory activities to help them stay regulated while having a good time. 

Summer never lasts as long as we wish it would. It seems like we blink and it’s time to go back to school! If you’re looking to keep your child’s motor skills on track, consider our summer handwriting groups. We incorporate fun, sensorimotor activities while providing parent education, helping your child be prepared for the school year.

We hope to see you this summer! 


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