Sensory play is a great way to help an autistic child develop self-soothing skills, but it’s also a healthy, educational, and fun exploratory experience for any child. Exploring new and interesting textures, sounds, sights, and experiences is a wonderful way to spend the afternoon for everyone!
Let’s explore a few fun ways to get started...
Head to the Playground
Many children engage in stimming behavior, such as rocking back and forth or fidgeting to involuntarily compensate for a lack of stimulation. Outdoor play is a great way to get some commonly under-stimulated senses involved. Specifically, using swings, seesaws, slides, and merry-go-rounds is a good way to play with the vestibular senses, which are the senses of balance and motion.
Climbing on or hanging from monkey bars (with assistance if needed) is a good way to activate proprioceptive feedback. Other great activities for this can include anything that significantly engages muscles and joints, such as jumping, lifting objects, or climbing. Keep in mind that not all activities are appropriate for every child, and that parents especially need to be available for highly active experiences like these.
Sensory tubs are a great way to explore different materials, and they’re a great tool for indoor or outdoor play. Fill containers with different interesting materials such as beans, sand, grass, buttons, ice, or a combination of these or anything else that might provide a unique and fun experience. Encourage them to reach into the tub without looking at first. Make sure that there are other containers to play with, and a clear space to spread the material around in so that your little ones can explore the material fully.
Play with Water
Water offers a number of interesting sensory options to explore. While it’s certainly an option for a sensory tub, water can provide an especially interesting experience when it’s incorporated into a whole variety of different activities. Start by filling a small pool and let your kids wade and splash around to get interesting tactile and proprioceptive sensations. Encourage them to fill a cup and to pour the water onto the ground, and into more water. Choose a sunny day, and let them splash it high into the air to see the rainbow (bring out a sprinkler if you have trouble).
Sensory Scavenger Hunt
If you’re organizing for groups of slightly older children, a scavenger hunt is a great way to add a bit more substance to the experience. Make a list of sensory tasks such as “find something to balance on”, or “find something soft”, and organize it into a manageable set of targets for your hunt. This is a great game for less structured play outside, since it will give the kids the opportunity to explore a wider variety of different sensations.
Engaging in this type of play is a good way to explore the environment, while also ensuring that our kids get the sensory stimulation they need to function and focus in other areas of their lives. We are proud to help contribute to your children's experience with our outdoor swings. Give these ideas a try today!