Can you feel the crisp air of winter dancing on your skin? Can you hear the sound of the cheering crowd at a football game? Do you crave anything pumpkin flavored? This could only mean one thing, winter has arrived and with it comes lots of opportunities to create a sensory experience outside with your kids! Our sensory systems are the way we explore and navigate our environment. Kids learn best when a sensory component is involved. Sensory experiences can spark language, improve creative play, incorporate gross motor and fine motor coordination, and decrease sensory aversions.

Here are a few simple ideas for fall or winter to create sensory filled weekends with your kids in the new season!

  • Who doesn’t love jumping into a big pile of leaves? For added heavy work and proprioceptive input, have the kids help you rake the leaves. See who can make the biggest pile! 
  • Carve a pumpkin together. Have the kids scoop out all the squishy insides with their hands! Have them help you separate the pumpkin seeds for a yummy snack later. Younger children can paint their pumpkin instead of carving a face. 
  • No more leaves or pumpkins? There will be snow soon! Make a snow man and deocrate him with a hat, scarf and whatever you can find for buttons!
  • Go on a nature walk to see the snow falling. Take a scavenger hunt printout with you to find acorns, sticks, maybe even a bug! (Older kids can check out a book from the library about trees and see if they can find different types.)
  • Pick your own apples at a local orchid. The kids will enjoy making sweet treats with the apples later!
  • Build a fire and make roasted hotdogs and s’mores! Listen to the crackle of the fire. Feel the warmth coming from the flames. Taste the sweetness of the s’more!
  • Make a birdseed feeder together. Use peanut butter to cover a pinecone and sprinkle with birdseed. Hang it from a tree near by and watch the birds come to eat!

Ways to modify sensory experiences for your child:

If your child has Sensory Processing Disorder, many of these ideas might sound exciting, but also may be too overwhelming for them. There are ways to modify sensory experiences so your child still has fun and can participate! If your child is tactile defensive, instead of jumping whole body into a pile of leaves, you can create a sensory box filled with leaves and hidden acorns. The can still explore the texture of leaves with their hands and control the input. If your child does not like loud noises from a crowd, make sure to bring headphones with you when you attend a football game or a corn maze. Allow them to take breaks in a quite place (such as your car) when they need it. If your child does not like sticky things on their hands, allow them to use a knife to spread on the peanut butter for the bird feeder or use a big spoon when scooping out the pumpkin insides. You could place the squishy insides of the pumpkin in a ziplock bag so they still experience the squishy fun without the mess.

Just remember to keep it simple, plan ahead for modifications, and have fun! If you have any questions about modifying a sensory experiencing or want more ideas, please feel free to ask your OT! 

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