Four outdoor sensory activities to try with your kids this Summer
- Published on Tuesday, 08 June 2021 11:11
- Last Updated on 07 June 2021
- Rachel Clinkard
- 0 Comments
This Summer, you might be looking for fun things to do with your children. But what if these activities could play a key role in their development too? In this article, I share my tips for planning more sensory play.
As a parent, you’ve probably heard a lot about sensory play. The idea behind it is that activities which encourage children to use more of their senses, including touch, may be more beneficial than passive activities such as watching TV or playing computer games. Sensory play is great for stimulating children who have autism or learning difficulties, but it provides a wealth of benefits for all kids too (UCL) including for their brain development and their mental wellbeing.
If you combine sensory play with outdoor activities, you have the magic formula for a great day out. Encouraging your kids to actively use their senses while exploring the world around them will be great for their health, not to mention it’s much more fun and engaging than playing indoors. So, below I’ve suggested four fun activities you can do with your kids during half term.
There are plenty of nature reserves and wildlife parks in central London where children can learn about plants and animals in the eco-system, including the National History Museum’s Wildlife Garden. But a scavenger hunt can really spur on their enthusiasm and encourage them to take learning into their own hands. From a simple list of animals for them to spot to cryptic clues, you can adjust the scavenger hunt to their age and ability and even decide whether to turn it into a competition. For example, who can spot the most items on the list within a given time frame?
Scavenger hunts are great sensory activities because they encourage your children to use their eyes and ears (and sometimes their noses!) to take in their surroundings. To incorporate a further sensory element, encourage your children to collect ‘evidence’ of their scavenging. For example, if you were to ask them to look for different species of tree, they could collect different shaped leaves or do pencil-rubbings on the bark. Anything you can do to get them interacting with nature with as many different senses as possible is best. As for taste, you can always treat them to a snack afterwards!
Create giant artworks
Regular contact with nature improves a child’s wellbeing, motivation, and confidence. So, it’s great to get them physically interacting with natural materials when you’re walking outdoors. Wherever you go, encourage your kids to look for materials they can use to make giant artworks. A bit like drawing lines in the sand, your children can use the resources available to them to create funny faces, sketch out landscapes, or even write their names — all by using the ground as a canvas.
For example, they could use twigs and rocks on the forest floor to make their masterpiece, and so they can get the most out of this experience, encourage them to look for lots of different textures and colours. Because these materials are natural, your kids can leave their creation for other visitors to look at and enjoy too. Just make sure they’re getting them off the ground and not dismantling or picking anything still growing. You can do this by supervising their scavenging to prevent causing damage to the local environment.
Growing a kitchen garden
As well as boosting well-being and providing sensory development, gardening has lots of benefits for children including developing fine motor skills and reducing screen time. By growing a kitchen garden, not only will your kids learn about how things grow, but they will learn how to use what they produce in simple recipes too. The best part? You don’t need a large garden for your kids to benefit. You may not even need a garden at all!
Cress is by far the easiest crop to grow — just wet some cotton wool, sprinkle the seeds on top, and wait. The seeds sprout quickly and are usually ready to eat within a week, so they’re great for young kids who want to see immediate results. Other children might prefer the challenge of cultivating root vegetables like carrots and potatoes, which are ideal for small gardens or balconies because they will happily grow in crates and sacks.
Alternatively, a tiny herb garden in your kitchen or window box could be a great ongoing project. Set up a watering timetable, show them how to remove dead leaves and stems so that healthy ones can grow, and your kids will be confidently maintaining their own herbs to add to the family’s evening meals in no time.
These are just three great activities you can do with your kids this Summer that encourage them to use more of their senses. Give them a go and it’s sure to be smiles all round.
Rachel Clinkard has been Ecommerce Director of Charles Clinkard, a family-run shoe retailer since 2013. They have more than 30 stores across the UK and have offered a first shoes fitting experience for more than 70 years establishing them as experts in helping infants to get off on the right foot. Rachel regularly shares footcare and shoe fitting advice.