10 Summer Activities to Support Sensory Awareness and Fine Motor Skills

Summertime conjures up images of waterplay, lazy beach days and checkered picnic tables. It is also the ideal season to get some sun and engage in hands-on activities. Exposing kiddos to various sensory media at a young age supports sensory processing, self-regulation, attention skills, fine and gross motor skill development.

Sensory processing is defined as the body’s ability to interpret the eight sensory inputs: auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, proprioceptive, vestibular and interoception. Participating in alerting or calming tasks enables a child to learn how to regulate themselves. Clinical experts also share that sensory play can strengthen neural connections, support emotional regulation, and foster skill acquisition. Countless activities can promote sensory wellness. From churning ice cream to visiting a fruit farm, here are 10 ways you can support your child’s sensory awareness and fine motor development this summer.

Design an obstacle course

Kids can have boundless energy, and what better way to channel it than via a themed obstacle course?

Repurpose everyday home items to design your own challenge. Incorporate balance beams or uneven surfaces, couch cushions, tents, tunnels, swings, hula hoop games, wall push-ups, hopscotch or ball pit games. Obstacle courses promote heavy work, core strength, motor planning, and more!

Have a scavenger hunt

Easter may have passed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep the scavenger hunts going! Kids can work on visual motor skills, cognitive skills, attention skills and problem solving skills while searching for items in their environment.

A few scavenger hunt ideas include identifying different plants or trees outdoors, locating hidden treasures that start with a particular alphabet letter or incorporating sensory or gross motor tasks. The sky is the limit!

Visit a playground

Surprisingly, you can support a child’s sensory skills at your neighborhood playground! A playscape offers the chance to maneuver various slopes, equipment and elevation levels. Climbing monkey bars, balancing on a beam, sliding, swinging, trapezing or ascending stairs all help promote fine motor, gross motor, core strength and cognitive skills. Introduce games such as I-Spy, the floor is lava, four square or group jump rope. Check out area barrier-free playgrounds.

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Visit a u-pick farm

Michigan U-Pick farms present a great place for summer bonding, where kids can also hone their fine motor skills and sensory awareness!

All that reaching for apples, picking berries, or even touching and tasting strawberries makes for a sensational sensory whirlwind for our little ones. Strawberries, peas, cherries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches and apples are usually in season throughout the warmer months.

Create chalk art

Old school chalk art can provide extra tactile input and be a great way for kids to work on sensory processing skills, letter formation, fine motor skills and creativity. Some activities include rainbow writing on sandpaper, mixing chalk and water to create chalk paint, scribbling chalk on cardboard or making a chalk art design on the sidewalk.

Churn ice cream

Skip the weekly trip to the local ice cream parlor and churn your own pint. There are many methods, from the simple ice cream-in-a-bag or ice cream-in-a-mason-jar or the tried and true Folger’s coffee canister chemistry experiment. For a colorful twist, try making rainbow ice cream. This activity supports sensory processing, sequencing skills and fine motor skills.

Water table activities

Water bin activities are a popular way to work on functional/adaptive skills (washing/drying hands), hand strength (using tongs/tweezers to pick up objects floating in water), and gross motor skills (pouring water, crossing midline to scoop water). Plus, water provides a unique sensory component. This is a fun option on those scorching days when your child wants to cool off.

Sensory bin activities

Sensory bins have been all the rage lately, and for good reason! A sensory bin is a container filled with a base material such as rice, play dough, shaving cream, water beads, beans or spaghetti and themed toys and items of various sizes and shapes (figurines, pom-poms, legos, bath toys, etc.). Kids can spend hours pouring, scooping, picking up items with tongs/tweezers and exploring novel textures.

Summer crafts

Crafts are a classic way to work on fine motor and cognitive skills, including scissor skills, bilateral coordination, handwriting, sequencing, and more. Make a craft at home, or enroll your kiddo in a local art class or workshop.

Balloon Games

Balloon games can address several skills, including strength, balance, visual-motor skills and attention. In addition to playing catch, you can spice it up by trying crab walks while balancing a balloon. Fill balloons with water, paint or rice to add sensory or proprioceptive input. Balloon throwing competitions can also fuel the fun.

Supriya Jalukar
Supriya Jalukar
Occupational Therapist and Blogger www.supriyatheexplorista.com

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