Discover awesome sensory activities that are E-A-S-Y and prefect for summer! These activities are designed to promote development and learning no matter what age your child is.
Every summer there’s one thing I make sure I do with my kids, and that’s have shaving cream fun day. I get the kids in their bathing suits and get everyone OUTSIDE and fill up the water table with shaving cream. Although I have cars, cups, and other toys nearby, they’re never needed because minutes later they are rubbing the shaving cream all over their bodies, laughing, and running wild like ghost blobs in the summer sun.
One of my kids still has some tactile sensitivities and one used to, but it’s mostly resolved. That doesn’t stop them though because my son that loves to get messy inspires them and they literally jump in.
Last year, we even squirted the shaving cream all over our swing set slide for even more fun AND sensory input!
Summer is an Awesome Time for Sensory
My kids cherish this day, and I have a feeling it’s something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. But, it only really works in summer, unless I want to lose my sanity.
When I started to think about it, there are a lot of special sensory opportunities summer holds that we simply can’t do at other times of the year. Or, at least, can’t do as easily. The warm weather and exploration of nature gives countless ways to get your sensory on.
Give Your Child a Sensory Filled Summer
At a bare minimum, sensory activities are just plain fun, most kids can’t get enough of them. They help keep our kids busy and balanced, but sensory activities also help our kids developing brains way more than we realize. It’s like incredible brain food!
And, if you’ve got a kid that has sensory needs, then having some sensory activities you can do easily on a regular basis and creating a routine could be the difference between you having an awesome summer or a totally draining one when you’re counting the days down until school.
The activities you’re going to find in this post were picked because they were E-A-S-Y. If you feel like you have to set up elaborate sensory activities, it likely won’t happen at all.
So, if you want to give your child a sensory filled summer, I’ve got a couple of simple steps so you can make it a reality:
1. Make a Plan – Even if you’re not a planner, it’s so important that you take some time to think about how often you want to specifically offer sensory activities to your child. Is it once a week? Is it once a day, a couple of times a day? There’s no right or wrong answer, but what you think your child needs or will benefit from.
For me, I like to have sensory built in, in ways I don’t even have to think about. You’ll see what I mean below, but I also like to plan some intentional, but simple sensory activities once a week that require next to no set up.
2. Choose Activities in Advance – Jot down some of the activities that jump out at you below, or some of your own ideas. Are there any special materials you need, like shaving cream? This isn’t something that’s difficult, but you’ll want to make sure to pick up what you need so you have it on hand.
At the same time, you’ll also want to think about some general ways you can have sensory be a simple part of your day. Maybe you all take an evening walk every night after dinner? Or, you go to the park a few times a week? Or, you might have a sandbox in your backyard that your child goes out to everyday. Guess what, that’s all sensory!!
Taking a few minutes to think about the activities that are easy for you to do, or that you already have on hand, can give your child that sensory filled summer!
Cool Summer Sensory Activities
Now it’s time to get inspired! I’ve got 17 sensory activities below that are fun, easy, and powerful. Make sure you tell me in the comments which you’re most excited to try.
You may want to even add some of these activities into a summer sensory routine…
- Shaving Cream Extravaganza – You already know this is a personal favorite! Remember to get your kids in their bathing suits and have some squirted out right away so they can begin to explore. If they’re old enough, let them spray the cans themselves as that’s great fine motor work too! And, think about bringing out some old paint brushes to “paint” the swing set.
Another idea for older kids is to play a hot potato game or simply tossing a ball back and forth while covered in shaving cream!
- Picking wild flowers – A quick Google search in your area can help you find a local farm that has flowers available for picking. Check with the farm about the best time of day because the bees can be an issue. But, walking through the flowers, looking at, and smelling them is an awesome sensory experience all the way around.
- Yard Work – Yup, you read that right. Pushing a wheelbarrow, pulling weeds, moving stones, digging, and just about any other physical labor outside is major sensory input. It’s called heavy work and can be extremely calming for some kids. When you’re working in your yard, have your child get involved with age appropriate tasks and close supervision!
- Make Homemade Salsa – Of course, you can make homemade salsa anytime, but it’s nowhere near as good as when you have fresh tomatoes, parsley, onions, and pepper. If salsa isn’t your thing, think homemade lemonade or strawberry ice cream. The point is to introduce your child to a super fresh and tasty treat with ingredients that are peek in the summer. This stimulates their vision, smell, and taste! You can grab a simple and mild salsa recipe here.
- Log Roll Race – Either count how fast your child makes it down the hill or have the kids race each other as they log roll down a grassy hill or slope. They’ll get tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive input in heaps and this is actually an awesome sensory integration activity too. So, good for their development and easy to do anytime.
- Grow a garden – No matter how small, and by small, I mean a pot with a tomato plant in it from Home Depot, growing a garden gives your child an ongoing sensory activity. From planting with hands in the dirt, to watching it grow, to tasting the fruits and veggies that were grown, this experience is valuable on so many levels.
Head over to Gardening with Kids: Improve Your Kid’s Eating! to learn how to set one up easily at your house and why it’s worth every second of your time!
- Sticks and Stones Obstacle Course – Use sticks and rocks from around your yard to make a simple obstacle course. Heck, your kid can even plan it! Lay sticks out on the ground like a balance beam or use them to hop over. Place handheld rocks on the ground like stepping stones, army crawl under the picnic table, and throw small pebbles into a bucket filled with water.
The ideas are endless here, but aim to have your child move their body in a variety of ways!
- Excavate an Ice Block – Take a large Tupperware container, fill it with water and some treasures from the dollar store or around the house, then put it in the freezer until frozen. On a hot day, pull it out with some of your kids plastic tools or real screwdrivers, if your comfortable with that, and let them dig out the treasures through the ice!
- Barefoot Walk Around – Take socks and shoes off and walk around different areas of your outdoor space focus on the sensations your feet feel. To take it up a notch, set up trays or areas where you can step in mud, water, sand, smooth pebbles, etc.
- Ropes Course – While this is a special event, I wanted to include it on the list because these ropes courses are popping up everywhere and often there is a version even for little kids. This is an incredible vestibular and proprioceptive activity and is definitely worthy of your bucket list this year.
- Make Oobleck – Another messy play activity, although in my house this isn’t usually contained just to their hands! Oobleck is a very odd consistency of flour and/or cornstarch and water. You can grab a quick recipe for Oobleck here. It looks like a liquid but when you pick it up, it feels solid for a few minutes before melting. It is a big sensation though, so tactile defensive kids may run for the hills.
Of course, we want to help them be comfortable, so think about giving cups and paintbrushes to them so they can at least start to get comfortable with being near the oobleck!
Classic Summer Activities That You Didn’t Know Were Sensory
Besides the awesome special sensory summer activities you just read about, there are sooo many sensory activities around us all the time. Sometimes, we have to make a point to make them happen, but its so worth it. Here are some ideas so that your kid can get their sensory on all the time.
- Going to the Park – It’s almost impossible to go to the park and not get a big dose of sensory while you’re there. Everything from slides to climbing walls and tire swings gives your child sensations for all the senses. Follow your kids lead, unless they’re scared. In that case, they may need some help from you.
- Swimming – This is one of the most powerful sensory activities you can give your child. Swimming puts our kids in a constant state of deep pressure from the water, this is so calming to the nervous system and helps our kids stay regulated. They’re also getting tons of tactile and vestibular input.
- Catching Fireflies – A quintessential summer activity is also filled with sensations as your child has to watch and track that glowing bug in the night. All while running and hearing the crickets croak!
- Hiking – No matter how young your kids are, you can find a paved path in the woods and take a small hike. Not only is walking, running, and climbing all fantastic sensory input, but hiking is a great time to explore the nature around us with our eyes, nose, and ears. Bring a bucket for sticks, rocks, and leaves that capture your child’s attention!
- Slip n Slide – You can find these in every Target and Walmart across the country during summer for a few bucks, and it’s totally worth it because the fast wet slide gives your child a super jolt of vestibular input!
- Sandbox – A sandbox is basically a big sensory bin, and sand is actually one of my favorite textures for kids to play in because the grittiness gives such awesome feedback to the brain. For kids that are sensitive to touch, playing in sand on a regular basis can help improve what they’re willing to touch in other situations, including when they eat!
If you’re new to Your Kid’s Table and want to learn more about how kids can have sensory “issues”, grab our free 21 sensory red flags printable. We’ll send it right to your inbox!
More on Sensory Activities for Kids
Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 19 years experience with expertise in sensory processing and feeding development in babies, toddlers, and children. Alisha also has 3 boys of her own at home. Learn more about her here.