3 sensory activities to get the kids outdoors
Hooray — the summer half-term is almost here! Rachel Clinkard, from family footwear retailer and fitting expert Charles Clinkard, shares four educational sensory activities that will keep the kids busy during the holidays.
Summer is coming, and with it come plenty of opportunities to get outdoors as a family. If you’re in need of a few ideas that will help your little adventurers feel excited about getting outside this half term, why not try some sensory play activities?
Sensory activities encourage children to experience the natural world through their senses. This form of play allows kids to just be kids, while also providing a number of educational benefits. It's thought that outdoor sensory learning can help stimulate creativity, develop fine motor skills, encourage sensible risk-taking, and even promote healthy brain development, according to Parenting For Brain. Plus, your little ones will be getting plenty of mood-boosting fresh air and exercise while they’re outdoors.
In this blog post, I’ll share a few fun sensory play ideas that will keep the kids busy throughout the half term and beyond.
Grow your own produce
Growing your own veggies is a great sensory project, not least because it will help to teach kids about where their food comes from, and why our relationship with our planet is so important. The process of planting seeds, playing with soil and dirt, watering plants, and harvesting crops are all fun and stimulating sensory activities. Plus, this project can also give fussy eaters that little bit of extra encouragement to eat their greens.
Salad greens, beans, watercress, and mini tomato plants are all easy yet rewarding growing tasks that you can start during the summer half term. Sunflowers also make fantastic project plants for children, because they’re easy to care for, but grow quickly and reach impressive heights! To add an element of maths and science to your gardening projects, get the kids to measure their growing sunflowers every week, and create a chart to keep track of their progress over the summer.
Look, listen, and learn: add sensory activities to your walks
You’ll no doubt be heading out for a few family walks over the half term. So, why not incorporate some activities that will get the kids using all of their senses when out in nature? Observational activities and games encourage children to learn through experience, and as they involve close attention, they can also be quite mindful and calming, too.
One easy but very beneficial activity is the "look, listen, touch, smell" task. Challenge your kids to find a favourite sight, sound, texture, and scent while out walking, whether that’s the sound of birdsong, the sight of an unfamiliar creepy crawly, or the feel of cold water in a stream or pond. Then, get them to write down their observations when you get home. You could even encourage your little ones to start a nature journal, where they can keep track of the sights, sounds, and smells they encounter on your walks as the seasons change.
The fun doesn’t have to stop if the weather forecast is less than pleasant, either. After all, there’s no bad weather — only bad clothing. Warm, waterproof outdoor clothing and shoes will ensure your little adventurers can get as mucky as they like without getting wet or cold. So, make sure your little ones have the right kit, including a waterproof outer garment and some sturdy wellies or hiking boots.
Get mucky in a mud kitchen
Looking for something to keep the kids busy in the garden this half term? A mud kitchen is a fully equipped outdoor play kitchen, complete with a counter top, sink, utensils, and stove. Little ones can use their imaginations to whip up any dish they like, although there’s just one caveat: the only ingredient is mud!
Playing with muck is more than just a chance to get messy. Engaging and playing with a mud kitchen can help to improve fine motor skills, such as scooping, mixing, and pouring. It can also help hone maths and science skills, such as measuring volumes of liquid, and experimenting with different materials and textures. Plus, it’s also a fantastic way for children to be freely creative. You might want to make sure the kids are wearing wellies and a good waterproof outer layer before they get stuck in, though!
After the stresses and strains of the past year, I think we can all agree that getting outside and appreciating the natural world are more important than ever. And, now that the summer is fast-approaching and fine weather is (hopefully) on the way, there’s never been a better time to get outdoors as a family.