Three Ways to Incorporate Sensory Development Into Summertime Play

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Summertime…kids are out of school, weather gets warmer and days get longer. As most parents know, our kids are constantly looking for something to do to keep themselves busy. Even though school is out for summer, it is important to make sure that our children are still learning and engaging in purposeful play.

Did you know sensory development begins before your baby enters the world and continues to develop throughout the early years? There are many great ways to help your child develop his/her sensory skills. Summer is one of the best seasons to get outside and play with your surroundings to help improve your child’s sensory processing. Let’s take a look at some ways to incorporate sensory development into playtime with your little ones this summer:

Life’s A Beach:
What’s summer without a beach? Bring out the sunscreen and don’t forget to pack the beach toys! One of the best advantages parents have when bringing their kids to the beach is that their child can engage in purposeful sand play. If you don’t have a beach, bring the beach home by making your very own sand box. Sand is one of the best summertime sensory mediums your child can explore as it fully engages their sense of touch (tactile system).

So, how should your child engage in sand play? There is no right way to use sand. It invites your child to learn physical, cognitive and social skills. Through the use of sand, a child can learn how to dig, scoop, sift and pour, all of which allow a child to develop muscle skills. You can add a variety of beach toys to this playtime, which will promote your child’s hand-eye coordination and allow him/her to practice fine motor skills. A fun way to exercise your child’s ability to understand new concepts is to have them build sand castles, make mountains and dig tunnels.

Splish Splash:
Summertime is sure to bring the heat! So, get wet and cool off through water play. Swimming pools, bath tubs, backyard hoses and garden sprinklers are excellent tools in assimilating purposeful play into your child’s playtime. Similar to sand play, water play allows a child to engage with no restraints. Water play activates a child’s curiosity, imagination, and experimentation.

Even a bath tub can be transformed into a sensory playground with sponges, bathtub paints, foam soap and sponges. Splashing about in the pool with water balls and floating hoops provides great fun. Water play is also great for hyper-active children because it serves as a calming tool. A great way to develop a calm environment for your child is to create a warmer water temperature, play relaxing music and dim the lighting.

Let’s Get Messy:
Summertime is the perfect time to relax, so put down the cleaning rags and encourage your child’s messy side! Whether it’s finger painting, playing in the mud or making soap foam bubbles – the learning opportunities are endless. Messy play helps children develop fine motor skills and hand-and-eye coordination. Sensory play engages a child whether it is through movement, touch experiences or active play. Activities such as swinging, climbing and exploring various media: sand, play doughs and foam soaps encourage pretend play and sparks their creativity.

Finger painting is a great visual and tactile (touch) sensory experience for children. If your child resists direct hands in the paint involvement, offer up a variety of paintbrushes and sponges. Using primary colors such as red, blue and yellow will allow a child to understand how to name, recognize and form secondary colors as well. The sky’s the limit!

Sensory processing skills are directly linked to your child’s motor, cognitive, social and emotional growth. As a parent, it is important to make sure that our children are getting the most out of play time. With summer right around the corner, there will always be an opportunity to incorporate various types of purposeful play. In addition, purpose driven play promotes focus and attention to task which helps improve a child’s concentration.

Get the most out of playtime by encouraging your child to be out and about this summer. Give them the tools they need to promote sensory driven play while developing their own sense of creativity and imagination.

About Lisa Cummings

Lisa is a San Jose State Alumni with more than 25-years of experience in Pediatrics, she currently works part-time as a Pediatric Occupational Therapist specializing in children 0-9 with various physical and developmental disabilities. Being a mother of four and having worked in clinics/schools on the east coast and throughout Orange County, Lisa is passionate about children and her emphasis on treatment. Lisa is a strong believer in purpose driven play and believes that toys are essential to development of the whole child.