Getting ready for the backyard festivities of summer can be a daunting task when the sensory processing needs of your child, and other children, require your extra consideration.
Summertime birthdays, barbecues, and seasonal festivals can be a bit easier when you can simply unleash the bunch on the great outdoors. Still, a well-paced program of activities and rewards for completion can help to keep everyone on track and sensory regulated.
Consider the Sensory Needs to Keep Kids Regulated
In planning your activities, think about the sensory needs of your child:
- Does he need to initiate an activity, or does he prefer to join in on play already in progress?
- Does she like to direct the play of others, or does she need to be given directions?
- What transitional activities will be required?
Create a Passport for a Sensory Regulated Summer
In planning my son’s 5th birthday, I devised a “passport” rotation. The passport design can be modified to any party, any theme, and fits an age group of preschoolers and up. Stickers or pre-inked stampers posted at each station provide a modest reward for visiting each activity. Getting a fully stamped passport yields a bigger reward at the end of the party; perhaps a favor bag for a birthday, or an ice cream bar at a family barbecue, or a tractor ride at the farm.
An activity passport allows your child to visually see and mark off the expected activities of the day. It is socially integrating because every child is using the same system. It is well paced because it allows a larger group to break into smaller groups; kids can complete the activities (except group activities) in any order.
A blend of activities providing a multi-sensory experience is wonderfully regulating for every child. If you are looking for good ideas, a number of books have been written about sensory play. The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun, Revised Edition: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder by Carol Stock Kranowitz, M.A. is a top recommendation. Your child’s Occupational Therapist is always a resource for good ideas that are tailored to your child.
Design Heavy Work Activities to Maintain Sensory Regulation
Does your child need a good dose of “push and pull” to get through the day well regulated?
Tug of War is the original heavy work favorite of kids.
Pulling a load of any kind can be modified to your party theme. Kids pulling each other doubles the fun!
Small size tarps with rivets and rope are great for pulling children or gear in a relay or obstacle course.
Water jug relays have each child carry a load that can be easily adjustable to the weight and ability of the child. Any relay can be designed to be non-competitive. Children can start at varying points and finish at varying points removing the “finish line” stress.
Explore More Ideas >> Sensational Straws – 10 Sensory Ideas
Incorporate Opportunities to Jump and Bounce to Keep Kids Sensory Regulated
Animal hop relays or sack races are great for all ages. Our group did a sack race altogether, but without the competitive edge.
Kids began at the line, hopped to the other side, fell down, got up, and came back the other way.
It was the simplest activity to organize, and the surprise hit of the party.
Explore More >> The Sensory “Ups” of Trampolines
Prepare Transitional Activities
A fine motor task or a few quieting stations are a good idea for any big group of kids.
I accomplished this with a tattoo station and a “scent tent.” Tattoos and face painting are fun for many kids, but not all. Some will not be able to tolerate the water, the feel of the tattoo, or the paint on their skin.
Set up some hand stamps for kids with sensitivities. They may prefer to stamp their own hand. Make these allowances and you will accommodate the majority of kids.
In our “scent tent” I assembled five smells associated with our summertime theme. I put a cosmetic cotton round in the bottom of a plastic snack tub and sprayed in some familiar smells.
Unusual scents are available online at the Demeter Fragrance Library.
Common scents are more easily available through essential oils, baking extracts, and household products.
Two summer smell essentials are sunscreen and bug spray. When these products come out, it surely smells like summer!
You will always be rewarded for the time spent in planning sensory-smart activities ahead. Every child loves them, and grown-ups appreciate having kids engaged and regulated no matter the summer time activity. In fact, at our mid-July party, there was only one thing I didn’t plan on…rain!
But alas, there is a sensory solution for rain too! 5 Sensory Savvy Solutions for Rainy Days