Fall sensory activities

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Fall is finally here and with it comes a whole new world of sensory experiences for you and your family to enjoy!

With the warm weather coming to an end, you may be wondering how you will fill all that time spent swinging at the park, digging in the sandbox or bounding through the splash pad. It’s time to move indoors and let your senses come alive in a whole new way. At Children’s Support Solutions, we just can’t get enough of these great Fall sensory activities!

Create a Fall-themed tactile bin.

I recently made one of these for my own kids and believe me, it was a hit! I used a large, shallow bin and filled it with birdseed (you can easily purchase this at Dollarama). You can also use rice, macaroni, cornmeal or any other material with a dry consistency, but I found the birdseed created a unique mix of colours, shapes and textures to explore.

Add to the Autumn theme by throwing in items that are unique to the season. Ideas for this include:

  • leaves made of felt or acrylic (also can be found at Dollarama)
  • leaves found in nature
  • small animal toys
  • corn kernels
  • pinecones.

The possibilities are endless! Remember to add in something to scoop with – spoons, cups or even sections from an egg carton work great – and if you want to add an activity to help fine motor skills, provide a pair of kitchen tongs to grab, lift and sort items from your bin. It’s best if you join in the fun. Your little ones will likely give you some new ideas to try too!

Get messy

Family doing sensory activities together on a fall dayGrab a bottle of shaving cream and let the imagination go wild. This is a fun activity because the foam is so puffy and squishy. It’s also a texture that many little ones haven’t felt before, so it will challenge their sensory system to work in a new way as they learn about this novel sensation. Try adding in some coloured leaves (either silk or real ones). The leaves will stick in the shaving cream, so you can make many different designs or play a little hide and seek, taking turns to find all the leaves.
You can also explore with a different set-up to change the experience. For example, doing this activity at a table surface will be very different than doing it on a sliding glass door. If you have a window area that is easy to clean, kids will love seeing the light shine through their designs as they leave fingerprints and drawings in the foam. If you have a spray bottle handy, fill it with water and let them help you with the clean up too!

Build a fort or make an obstacle course

Vestibular-system

This is an excellent activity for any age or level of ability. Use as many pillows, blankets and couch cushions as you would like. Crawlers will even enjoy the new sensation of manoeuvring over something squishy! Stack pillows underneath one end of a couch cushion to build a ramp or stack cushions against each other for your little ones to crawl under. Moving the body in different planes and changing the orientation of the head can provide incredible stimulation to your child’s vestibular system, our sense of movement. As your child explores the various surfaces, they will also be taking in different sensory input from their muscles and their joints. Activities like this will build body awareness and can help to improve coordination. Most little ones also love being squished in pillows or wrapped up in blankets. This provides a nice calming sensation to the body and can help to improve attention and organization as well.

Get warm and cozy

Cuddle up and enjoy a yummy warm beverage with your child. As many of us would agree, sipping on a warm beverage can provide a calming sense to our brain and body. Sweet drinks, such as hot chocolate, have been associated with further calming sensations for many individuals. Fall is also a great time to indulge in some apple cider. This will provide a wonderful new smell for your kids to experience too! You can try warming the cider on the stove, then add cinnamon sticks, cloves, a vanilla pod, or even squeeze some orange juice in to experiment with the flavour and scent.

Make an ‘I-Spy’ bottle

This activity offers incredible visual stimulation. Grab a bowl and choose a dry base (cornmeal, lentils, beans, pumpkin seeds, rice, etc.). Then add in just about any small object you can think of! You could try coins, miniature animals, coloured or letter beads, googly eyes, a feather, a paper clip, foam shapes or a few buttons. Mix all items together and then pour into a bottle. You may want to glue the lid shut so that it all stays inside. You can include a picture of the items for your child to find and track, or just let them explore. This will help to stimulate a variety of visual perceptual skills such as:

  • visual discrimination (recognizing the details in a visual scene)
  • visual closure (recognizing an object even when it is presented in a fragmented form or when it is hidden behind something)
  • eye teaming (coordinating eyes to point at the same thing at the same time)
  • figure-ground (recognizing relevant features of an object against a busy background)
  • scanning

There is no doubt your child will also figure out that this bottle makes a really great sound when it shakes so they will experience a little auditory stimulation as well!

Go take a hike

When the indoor activities seem to have run their course, bundle up and get back outdoors. Experiencing nature is the richest and quite literally the most real-world sensory experience you can give your children. Take some time to explore and see where your senses take you.

  • HEAR – the crunch of the leaves under your feet, the wind shaking the leaves on the trees, the birds chirping and animals rustling through the dry ground
  • SEE – the abundance of natural colours around you, the birds flying above you, the animals scurrying back and forth, or search for items on the forest floor
  • FEEL – the crisp air blowing against your face and through your hair, the bumps and grooves in the trees, the textures in the dirt, the tree roots under your feet, the bark that’s peeling off a stick, crumple a dry leaf in your hands or lay down in a whole pile of leaves
  • MOVE – jump off a rock, cross a bridge, stretch over a puddle, climb up a hill and then roll right back down it
  • TASTE – a yummy snack that you’ve packed in your bag
  • SMELL – the wonderful scent of Fall!

 

 

 

 

By: Ashley Rego, Occupational Therapist

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