Fall is here and with it comes a completely new world of sensory experiences for you and your family to enjoy!
With the warm weather ending, 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. With all the changes & transitions that come with the fall, it is important to keep up our children’s sensory cups full! At Children’s Support Solutions, we just cannot get enough of these great fall sensory activities.
Pumpkin Sensory Bags
I am not sure what is more quintessentially fall then pumpkins! As you are carving pumpkins this year, save the inside materials to make these great sensory bags. You can create a fun “Pumpkin Eye Spy” game as well to encourage exploration!
Take the pumpkin “guts” and place them into a large Ziploc bag. You then place the following types of objects for the “eye spy” game:
- Small plastic spider/insects
- Halloween themed erasers (with pumpkins, ghosts) – found at Dollarama or Michael
- Natural items – acorn, small rock, shell
Create a checklist of the items inside the bag, and as your children squish through to find them, they can check or cross them off the list. You can also pair an item with a physical task – such as “when you find a spider you have to do 3 jumping jacks!” to keep the moving & engaged!
Before the cold weather has us sticking more inside, get out and explore! The fall brings with it exciting and bold colours, bright sunshine and lovely fresh days. 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!
Fall-themed tactile bin
I recently made one of these for my own kids and believe me, it was a hit! Filling a large container can lead to lots of fun digging, hiding, and exploring with their hands. Use a large, shallow bin and filled it with a dried material such as birdseed, beans, rice, macaroni, cornmeal (you can easily purchase this at Dollarama or Bulk Barn). **please supervise young children or children who mouth items for this activity.
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/insects/Halloween themed items
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 is best if you join in the fun. Your little ones will likely give you some new ideas to try too!
On the days when you are stuck inside, this is a great way to keep your kids busy. Enlist the older kids to help plan an obstacle course or make and lead your younger ones through it! This is an excellent activity for any age or level of ability. Use pillows, blankets, couch cushions, chairs from all over the house. The little crawlers will enjoy the sensation of manoeuvring over something squishy! Here are some ideas:
- Stack pillows underneath one end of a couch cushion to build a ramp
- Stack cushions against each other for your little ones to crawl under
- Drape a blanket over two chairs to create a tunnel
- Pile pillows to make an uneven path for crawling or crab-walking only!
- Balance walking along a taped line
- Two foot hopping over small cushions or stuffed animals
Moving the body in different planes and changing the orientation of the head, experiencing different textures and various surfaces, they will be taking in all sorts of different sensory input from their muscles and their joints. Activities like this will build body awareness and can help to improve coordination.
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)
There is no doubt your child will also figure out that this bottle makes a great sound when it shakes so they will experience a little auditory stimulation as well!