Fun Summer Activities to Build Sensory Integration

  • Moira Sullivan, M.S., O.T.R./L

                Summer is here, and it’s time to get outside and play!  One of the best things about this season is the number of activities you can do that build sensory processing and motor skills while being fun and a great way to spend time with your family. In addition to classic activities, like blowing bubbles and playing with balls, here are some of my favorites:

    Draw with sidewalk chalk.

                Draw on the sidewalk, on buildings, on play structures, etc.  This also builds pre-reading and pre-writing skills, as well as social interaction if two or more people draw a drawing together and then tell a story about the drawing.  If drawing is done on a vertical surface, such as a wall, it also builds arm and shoulder strength.  You can also erase the drawings by squirting them with water from a spray bottle or hosing them off.

    Make “nature bracelets”.

                Put masking tape around your wrist and your child’s wrist (or another body part or on a piece of clothing if the feel of the tape is irritating).  Walk outdoors and find small objects to pick up and stick onto the “bracelet”.  This builds awareness of one’s environment, fine motor skills needed for self care and learning, and visual figure ground skills which are important in organizing oneself as well as directly building reading and writing skills.

    Encourage Creativity.

                Have some miscellaneous items available and let the kids figure out how to use them.  These can include plastic crates, smooth boards in various sizes, balls, a blanket or a tarp and similar items.  Be available to supervise, but let the kids use their imagination.  This builds spatial awareness, problem solving skills, creativity and social interaction.

    Play “line tag”.

                Have a group of kids link hands or arms, on one end the person is “it”, they try to tag the person on the opposite end, and everyone has to keep their hands or arms together.  This builds spatial awareness, strength and endurance, cooperation and social interaction.

    Make musical instruments.

                Find everyday objects and make musical instruments.  Put rubber bands of various widths across a food storage container and pluck the “strings”, fill glass bottles with different levels of liquid and blow across the top; make paper plate maracas by putting dried beans between two plates and fasten the plates together with staples, then decorate; make a kazoo by wrapping waxed paper around a comb, make drums by flipping over food storage containers or pots and pans.  This builds auditory skills, problem solving, creativity and cooperation.

    Go on a treasure hunt.

                Hide favorite objects and toys in various places around the house.  Give your child visual and verbal clues and go looking for them.  Let them know if they are getting closer or farther away from the object, by saying ‘closer’ with an excited smile on your face, or ‘farther’ with head shake and taking a step back.  Once they find the object, the object itself can be a reward.  Give them a minute to enjoy it before looking for the next one.  This game builds attention, sensory integration, and sequencing skills while being fun and engaging.

    Have a wonderful summer!

    Moira Sullivan, occupational therapist, Owner/Director of Whole Kids Therapy, writes about motor skills and sensory integration challenges.


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