If we want a child to understand why a pebble is hard and a flower petal is soft, it would be most effective to let a child touch both objects rather than trying to explain concepts of “hard” and “soft.” In fact, sensory exploration is essential for developing cognitive, language, and social skills. In summer, parents have a wonderful opportunity to take children outside for a sensory experience that may offer different stimuli than those available during other times of the year: the smell of pine needles, the caw of seagulls, the gurgle of a brook.
To celebrate the unique opportunity that summer offers, we’d like to offer you some sensory-rich activities for children of all ages. Babies will enjoy A Walk of the Senses. For this activity, take a walk with baby in search of a special summer sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. When you encounter each, take a photo of your child with the sensory object. Print the photos to remind baby of his summer sensory experience year-round.
Toddlers and school-age children will love going out for a Summer Sensory Treasure Hunt. You’ll need a box or a tupperware, a marker, and a sheet of paper. Here’s all you need to do to prepare:
- Label the box “Summer Treasures.”
- At the top of the sheet of paper, write “5 Senses.”
- Down the left side of the paper, draw a nose (smell), an eye (sight), an ear (hear), a mouth (taste), and a hand (touch). For children learning to read, you can also use the words “smell,” “sight,” etc.
Now set out on a summer sensory treasure hunt. Carry your box and marker As you find an object with a special summery smell, place it in the Treasure Box. Then place a checkmark next to the picture of the nose. Next, it will be time to find an object that has a summery sound. Once your child has found one object for each of the five senses and placed it in the box, the Summer Sensory Treasure Hunt is complete.
Keep in mind, some of the collected objects might present choking hazards, so parents should keep the Summer Treasure Box out-of-reach of children, taking it out for supervised sensory play during other seasons of the year. You might later complete boxes for the other seasons of the year. Wouldn’t it be fun to say, play with winter objects on a blistering hot day? Or celebrate fall in the middle of spring?
Outdoor sensory exploration is a wonderful way to help children develop the neural connections that foster healthy brain development. So what are you waiting for? A world of treasures await right out your front door.