School is out and summer time is finally here! After months of being cooped up inside, it’s time to take full advantage of the warm weather, longer daylight hours, and extra free time that summer affords us. Nature offers an incredible array of sensory experiences that are vital for our children’s development. Whether you live near mountains, beaches, in a farm town or big city, there are endless opportunities. So get out there, be creative, explore, and grow!
Here are 10 ideas to enjoying sensory experiences in nature:
- Go for a hike! In addition to providing great exercise, going on a hike stimulates almost every sensory system. Compare the trees and other plants you see along the way, feel their bark, collect some leaves, listen to the birds, insects, water, or wind blowing through.
- Go to the beach. Feel the sand on your feet, swim or tread in the water, search for seashells or other hidden treasures, listen to the water and watch the tides.
- Find an open grassy hill or field. Don’t forget about fostering our sense of movement! Find an open space and do all the running, jumping, spinning, cartwheeling, log rolling, and somersaulting that was difficult to do inside all year long. Our body craves different types of movement that many children are simply not getting enough of. This is so important for a child’s development of balance, coordination, visual control, and other foundational skills that support success in daily activities.
- Climb trees! This activity should be a childhood staple. It develops coordination and motor planning skills as well as providing us with input to promote body and spatial awareness.
- Go bird watching or just listen to the birds chirp. This is another great experience for development of spatial awareness.
- Find a meadow or conservatory to smell flowers and compare their qualities.
- Spend some time being barefoot outdoors. Of course be sure the area is safe for this but feel the grass, mud, moss, sand, or whatever your environment has to offer under your feet. The soles of our feet are very sensitive and we can therefore process a great deal of tactile information this way.
- Try going for a blindfolded walk. Take turns blindfolding one another and rely on voices, nature sounds, and touch to find your way along a path.
- Spend time in a garden. This not only provides a child with wonderful sensory experiences, it encourages responsibility to provide ongoing care for the garden and learn how plants grow.
- Visit a farm. Depending on what is available to you, farms can offer sights, smells, and tactile experiences that are difficult to find elsewhere. Many areas around the country have working farms that invite families to come visit. Try out different types of farms to get a range of experiences. Some offer time with animals, while others may allow berry or vegetable picking.
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!