The OT Toolbox Contributor Author Spotlight-Regina

Meet Regina!




Regina Parsons-Allen is a school-based certified occupational therapy assistant. She has a pediatrics practice area of emphasis from the NBCOT. She graduated from the OTA program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina with an A.A.S degree in occupational therapy assistant. She has been practicing occupational therapy in the same school district for 20 years. She loves her children, husband, OT, working with children and teaching Sunday school. She is passionate about engaging, empowering, and enabling children to reach their maximum potential in ALL of their occupations as well assuring them that God loves them!


Contributor Posts by Regina on The OT Toolbox:
Occupational Therapy Activity Toolkits
MORE Themed Occupational Therapy Toolkits
Dragonfly Occupational Therapy Activities
Fine Motor Craft: Soap Holder Animal Craft

Regina has an e-book you may want to check out. Recently, she’s written an e-book called Fine Motor Stations. 


Follow Regina on social media:
Instagram: COTA Life 
Twitter: COTALife1 
Pinterest: COTA Life




Disclaimer Statement: 
Regina Parsons-Allen is a certified occupational therapy assistant, but is in no way representing herself as a certified occupational therapy assistant in the publication of any post. The information, ideas or activities presented here are not intended to provide medical advice or physician/therapist instruction nor should they be used as a substitute for occupational therapy or other medical services. The information, activities, and ideas do not replace any relationship with a child and their therapist nor do they provide one to one treatment or consultation for a child with an established plan of care based on an assessment. Consult with a qualified occupational therapist if you have questions regarding the information or ideas presented or how to implement them with a child. If concerned about your child’s development, consult your child’s physician or a licensed occupational therapist regarding specific concerns or other medical advice. Any information, ideas or activities presented here are designed for complete adult supervision. Never leave a child unattended during implementation of any ideas or activities. Always follow and be aware of any age recommendations when using all of the products contained in any activities or ideas. The adult implementing and preparing the ideas or activities is ultimately responsible for using their best judgement when choosing and providing activities to best meet a child’s skill and safety level. Do not provide objects or materials that would pose as a choking hazard to a child. Regina Parsons-Allen  is not liable for any impairment, damage, accident or loss arising out of the use or misuse of the information, ideas, and activities suggested in the publication of any post.  

Zipper Pull Craft

When kids are learning to manage a zipper, it can be frustrating if fine motor skills or visual motor skills are delayed. Even children who are developing fine motor and visual motor skill work at an age-appropriate level can have difficulty with using a zipper. When kids learn to zipper up a coat or jacket, children can have difficulty with all of the steps that go into zippering. Using a zipper pull on a coat zipper can be a helpful tool in independence. 

You will find more information about teaching kids how to zipper here on The OT Toolbox. In fact, zippering is an important part of self-dressing and functional independence that toddlers can begin with. 


Make this DIY zipper pull craft to help kids learn how to zipper their own coat or jacket, while working on fine motor skills and self-dressing skills in kids.
When small children are able to pull up their zipper or pull down their zipper, they can feel a sense of self-confidence that makes them want to try harder to work on the skills involved in zippering: engaging the zipper into the zipper chamber, holding both sides of the zipper in a coordinated way, and holding down the edge of the coat while pulling up the zipper pull. 
Other children who are more challenged with physical abilities benefit from a zipper pull. 

Try this DIY zipper pull craft that is not only functional, it’s also fun to create! It’s a real fine motor power-craft for kids. 

Click here to see the directions to make this craft over on our guest post at Craft Project Ideas!
Make this DIY zipper pull craft to help kids learn how to zipper their own coat or jacket, while working on fine motor skills and self-dressing skills in kids. This fine motor craft is great for teaching kids how to zipper!

Looking for more ways to teach kids how to zipper? Try these ideas:

 Teach kids how to use a zipper and Help kids learn how to zipper clothing using recycled materials that you probably have in your house. This activity works on all of the individual skills needed for the motor planning of zippering a zipper and uses just a ribbon and plastic bread ties.


DIY Fidget Tool Zipper Pull

This DIY Fidget Tool is a good one to add to your therapy toolbox! A fidget tool attached to a zipper pull can be helpful for kids who struggle with wiggles, over or under responsiveness to sensory input, those who have worries or sensory challenges on the school bus or while out in the community. Using a zipper fidget tool can be helpful when waiting in line and it’s hard to keep little hands to oneself. 

This DIY fidget tool is also a fine motor powerhouse for kids to make. I love adding crafts like this one to the therapy line up because not only does it work on essential fine motor skills, it also creates a functional tool that kids can wear and be proud of. When they have made a colorful and fun zipper pull fidget tool, they will be proud to wear it, show it off, and use it to address needed sensory processing struggles!


Kids can use this DIY fidget tool zipper pull for addressing sensory needs that result in worry or anxiety, sensory meltdowns, or other issues as a result of sensory processing challenges. Read how to make a DIY fidget tool for sensory needs and how to use a fidget tool.

DIY Fidget Tool Zipper Pull


This DIY Fidget Tool Zipper Pull is very easy to make. You’ll need just a couple of materials:

Pony beads
Fuzzy craft sticks (pipe cleaners)

We received both of these items from www.craftprojectideas.com

To make the fidget tool, thread the beads onto a whole pipe cleaner. Bend the pipe cleaner in half and create a small loop. There should be enough space between each bead and at the top of the loop to allow for movement when the bead is wiggled. 

Kids can use this DIY fidget tool zipper pull for addressing sensory needs that result in worry or anxiety, sensory meltdowns, or other issues as a result of sensory processing challenges. Read how to make a DIY fidget tool for sensory needs and how to use a fidget tool.

Twist the top shut and loop the end through a zipper pull. Use the ends of the pipe cleaner around the zipper pull. 

And that’s it! The diy fidget tool zipper pull is done!

Kids can use this DIY fidget tool zipper pull for addressing sensory needs that result in worry or anxiety, sensory meltdowns, or other issues as a result of sensory processing challenges. Read how to make a DIY fidget tool for sensory needs and how to use a fidget tool.

So, why would a child need a fidget tool on their jacket?


When kids have difficulty with self-regulation, emotions, anxiety, sensory processing, or other concerns, they may act out or end up in meltdown mode. This can be especially true in settings where environmental stimulation is on overload. 

A situation such as on the noisy school bus where students are jostled around among other loud students and a lot of other children sitting nearby can be overwhelming to the child with sensory needs. 

Standing in line at school as students wait to go outside to recess or to come indoors after recess can be a time when students have trouble keeping their place or keeping their hands to themselves. 

A child who becomes overwhelmed by worry and anxiety heading into new situations can find comfort in movement that a fidget tool offers. 

All of these are situations when a zipper pull fidget tool would be a great sensory diet accommodation to keep on hand. 

Kids can use this DIY fidget tool zipper pull for addressing sensory needs that result in worry or anxiety, sensory meltdowns, or other issues as a result of sensory processing challenges. Read how to make a DIY fidget tool for sensory needs and how to use a fidget tool.

A Fidget Tool is a Sensory Diet Tool

Children who have a sensory diet in place or utilize sensory strategies to address specific needs may have other accommodations or tools in place such as a fidget tool. A keychain fidget tool can be just the item that provides children with a grounding point and gives them the ability to focus, attend, or participate in activities. 

This DIY Fidget Tool would be great alongside our DIY Fidget Tool for School, allowing kids to wiggle and move those fingers!

This jacket fidget tool is inconspicuous, making it a great fidget tool for school, much like this DIY weighted fidget tool.

Kids can use this DIY fidget tool zipper pull for addressing sensory needs that result in worry or anxiety, sensory meltdowns, or other issues as a result of sensory processing challenges. Read how to make a DIY fidget tool for sensory needs and how to use a fidget tool.

Want to know more about what a sensory diet is or how to implement one? Check out some of our recent posts on sensory diets and be on the watch for our upcoming book, The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook. 

Want to know more about turning a list of recommended sensory activities into a lifestyle of sensory success? Join the Sensory Lifestyle VIP List and be the first to know everything about the book as we lead up to launch day. 




Kids can use this DIY fidget tool zipper pull for addressing sensory needs that result in worry or anxiety, sensory meltdowns, or other issues as a result of sensory processing challenges. Read how to make a DIY fidget tool for sensory needs and how to use a fidget tool.

What is a sensory diet?

Many times, parents are told that their child with sensory needs would benefit from a sensory diet. Most of the time, they respond with “what is a sensory diet?!” In this article, we’ll be talking a bit about what a sensory diet is and how it can be beneficial to kids with sensory needs. You may have seen some of our recent posts here on The OT Toolbox about Sensory diet activities for the classroom or sensory diet activities for outdoors that may give you a better understanding of some of the sensory activities that can be used within a sensory diet. 




Wondering what a sensory diet is? This article explains what exactly a sensory diet looks like and how a sensory diet is used to help kids with a variety of sensory-related challenges, using sensory diet activities.

Wondering what a sensory diet actually is? Check out this video we’ve shared on Facebook. Sound familiar?


What is a sensory diet?



Often times, when you mention the term “sensory diet”, individuals respond with a comment about food or a eating healthier. A sensory diet has nothing to do with food or restricting foods, or eating healthier!  

A sensory diet can be described this way: 


A sensory diet is a set of activities
that make up a sensory strategy and are appropriate for an individual’s
needs.  These are specific and
individualized activities that are scheduled into a child’s day and are used to
assist with regulation of activity levels, attention, and adaptive
responses.  Sensory diet activities are
prescribed based on the individual’s specific sensory needs.   Just as there are no two people that are
alike, there are no two sensory diets that are alike. 

Sensory diets are a commonly known
strategy for addressing sensory needs. 
The term “sensory diet” was coined by Patricia Wilbarger in 1984 to
explain how certain sensory experiences can improve occupational performance
and help to remediate disruption of the sensory processing systems.  A sensory diet is a means to adjust sensory
input in relation to an individual’s needs. A sensory diet is a meaningful set
of strategies for developing sensory programs that are practical, carefully
scheduled, and controlled in order to affect functioning. 

Sensory diet activities provide appropriate
sensory input based on the needs of an individual.  Just as a healthy diet consists of a variety
of foods, a sensory diet is a balanced set of sensory information that allows
an individual to function.  A person
cannot survive on broccoli alone. 
Similarly, a child cannot function with only one type of sensory
activities.

Sensory diets are not just for kids
with identified sensory issues.  We all
need a diet of sensory input.  Most
people naturally participate in conscious or subconscious acts that meet their
specific needs.  

Think about the student who
taps their pen against the desk while struggling on an exam.  That’s a sensory strategy.

You might pace the floor while on the
phone with your child’s pediatrician.  That’s a sensory strategy.

You might see a teenager who jiggles her leg while watching a movie.  That’s a sensory strategy. 

We all have a big yawn every once in a while. That’s a sensory strategy. 

Our bodies and minds instinctively know that
varying sensory input allows us to function appropriately.  Neurotypical children naturally seek out a
variety of proprioceptive, vestibular, and tactile sensory input.  As a result, they are able to accept and
regulate other sensory input such as a seam in their shirt, a lawnmower running
outside their classroom, or the scent of chicken cooking in the kitchen. Some
individuals lack the ability or support to perform these sensory strategies
without interventions. 

We’ve talked about the goals of a sensory diet before here on The OT Toolbox. The goals of a sensory diet are very important. 

Equally important is the development of sensory diets. A sensory diet needs to be specific with
thoughtful regard to timing, frequency, intensity, and duration of sensory
input.
Sensory diets should be created by an occupational therapist who evaluates the child or individual and ensures carryover, and response to sensory input.

These vestibular sensory diet activities can give you an idea of the type of activities typically found in a sensory diet…remembering that each child’s sensory diet is specific to their needs. 

Wondering what a sensory diet is? This article explains what exactly a sensory diet looks like and how a sensory diet is used to help kids with a variety of sensory-related challenges, using sensory diet activities.

Why use a sensory diet?


Sensory diets can be used to address the following challenges, using specific sensory input:
Emotional overreaction
Meltdowns
Aggression
Hyper-attention
Difficulty with transitions
Inattention
Sleep issues
Impulsivity
Sensory-seeking behaviors
Sensory-resisting behaviors
Resistance to textures/food/clothing

Poor social Interactions 

If you are interested in learning more about sensory diets and how they can be used to create a sensory-enriched life in all aspects of a child and family’s day, you will want to watch for The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook.


You may also want to join the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook VIP List so you can learn more about the book and be the first to know about updates related to the book. There are also a few free resources for members of the Sensory Lifestyle VIP List, so join us today!

Sensory diets and specific sensory input or sensory challenges are a big part of addressing sensory needs of children who struggle with sensory processing issues. Incorporating a schedule of sensory input (sensory diet) into a lifestyle of naturally occuring and meaningful activities is so very valuable for the child with sensory needs. 

That’s why I’ve worked to create a book on creating an authentic and meaningful sensory lifestyle that addresses sensory needs. The book is now released as a digital e-book or softcover print book, available on Amazon. 

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory diet creation, set-up, and carry through. Not only that, but the book helps you take a sensory diet and weave it into a sensory lifestyle that supports the needs of a child with sensory processing challenges and the whole family.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a resource for creating sensory diets and turning them into a lifestyle of sensory success through meaningful and motivating sensory enrichment.


Here are more sensory activities that may help with sensory needs or for a sensory play idea.

Wondering what a sensory diet is? This article explains what exactly a sensory diet looks like and how a sensory diet is used to help kids with a variety of sensory-related challenges, using sensory diet activities.

What Research Says About Outdoor Sensory Play

Research has a lot to say about play. When it comes to outdoor sensory play, there is a lot that can be discussed too. With the upcoming release of The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook, which encourages sensory strategies and sensory diet use in creating a lifestyle of sensory enrichment, today we are talking all about what the research has to say about outdoor sensory diet activities and outdoor sensory play.


Taking sensory diet strategies outside is nothing new. But, doing so may just be a meaningful way to create the “just right” state of alertness and calming nature that, well, nature provides!







Research says outdoor sensory play is beneficial in the development of children. Use these outdoor sensory diet activities to inspire outdoor activities that boost skills like motor development, attention, regulation, and more.

Use this information when explaining about what a sensory diet is and what a sensory diet looks like for kids with sensory needs. 


That’s where the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and Sensory Challenge Cards come into play.

They are a FREE printable resource that encourages sensory diet strategies in the outdoors. In the printable packet, there are 90 outdoor sensory diet activities, 60 outdoor recess sensory diet activities, 30 blank sensory diet cards, and 6 sensory challenge cards. They can be used based on preference and interest of the child, encouraging motivation and carryover, all while providing much-needed sensory input.

Here’s a little more information about the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards
  • 90 outdoor sensory diet activities
  • 60 outdoor recess sensory diet activities
  • 30 blank sensory diet cards, and 6 sensory challenge cards
  • They can be used based on preference and interest of the child, encouraging motivation and carryover, all while providing much-needed sensory input. 
  • Research tells us that outdoor play improves attention and provides an ideal environment for a calm and alert state, perfect for integration of sensory input.
  • Outdoor play provides input from all the senses, allows for movement in all planes, and provides a variety of strengthening components including eccentric, concentric, and isometric muscle contractions. 
  • Great tool for parents, teachers, AND therapists!

Be sure to grab the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and use them with a child (or adult) with sensory processing needs!


More about outdoor sensory diet activities

Sensory diets and specific sensory input or sensory challenges are a big part of addressing sensory needs of children who struggle with sensory processing issues. Incorporating a schedule of sensory input (sensory diet) into a lifestyle of naturally occuring and meaningful activities is so very valuable for the child with sensory needs. 

Sensory diets and specific sensory input or sensory challenges are a big part of addressing sensory needs of children who struggle with sensory processing issues. Incorporating a schedule of sensory input (sensory diet) into a lifestyle of naturally occuring and meaningful activities is so very valuable for the child with sensory needs. 

That’s why I’ve worked to create a book on creating an authentic and meaningful sensory lifestyle that addresses sensory needs. The book is now released as a digital e-book or softcover print book, available on Amazon. 

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory diet creation, set-up, and carry through. Not only that, but the book helps you take a sensory diet and weave it into a sensory lifestyle that supports the needs of a child with sensory processing challenges and the whole family.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a resource for creating sensory diets and turning them into a lifestyle of sensory success through meaningful and motivating sensory enrichment.

Research on Outdoor Sensory Play



There has been decades of research on the benefits of play in kids. The information below depicts how outdoor play impacts sensory needs in kids. This is not an exhausted review of the literature, simply a smattering of research available on the topic. 

Research shows us that some of the developmental and primary tasks that children must achieve can be effectively improved through outdoor play. These include: exploring, risk-taking, fine and gross motor development, absorption of basic knowledge, social skills, self-confidence, attention, language skills, among others. Wow! Playing outside has a bigger impact than we may have thought!


Other research has shown an increase in communication, along with more observed emotions, and increased interactions in children with autism when more time was spent outdoors. 


Outdoor Playground Play and Sensory Input

Children have a large opportunity for sensory input through playground play. But, in recent times, children experience playgrounds that are more safe, allowing for less risky play. Encouraging specific activities such as a playground sensory diet on playground equipment can be beneficial to sensory needs. 


Another item to consider is the aspect of applying sensory diet strategies within the classroom or home environments as a fix for sensory processing needs. The specific and prescribed sensory diet activities for a particular child can be very helpful in addressing specific sensory-related behaviors. However, the use of a sensory tool such as an alternative seating system within the classroom provides only one type of vestibular and/or proprioceptive input, such as up and down vestibular input. The child who plays outdoors encounters a wide variety of sensory input across all sensory systems! 


You might even call sensory tools used to address specific needs a sensory band-aide. What if we as therapists could encourage authentic sensory input in the outdoors (or indoors, as indicated) that addresses all of the sensory systems. Using meaningful play experiences not only provide all the benefits of play. They encourage healthy development through the senses. 


There are quite a few benefits to sensory experiences in the outdoors:
Outdoor play is a calming environment. 
Outdoor play is alerting. 
Outdoor play fosters listening skills.
Outdoor play encourages risk-taking.
Outdoor play supports executive functioning skills.
Outdoor play encourages participation in the sense of touch.
Outdoor play promotes vestibular input.
Outdoor play provides an environment that encourages a calming and alert state of being. 
Outdoor play promotes self-control and comfort in task completion through graded participation. 
Outdoor play encourages social development. 
Outdoor play improves physical health. 
Outdoor play encourages body awareness.


Outdoor Sensory Diet and Improvement in Function and Attention

One study found a sensory diet in outdoor play along with sensory integration therapy resulted in better functional behavior of kids with ADHD (Sahoo & Senapati). 


Using sensory activities that are specific in time and quality such as those in a sensory diet should be done in an authentic and meaningful manner in a child’s life. In this way, sensory input is motivating to the child in that it goes along with interests and the environment in which the child lives.

It’s a fact that kids are spending less time playing outdoors. From after-school schedules to two working parents, to unsafe conditions, to increased digital screen time, to less outdoor recess time…kids just get less natural play in the outdoors. Some therapists have connected the dots between less outdoor play and increased sensory struggles and attention difficulties in learning. Knowing this, it can be powerful to have a list of outdoor sensory diet activities that can be recommended as therapy home programing and family activities that meet underlying needs.


Need some outdoor sensory play ideas? Try these outdoor backyard sensory diet activities that inspire free play in the outdoors while encouraging sensory input of all kinds! 


Research says outdoor sensory play is beneficial in the development of children. Use these outdoor sensory diet activities to inspire outdoor activities that boost skills like motor development, attention, regulation, and more.







References:
Frost, J. & Sutterby, J. (2017). Our Proud Heritage: Outdoor Play Is Essential to Whole Child DevelopmentRetrieved from: from: https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/jul2017/outdoor-play-child-development


Hanscom, A (2017, October). The decline of play outdoors and the rise in sensory issues. OccupationalTherapy.com, Article 3990. Retrieved from http://OccupationalTherapy.com.


Von Kampen, M. (2011). The Effect of Outdoor Environment on Attention and Self-Regulation Behaviors on a Child with Autism.  Retrieved from: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://search.yahoo.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1118&context=cehsdiss

Sahoo, S. & Senapati, A. Effect of sensory diet through outdoor play on functional behavior in children with ADHD. The Indian Journal of Occupational Therapy. Vol. 46, (2 ) 49-54.

Outdoor Sensory Diet Activities for Playing in the Woods

Kids just don’t get much time to play outdoors anymore. We talked about the impact that reduced outdoor play has to do with sensory processing needs in kids in our recent Outdoor Sensory Diet Activities post. We chatted about the benefits of outdoor play in a typically developing child as well as those with sensory processing needs. This post covers the benefits of playing in the woods or a wooded area of a backyard or park. This might be a great recommendation for families who are going camping this summer and need some sensory strategies. Playing in the woods offers so many opportunities for sensory input, movement, gross and fine motor work. Not only that, but playing in the woods is a calming and organizing way to play! 


These activities can be used as part of a sensory diet of specific activities and sensory tools designed to meet specific needs of an individual. 


This will help when explaining about what a sensory diet is and what a sensory diet looks like for kids with sensory needs. 


These ideas would be a great addition to all of our summer occupational therapy activities here on The OT Toolbox! 

Occupational therapists can use these sensory diet activities for wooded areas to recommend sensory diet activities for outdoors or as part of a home program for children with sensory processing needs or SPD.

Disclaimer: When therapists develop a specific and highly individualized sensory diet, it’s not just throwing together a day filled with sensory input. A sensory diet  is a specific set of sensory tools used to meet and address certain needs of the individual based on sensory need and strategizing. Each of the sensory diet activities above should meet specific needs of the child. Every child is different so applying sensory input to one child may look very different than that of another. Parents should use the tactics below along with your child’s occupational therapist.

Wooded Area Sensory Diet

Fallen tree balance beam
Jump in leaves
Climb small trees
Look Up scavenger hunt
Bird watch
Touch tree trunks
Natrue collection
Picnic in the woods
Magnifying glass to find bugs
Lift rocks and inspect what’s underneith
Hike
Climb rocky areas
Play in streams
Climb steap hills
Ride bikes on a trail
Bug hunt
Collect sticks
Build a fort
Climb trees
Scent scavenger hunt
Carry a backpack full of supplies


Accommodations for addressing sensory needs in a wooded area

For kids with sensory needs, the sensations of the outdoors and a wooded area can be too much for the child to tolerate. Try these accommodations for addressing sensory needs in backyard play:

Calming snacks for a picnic
Drink water from a sports bottle with a straw
Wear sunglasses
Wear a brimmed hat
Wear high top shoes or shoes that provide proprioceptive input
Wear shoes that the child is able to tolerate
Compression clothing
Wear a lightweight wind jacket
Be cognizant of the scent of bug spray
Recognize early signs of sensory overload and head back to the house or car before a meltdown occurs (Leave on a happy note)


How to incorporate sensory play into playing outside

Sensory diet activities can be specific to sensory system like these vestibular sensory diet activities. Sensory activities can be prescribed according to need along with environment in order to maximize sensory input within a child’s day such as within the school day. Using authentic sensory input within the child’s environment plays into the whole child that we must understand when focusing on any goal toward improved functional independence. 





Many sensory diet activities can naturally be found outdoors. In fact, outdoor sensory diet activities are a fun way to encourage sensory input in a child’s environment and without fancy therapy equipment or tools. 


It’s a fact that kids are spending less time playing outdoors. From after-school schedules to two working parents, to unsafe conditions, to increased digital screen time, to less outdoor recess time…kids just get less natural play in the outdoors. Some therapists have connected the dots between less outdoor play and increased sensory struggles and attention difficulties in learning. 

Knowing this, it can be powerful to have a list of outdoor sensory diet activities that can be recommended as therapy home programing and family activities that meet underlying needs.

That’s where the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and Sensory Challenge Cards come into play.

They are a FREE printable resource that encourages sensory diet strategies in the outdoors. In the printable packet, there are 90 outdoor sensory diet activities, 60 outdoor recess sensory diet activities, 30 blank sensory diet cards, and 6 sensory challenge cards. They can be used based on preference and interest of the child, encouraging motivation and carryover, all while providing much-needed sensory input.

Here’s a little more information about the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards
  • 90 outdoor sensory diet activities
  • 60 outdoor recess sensory diet activities
  • 30 blank sensory diet cards, and 6 sensory challenge cards
  • They can be used based on preference and interest of the child, encouraging motivation and carryover, all while providing much-needed sensory input. 
  • Research tells us that outdoor play improves attention and provides an ideal environment for a calm and alert state, perfect for integration of sensory input.
  • Outdoor play provides input from all the senses, allows for movement in all planes, and provides a variety of strengthening components including eccentric, concentric, and isometric muscle contractions. 
  • Great tool for parents, teachers, AND therapists!


Be sure to grab the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and use them with a child (or adult) with sensory processing needs!

Outdoor sensory diet activity cards for parents, teachers, and therapists of children with sensory processing needs.

More about outdoor sensory diet activities

Sensory diets and specific sensory input or sensory challenges are a big part of addressing sensory needs of children who struggle with sensory processing issues. Incorporating a schedule of sensory input (sensory diet) into a lifestyle of naturally occuring and meaningful activities is so very valuable for the child with sensory needs. 

That’s why I’ve worked to create a book on creating an authentic and meaningful sensory lifestyle that addresses sensory needs. The book is now released as a digital e-book or softcover print book, available on Amazon. 

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory diet creation, set-up, and carry through. Not only that, but the book helps you take a sensory diet and weave it into a sensory lifestyle that supports the needs of a child with sensory processing challenges and the whole family.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a resource for creating sensory diets and turning them into a lifestyle of sensory success through meaningful and motivating sensory enrichment.
Occupational therapists can use these sensory diet activities for wooded areas to recommend sensory diet activities for outdoors or as part of a home program for children with sensory processing needs or SPD.

Sensory Diet Activities at the Beach

Whether you live at the beach or just travel to the beach for an annual family trip, it can be overwhelming for a child with sensory needs to cope with the sensory input that a trip to the beach can cause. The beach has so many sights, sounds, scents, and textures that can be used to meet sensory needs. For the family that is travelling with a child with sensory processing challenges, the beach can be both a blessing and a source of sensory overload. Use the strategies listed below to address sensory needs on a trip to the shore and the tactics to address hypersensitivity during a beach trip. These sensory diet activities at the beach can be a powerful tool or recommendation by occupational therapists and part of an outdoor sensory diet


Knowing what a sensory diet is and how it can be used within a sensory lifestyle is a big part of integrating sensory activities and sensory play, even while travelling or for the family who lives at the beach or water area. 


Kids with sensory processing challenges or SPD can use these sensory diet activities at the beach, perfect for Occupational Therapists to recommend as a home program for beach play or for families travelling to the beach for vacation.


Sensory Diet Activities at the Beach

Make a sandcastle
Rake the sand (for pulling and pushing proprioceptive input)
Bury feet or hands
Sprinkle sand on hands or toys
Fill a bucket with water
Carry water from the shore to dry sand
Dig wet sand 
Dig dry sand
Make a “wet castle” using wet sand
Firm pressure massage with sunscreen
Carry a bucket of sand
Scoop and pour sand
Scoop and pour water
Inspect tide pools
Pick up, scoop, and carry pebbles
Jump low waves
Sit at water’s edge for sand play
Bury a toy and then find it
Play visual discrimination games with sand toys: Child can look at a collection of toys then one is removed and the child needs to determine which is missing
Play beach “I Spy”
Roll up in a beach towel burrito with heavy input
Fill a gallon sized bag with sand for a DIY weighted lap pad or shoulder pad
Pull or push a bin or wagon of beach toys
Carry a beach bag
Fly a kite (great for visual motor skills, visual scanning, and proprioception)
Catch and toss a beach ball
Play beach ring toss
Chase waves
Look for seashells
Rinse and clean seashells



Kids with sensory processing challenges or SPD can use these sensory diet activities at the beach, perfect for Occupational Therapists to recommend as a home program for beach play or for families travelling to the beach for vacation.


Accommodations for addressing sensory needs at the beach

Children with sensory processing challenges can be overwhelmed given all of the sights, sounds, scents, and textures that the beach provides. Try these accommodations for addressing sensory needs in backyard play:

Play in a baby pool to enjoy water without the waves
Use a large beach blanket and weight down edges
Be cognizant of hot sand
Provide calming snacks
Wear long sleeved sun clothing

Wear water shoes instead of sandals or bear feet
Proprioceptive input such as firm touch to the shoulders
Bucket of water to rinse hands if child is sensitive to sand
Sheltered area such as a wind tent or low umbrella if child is sensitive to wind blowing on skin
Wear a lightweight wind jacket
Use baby powder to remove sand
Hat with brim to reduce bright light or intense light in eyes or on face
Wear sunglasses
Wear headphones to reduce background noise
Be aware of certain sunscreens which as a strong scent
Bring extra dry towels

How to incorporate sensory play into playing at the beach

Sensory diet activities can be specific to sensory system like these vestibular sensory diet activities. Sensory activities can be prescribed according to need along with environment in order to maximize sensory input within a child’s day such as within the school day. Using authentic sensory input within the child’s environment plays into the whole child that we must understand when focusing on any goal toward improved functional independence. 



Many sensory diet activities can naturally be found outdoors. In fact, outdoor sensory diet activities are a fun way to encourage sensory input in a child’s environment and without fancy therapy equipment or tools. 

It’s a fact that kids are spending less time playing outdoors. From after-school schedules to two working parents, to unsafe conditions, to increased digital screen time, to less outdoor recess time…kids just get less natural play in the outdoors. Some therapists have connected the dots between less outdoor play and increased sensory struggles and attention difficulties in learning. 

Knowing this, it can be powerful to have a list of outdoor sensory diet activities that can be recommended as therapy home programing and family activities that meet underlying needs.

That’s where the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and Sensory Challenge Cards come into play.

They are a FREE printable resource that encourages sensory diet strategies in the outdoors. In the printable packet, there are 90 outdoor sensory diet activities, 60 outdoor recess sensory diet activities, 30 blank sensory diet cards, and 6 sensory challenge cards. They can be used based on preference and interest of the child, encouraging motivation and carryover, all while providing much-needed sensory input.

Here’s a little more information about the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards
  • 90 outdoor sensory diet activities
  • 60 outdoor recess sensory diet activities
  • 30 blank sensory diet cards, and 6 sensory challenge cards
  • They can be used based on preference and interest of the child, encouraging motivation and carryover, all while providing much-needed sensory input. 
  • Research tells us that outdoor play improves attention and provides an ideal environment for a calm and alert state, perfect for integration of sensory input.
  • Outdoor play provides input from all the senses, allows for movement in all planes, and provides a variety of strengthening components including eccentric, concentric, and isometric muscle contractions. 
  • Great tool for parents, teachers, AND therapists!


Be sure to grab the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and use them with a child (or adult) with sensory processing needs!

Outdoor sensory diet activity cards for parents, teachers, and therapists of children with sensory processing needs.

Sensory diets and specific sensory input or sensory challenges are a big part of addressing sensory needs of children who struggle with sensory processing issues. Incorporating a schedule of sensory input (sensory diet) into a lifestyle of naturally occuring and meaningful activities is so very valuable for the child with sensory needs. 

That’s why I’ve worked to create a book on creating an authentic and meaningful sensory lifestyle that addresses sensory needs. The book is now released as a digital e-book or softcover print book, available on Amazon. 

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory diet creation, set-up, and carry through. Not only that, but the book helps you take a sensory diet and weave it into a sensory lifestyle that supports the needs of a child with sensory processing challenges and the whole family.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a resource for creating sensory diets and turning them into a lifestyle of sensory success through meaningful and motivating sensory enrichment.

Kids with sensory processing challenges or SPD can use these sensory diet activities at the beach, perfect for Occupational Therapists to recommend as a home program for beach play or for families travelling to the beach for vacation.

Outdoor Sensory Diet Activities for the Backyard

So often, kids are sent home from therapy with a sensory diet of specific activities and sensory tools that are prescribed for certain sensory processing needs. When a therapist creates a home exercise program, they do their best to ensure carryover through small lists of activities, parent education, and 
motivating activities that are based on the child’s interests and personal goals.


If you are looking for more outdoor sensory diet activities that can be used in the backyard or as part of a home program, these occupational therapy activities will be a huge help!





These outdoor sensory diet activities are good sensory experiences to meet the needs of children with sensory processing needs or those who struggle with sensory related behaviors, perfect for a home exercise program or occupational therapy activities.



We’ve all seen home programs that are just not used at home! Between all of the things that need doing in the home, it is hard to do that one extra task that is a home exercise program…even when it’s a sensory diet strategy that can help everything else. 


So, using sensory diet tools within the context of environments or activities that are deeply meaningful to a family and child such as play that is already happening, can be the meaningful and motivating strategy to actually get that sensory diet task completed. And it benefits the child along with the whole family. 


These sensory diet activities are those that can be included into backyard play. That may look like independent play by the child or it might mean family time on a Sunday afternoon. Use these outdoor sensory diet activities in the backyard to as sensory tools that double as playtime for the child while he/she learns and grows… or to meet the sensory needs of the child while creating memories and enjoying time together!


Disclaimer: When therapists develop a specific and highly individualized sensory diet, it’s not just throwing together a day filled with sensory input. A sensory diet  is a specific set of sensory tools used to meet and address certain needs of the individual based on sensory need and strategizing. Each of the sensory diet activities above should meet specific needs of the child. Every child is different so applying sensory input to one child may look very different than that of another. Parents should use the tactics below along with your child’s occupational therapist.


These outdoor sensory diet activities are good sensory experiences to meet the needs of children with sensory processing needs or those who struggle with sensory related behaviors, perfect for a home exercise program or occupational therapy activities.

Bakyard Sensory Diet Activities

Slide down a hill on cardboard
Grass sensory bin
Use a magnifying glass to inspect the grass and dirt
Mud kitchen
Roll down hills
Animal walks with barefeet
Create nature “soup” with grass, flower petals, sticks, etc.
Pick flowers
Cartwheels and tumbling on the grass (barefoot or with shoes!)
Water Table with nature
Cartwheel or tumbling 
Target games
Bean bag games
Relay races
Hide and seek games
Simon Says games
Tag 
Bell parade
Kazoo sound hunt
Listening for birds or animals
Record backyard sounds and playback the recording. Try to recognize and name the sound and where it was located in the yard.
Fill containers with items from the backyard.  Shake plastic containers or even paper bags with the items and see if your child can name the objects.
Play Marco Polo in the yard!

Auditory backyard games like: Neighborhood Listening Scavenger Hunt, Auditory Hide and Seek, Listening Tag, Noisy Toy Positioning Game
Create with recycled materials and make arts, crafts, and activities.
Pull plastic ware out of the cupboards and sort the lids onto the containers.
Mix colors with food coloring in water.
Blow bubbles
Jump rope
Play Kickball
Throw a book picnic: grab snacks, a blanket, and a pile of books and head outside.
Dress up with old fancy dresses and clothes from mom’s closet (then throw them in a bag and donate!)
Bake
Poke holes in a cardboard box and push pipe cleaners through the holes
Bowl with recycled plastic waterbottles
Act out a favorite nursery rhyme
Play Pizza Tag: one person is “it” and chases the others.  Players run from “it” and can stay safe from being tagged by naming pizza toppings and touching the ground.
Put dollhouses or play sets into a bin of shredded paper.
Play hide and seek
Climb trees
Watch and draw clouds
Tell stories where one person starts a story and each person adds a sentence to continue the story.  Write it down and illustrate your story!
Make and deliver lemonade to neighbors
Go birdwatching
Make creative firefly catchers and then catch the fireflies that night.
Play charades
Act out a favorite book
Create with finger paints (make your own with flour, water, and food coloring or washable paint!)
Sing songs
Turn on music and dance
Pick flowers and give them to neighbors
Make crafts. Have an art show and invite friends.
Spin in circles.
Swing side to side on a swing set.
Hang upside down from swing set equipment.
Swing on a hammock.
Backyard dance party.  Encourage lots of whole body movements and spinning.
Cartwheels
Tumbles
Hopscotch
Play Leapfrog
Mini trampoline (or the big sized-trampoline)
Catch a ball while standing, sitting, swinging, rolling a ball, catching between legs, etc.
Hit a tennis racket at a target including bubbles, falling leaves, large balls, small rubber balls, and balloons
Catch butterflies in a net
Bubble pop, including popping bubbles with a toe, knee, foot, head, finger, or elbow
goop
play dough
shaving cream
paper mache



Backyard Sensory Diet Equipment

Make a bin of outdoor toys that are readily available in your garage or storage area so that sensory play experiences are at your family’s fingertips. 
Hoola Hoops
Jump Ropes
Balls
Bat
Tennis Racket
Butterfly Net
Baby Swimming Pool
Tarp or Slip and Slide
Water Hose
Scoops and cups
Sidewalk chalk
Bike
Scooter
Skateboard
Cardboard
Target or net
Shovels
Buckets
Play wheelbarrow
Swingset
Climbing structure
Flashlight
Magnifying glass
Cones
Bubbles
Bean bags


Accommodations for addressing sensory needs in the backyard

For kids with sensory needs, it can be overwhelming to have an open space full of sights, sounds, scents, and textures. Honking horns, barking dogs, and other sounds that frequent the backyard or lawn can be too much for the child with sensory sensitivities. Try these accommodations for addressing sensory needs in backyard play:
Wear shoes instead of sandals or bear feet
Proprioceptive input such as firm touch to the shoulders
Calming vestibular sensory input such as side to side or forward-front slow swinging
Throw and play catch with a weighted ball 
Bucket of water to rinse hands if child is sensitive to messy hands or dirt
Sheltered area if child is sensitive to wind blowing on skin
Wear a lightweight wind jacket
Hat with brim to reduce bright light or intense light in eyes or on face
Sunscreen with firm touch before going outdoors
Wear sunglasses
Wear headphones to reduce background noise
Be aware of freshly cut grass which as a strong scent
Wear thin gloves for gardening activities

More about outdoor sensory diet activities

Sensory diets and specific sensory input or sensory challenges are a big part of addressing sensory needs of children who struggle with sensory processing issues. Incorporating a schedule of sensory input (sensory diet) into a lifestyle of naturally occuring and meaningful activities is so very valuable for the child with sensory needs. 

That’s why I’ve worked to create a book on creating an authentic and meaningful sensory lifestyle that addresses sensory needs. The book is now released as a digital e-book or softcover print book, available on Amazon. 

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory diet creation, set-up, and carry through. Not only that, but the book helps you take a sensory diet and weave it into a sensory lifestyle that supports the needs of a child with sensory processing challenges and the whole family.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a resource for creating sensory diets and turning them into a lifestyle of sensory success through meaningful and motivating sensory enrichment.

These outdoor sensory diet activities are good sensory experiences to meet the needs of children with sensory processing needs or those who struggle with sensory related behaviors, perfect for a home exercise program or occupational therapy activities.