Recess Sensory Diet Activities

Here, we’ll discuss how to make a recess sensory diet for school. 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…there is just less time for kids to get outside and PLAY! 
Teachers and school based occupational therapy professionals know the profound power of a recess break on the daily functioning of students. But, even as the adults in the school, we know how essential a break to walk on the recess area, or to sit and relax with a cup of tea during a (albeit still busy) planning period can be. A sensory diet for adults is just the same as a child’s need for movement or sensory input within the day!

When it comes to sensory play, using the outdoors in meeting sensory needs and through sensory challenges is perfect for those looking for easy and fun ways to meet sensory needs in kids!



Use these outdoor recess sensory diet activities for kids who need sensory input throughout the school day or crave sensory activities. The sensory diet activities can be used in various settings in the school environment, providing sensory challenges and activities that occupational therapists might recommend.


Recess Sensory Diet

For the child in school, it’s known that recess time helps with attention, sensory needs, motor development, learning skills, language, executive functioning, and so much more. In fact, research about outdoor play tells us a lot about development in kids! 

The activities below are just some ways to encourage sensory input through outdoor recess. The fact is that plain old outdoor play will expand a child’s developmental needs and provide the kind of sensory input that kids need to learn and grow. 

But sometimes, a child who has a need for a specific sensory diet will benefit from a prescribed list of sensory diet activities. And using the playground at the school is a great way to do this! 

We’ve talked about sensory integration on the playground before and also sensory diet activities that can be used on a playground or park setting. 

But the sensory diet activities listed below are those that can be combined with other outdoor sensory diet activities and completed on a blacktop surface or a schoolyard setting. 

Outdoor Recess Sensory Diet Activities

These outdoor recess sensory diet activities can be used at a recess setting or within a sensory diet that allows for an outdoor movement break. 

Using the natural setting of the playground is perfect for allowing a student to use the setting within the school to get the sensory input he or she needs. 

The Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards are activities that can be done with little or no special equipment, making carryover easier.

The outdoor sensory diet activities below are GAMES and PLAY that kids naturally love! That means other students can participate in activities that come natural to recess time…while providing the much needed sensory diet activity that is necessary for meeting sensory needs of specific students. 

These activities are part of our Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards packet. It’s a resource that uses natural and therapeutic play activities that can be done in the great outdoors. 

The Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards packet includes sensory diet cards that meet a variety of needs and can be used for any child, based on specific needs. Therapists will love the variety of cards that can work for any child and can be adjusted to meet specific needs of clients. 

Part of the packet is outdoor recess sensory diet activities that come in card form for easy scheduling and recommendation of activities.

This is a free resource. Just click on the link below, enter your email, and access the file that is delivered to your inbox. 

If you use these sensory diet cards, share it with others! Share the link so others can grab it too. Be sure to catch a pic of your use of the cards and tag @theottoolbox on social media! 

Outdoor Recess Sensory Diet Activities

Teach the child to ask if they can push another child on the swing
Utilize playground equipment 
Walk or run on the perimeter of the playground area.
Bounce balls
Stress ball in hand during playground play
Chewing tool for sensory overload
Running games
“I Spy” scavenger hunts for colors or shapes
Keychain fidget tool
Obstacle courses
Tug of war activities
Carry equipment bins onto playground area and back in after recess
Organize one-on-one play with a buddy

The Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards printable packet includes A TON more ideas for outdoor sensory diet activities and outdoor recess sensory diet activities. 

In fact, 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.



Get the Outdoor Sensory Diet Activity Cards HERE.

Use these outdoor recess sensory diet activities for kids who need sensory input throughout the school day or crave sensory activities. The sensory diet activities can be used in various settings in the school environment, providing sensory challenges and activities that occupational therapists might recommend.


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 occurring 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.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to