Outdoor Sensory Diet Activities

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We’ve been talking a lot about sensory diets here on The OT Toolbox recently. Understanding 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 into needed sensory input that a child needs to self-regulation, cope with his or her environment, and to attend or focus despite sensory overload or distractions. You’ll find more outdoor sensory diet activities like these outdoor sensory diet activities for the backyard coming to the site very soon!

These outdoor sensory diet activities are great for occupational therapists to use in development of a sensory diet for kids with sensory needs, using outdoor play ideas.

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. The sensory diet activities listed below include outdoor sensory diet activities that can naturally be found outdoors!

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.

Use these sensory diet activities outdoors to help kids with sensory processing needs

Outdoor Sensory Diet Activities

Use these activities to incorporate play naturally while meeting underlying needs in the great outdoors!

Outdoor Sensory Diet Activities

Play in the woods
Roll down hills
Balance beam on logs
Climb trees
Collect nature
Play at the beach
Nature walk
Play in the backyard
Climb on stumps
Jump in puddles
Driveway or pavement play activities
Swing on tree vines
Sensory play on a porch or enclosed space
Collect sticks
Leaf hunt
Water table
Move and cary rocks of various sizes
Hide and seek
Create with nature
Outdoor water play
Collect fireflies
Pour rocks
Build with rocks, stumps, sticks, small logs
Mix and create nature soup (mud, sticks, flower petals, grass clippings)
Mud play

When therapists develop a specific and highly individualized sensory diet, it’s not just throwing together a day filled with sensory input. It’s activities based on sensory need and strategizing. Each of the sensory diet activities above should meet specific needs of the child.

Imagine a world with more creative outdoor play that involves a variety of enriching sensory input. The proprioceptive input from running and jumping into puddles can calm the child who is typically overactive. The vestibular benefits of slowing swaying side to side on a tree vine can organize the child who is challenged by sensory overload.

The outdoor world is full of sensory input that can meet individual needs of every child. The kids with sensory needs as well as those who present as neurotypical will benefit from a lifestyle of sensory play and experiences in the outdoors. Over the next few days, we will be sharing specific outdoor sensory diet activities that can benefit children of all ages. As always, these activities should be looked over and utilized along with assessment and intervention of an occupational therapist, as each child differs so very vastly.

Some of the ideas above are going to be described in more detail here on The OT Toolbox. Watch this space for more outdoor sensory play ideas based on the following outdoor play spaces:

Backyard Lawn Sensory Diet Activities
Driveway/Pavement Sensory Diet Activities
Wooded Areas Sensory Diet Activities (Perfect for a camping trip or playing in the woods at home or at a park!)
Playground Sensory Diet Activities
Beach Sensory Diet Activities (Perfect for a family vacation to the beach or for those who live near a beach area!) 
Enclosed Area/Porch 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 great for occupational therapists to use in development of a sensory diet for kids with sensory needs, using outdoor play ideas.