Outdoor Sensory Path Ideas

Now that the weather has started to get warmer, you might be looking for some outside activities. I know a lot of people have 101 reasons not to go outside (too hot, too cold, pollen, etc.) but being outdoors provides such great sensory input. Without adding any activities, the outdoors provides natural input; there is sunshine, wind, birds, flowers, dirt, water, and more. For those looking for more than environmental sensory input, in this post you will find some great sensory path ideas.

This is a Summer occupational therapy activity you can use for many goal areas.

outdoor sensory path ideas

There are so many ways to gain the benefits of sensory motor skill work using an outdoor sensory pathway!

What is a Sensory Path?

Before diving right into outdoor sensory path ideas, we need to take a step back to define a sensory pathA sensory path is a defined path, or walkway that directs users to complete a variety of sensory-motor tasks. The activities that make up a sensory path are typically gross motor tasks that incorporate proprioceptive inputvestibular input, and visual input, in order to meet sensory needs. These sensory systems are powerful regulating tools to organize and this is why motor movements in a sensory path engage these systems. It’s a great tool for supporting gross motor coordination.

Using an outdoor sensory path is a motor skills task. Read more about kinesthetic learning as a tool for skill development.

A sensory path is typically a literal pathway on the ground; it may be painted onto a sidewalk or schoolyard. It may be stickers or images stuck to a floor or hallway in a school. Or, it might even be a chalk path on a sidewalk or driveway.

Many of you are familiar with the  the (Amazon affiliate link) sensory pathways displayed on walls and floors of the school building. These are available commercially, or sensory paths can be made with paint and stickers.  The fun does not have to end there!  This Sensory Obstacle Path book is a great resource for getting started.

Other ideas include using our printable version of sensory stations. These PDFs, when hung on a hallway or as part of an obstacle course, become an interactive sensory pathway. The ones you’ll find on The OT Toolbox include:

Outdoor Sensory Path Ideas

Many children (and their caregivers) do not know where to begin when playing outside.  Unfortunately, people have become so accustomed to technology, they have forgotten how to play.  Creating a sensory path gives defined boundaries to an activity.  Children really do thrive on structure and repetition. 

With these outdoor sensory path ideas, you can create great occupational therapy obstacle courses with defined limits.  Set up the path, then determine how many times it needs to be completed in succession.  I love the idea of having students use counters or objects to define how many rotations they have done. I use puzzle pieces, coins, clothespins, or any other small item that can be slipped into a pocket.

A lot of the following games use sidewalk chalk, but feel free to use rope/tape/paint/string or cones and buckets to define your space. We have other ideas in our indoor obstacle course post.


This is a classic game. I hope it continues to be passed along from generation to generation. All you need is a piece of chalk, a couple of counters, and a little space. It’s easy to set up as a sensory path:

  1. Draw out your grid. 
  2. Learners can hop on one foot, jump with feet together, jump left and right or feet apart, squat to retrieve objects and turn around.

Hopping and jumping are great proprioceptive activities that help to organize the sensory system.  Feel free to make your hop scotch permanent with paint, although changing the obstacle courses frequently adds to their appeal.

Outdoor sensory path ideas – The Sensory road

How about using that same chalk and creating a road to travel? Dust off the Big wheels or scooter boards, draw a path/road with chalk, and add some obstacles. If you use a scooter board, you can incorporate some prone extension activities.

Have kids pick up objects along the way and deposit them in another container. Put cones or buckets in the road to navigate. Attach a wagon filled with weights to increase the workout.  You can use chalk, tape, rope, chain, or whatever you have handy. 

You can even create a temporary space or paint the road on your space for long lasting fun. When my kids were young, we used a roll of masking tape to create a road in our unfinished basement. They would move their ride on toys around the basement along the masking tape road.

Activity obstacle course

  • Another outdoor sensory path idea is an obstacle course. Think; relay races from field day or P.E class.  Use a large spoon to carry rocks or pinecones from one end to another.  This can be the entirety of the game, or spice it up with more obstacles.  Carry the pinecone, jump over the sticks, go around the bushes, crawl under another obstacle. Add calisthenics such as sit ups, pushups, jumping jacks, or side hops to the sensory path.
  • Amazon (affiliate link) has a nice Obstacle Course in a Box if you are looking for a prepackaged idea.  Here is a kit of simple staple supplies such as rings, bean bags, and cones.
  • Animal Walk Sensory Path- Another idea I love is using an animal walk theme, where the child can move through a sensory path with different animal walks. It prompts you to think about adding items for jumping, hopping, throwing, kicking, crab walks, crawling and more.
  • What do you have around the house you could turn into an obstacle course?  Once, we made a string maze with rope/string for learners to climb their way through. This is a great activity for supporting motor planning skills.
  • Use these pool noodle ideas to create a course of rings and hoops. They show ideas for the pool, snow, and more.

Outdoor sensory walk

  • Check out these garden sensory paths that tie nature and sensory input into a delightful garden feature. These sensory paths feature the tactile sense. Take those shoes off and get your feet in the earth.  Create a path with different textures: grass, pebbles, stepping stones, concrete, pea gravel, sand, mud, wood planks, shells, sticks and more. There are some nature sensory paths that people have built into their landscape, as well as temporary ones build into carboard boxes or trays.
  • Temporary outdoor sensory walk – You can create an outdoor sensory path that can be removed when the play is done. Get different plastic tubs, fill them with different textures, and create a fun tactile path.  Ideas might include: rocks, water, pebbles, grass clippings, sand, birdseed, leaves, sticks, and more.
  • Benefits of Nature Play – This post highlights outdoor sensory path ideas using nature play.  Use what is already available to enlighten the senses and create some great outdoor play.
DIY ninja warrior course ideas- wooden pallets, slack line, climbing structures, playground equipment, stepping stones

Another idea for a sensory walk is a ninja warrior course.

Ninja Warrior courses

With the rise in popularity of American Ninja Warrior, kids and adults are really getting into fitness through obstacle course training. Have you ever thought about making your own DIY ninja warrior course?

Build your own course or purchase ready-made pieces you might have around the house. Some ideas include:

  • wooden pallets
  • Wooden boards like a 2×4 in different lengths
  • Slanted wood balanced on rocks or bricks
  • Climbing walls

You can also purchase Ninja Warrior materials and create a backyard ninja course:

Chalk walk ideas

I love using a chalk walk as a sensory path because it requires just chalk and an outdoor space. You can target so many skills with a single chalk walk!

Chalk Walk

We mentioned a few ideas to create a chalk walk (hopscotch, making a road, or an outdoor chalk line path), but what are some specific ways to incorporate different movements using just chalk? Here our our ideas to support proprioceptive, vestibular, and visual input?

Where to make a Chalk Walk?

Another nice thing about a chalk walk as a therapy tool is that all you need is a box of sidewalk chalk. We’ve made chalk walks at different places:

  • Sidewalk
  • Driveway (Read about our driveway sensory diet for more inspiration!)
  • Park or playground
  • Empty parking lot
  • Cul-da-sac in a neighborhood
  • Playground basketball court

You can incorporate different sensory motor tasks that are inspired by sensory integration therapy, using just the chalk and a large writing space. Some ideas include:

Hopscotch: Create a hopscotch grid with different shapes or numbers to promote balance and coordination.

Balance Beam: Draw a straight or wavy line for kids to walk on, encouraging balance and body awareness. Here are more balance beam ideas to add to your list.

Obstacle Course: Design a chalk obstacle course with different challenges like hopping, spinning, and tiptoeing.

Alphabet Path: Write the alphabet in a path for children to follow, promoting letter recognition and movement.
Number Line Jump: Draw a number line and have kids jump to specific numbers, integrating math skills with physical activity.

Shape Jumping: Draw various shapes and have kids jump from shape to shape, enhancing spatial awareness and motor planning.

Simon Says Path: Create a path with different actions written in each section, like “spin,” “hop,” or “crawl.”

Color Hunt: Draw different colored circles or shapes and ask children to run to specific colors, integrating color recognition and Animal Walks: Draw animal footprints and have kids imitate the movements of different animals as they follow the path.

Emotional Faces: Draw faces with different emotions and ask children to move to the face that represents how they feel, integrating Sensory Tracing: Draw large letters or shapes for children to trace with their fingers, enhancing tactile feedback and fine motor skills.

Breathing Circle: Draw a large circle and practice deep breathing exercises while walking around the circle.

Dynamic Paths: Create paths with different textures by adding elements like sand or water to the chalk, stimulating tactile senses.

Chalk Mazes: Draw mazes for children to navigate, enhancing problem-solving skills and spatial awareness.

Jumping Dots: Place dots in varying distances for kids to jump between, promoting proprioception and muscle strength.

Shadow Tracing: Use chalk to trace shadows at different times of the day, combining sensory input with outdoor exploration.

Body Part Path: Draw a path with labels for different body parts (e.g., “touch with left hand,” “step with right foot”), promoting body awareness.

Spiral Walk: Draw a large spiral for kids to walk or run around, providing vestibular input and promoting balance.

Toss at a Target: Draw circles with letters inside. Throw a pebble into a circle and then write that letter with chalk. Here is a letter writing activity with chalk.

Inclusive Chalk Walk

The nice thing about creating a chalk walk for kids is that you can individualize it to meet the needs of the kids you are working with. So, for some kiddos that require more inclusive ideas, you can definitely create a chalk walk that supports their needs. You could also incorporate self regulation strategies like deep breathing breaks in the task, or make it smaller or bigger. It really depends on the kids you are supporting!

Grade the Chalk Walk Down– Grading down a chalk walk to make it more inclusive for lower-level kids involves simplifying tasks. This is something we do naturally as occupational therapy providers, right? We can offer the support level needed AND ensure that the activities are achievable and engaging, because that’s what helps the child achieve their goals! This is what we call the “just right challenge“.

Here are some strategies that support occupational therapy goals of gross motor coordination, fine motor skills, sensory motor skills, and executive functioning skills:

  • Wider paths: Draw wider lines or paths to make it easier for children to walk on without losing balance.
  • Simpler shapes: Use basic shapes like circles and squares instead of more complex patterns.
  • Shorter distances: Reduce the length of the path or the distance between tasks to avoid overwhelming the child.
  • Fewer steps: Limit the number of steps in a sequence to keep tasks manageable and less confusing.
  • Visual aids: Add visual cues or markers, such as arrows or footprints, to guide children along the path.
  • Lower jumps: Create lower hopscotch squares or stepping pads to reduce the height children need to jump.
  • Verbal prompts: Use clear, simple verbal instructions to guide children through each activity.
  • Physical support: Provide hand-holding or use a handrail for balance and support as children navigate the path.
  • Use of props: Incorporate props like balance beams or stepping stones with tactile feedback to aid movement.
  • Repetitive patterns: Use repetitive patterns that children can easily recognize and follow.
  • Reduced speed: Encourage children to move at their own pace, focusing on slow and deliberate movements.
  • Inclusive themes: Integrate themes or characters that the children are familiar with to make the activities more engaging.
  • Stationary tasks: Include more stationary tasks like tracing shapes or drawing within a specified area.
  • Sensory breaks: Incorporate sensory breaks with simple tasks like sitting and deep breathing or stretching.
  • Pairing up: Pair children with a buddy for guidance and encouragement.
  • Positive reinforcement: Provide immediate positive feedback and encouragement to build confidence.
  • Adapted challenges: Offer different levels of challenges for each task so children can choose according to their abilities.
  • Consistent routines: Use a consistent order for tasks to help children anticipate and feel more comfortable with the activities.
  • Use of color: Utilize bright, contrasting colors to make the paths and shapes more visually distinct and easier to follow.
  • Minimize distractions: Ensure the environment is calm and free of excessive distractions to help children focus on the activities.

Then, to grade the activity up, or add more challenging tasks to the chalk walk, use one or more of the items above and make it more challenging for the chalk walk user. This is how we can support individual needs and work on developing those goals!

Sensory Chalk Walk

In addition to the motor skills that a chalk walk supports, you can also add in sensory integration strategies that offer specific tasks for vestibular input, proprioceptive input, visual input, and even tactile input. For more information on this, check out our resource on Ayres Sensory Integration Therapy.

For example, we used a wet chalk activity to add a messy sensory play experience. This was a fun way to work on visual motor skills while addressing sensory defensiveness. You could also make liquid driveway chalk paint to add sensory writing tasks to the fun.

  • Spirals for spinning around a central point
  • Maze for finding the way out
  • Wavy lines for tiptoeing
  • Hopping pads for both feet
  • Single line for walking or crawling on either side of the line
  • Zigzag paths for jumping side to side
  • Alphabet stepping stones
  • Numbered hopscotch squares
  • Dotted lines for skipping
  • Animal footprints to follow
  • Balance beam lines
  • Twisty lines for galloping
  • Shapes to jump into (circles, squares, triangles)
  • Arrows for direction changes
  • Line with stopping points (large circles) to take deep breathing breaks or a prompt to do a motor task like hopping 5 times)
  • Concentric circles for jumping in and out
  • Ladder rungs for stepping up and down
  • Patterns for matching (left foot, right foot)
  • Start and finish lines for timing races
  • Swirly lines for crawling
  • Parallel lines for jumping over
  • Star shapes for jumping to different points

More outdoor sensory path ideas:

The weather does not have to be perfect to use your outdoor sensory path ideas. Kids do not mind rain, wind, mud, temperature changes, or snow. “Back in my day” we used to get sent out no matter what the weather had in store for us.  It was great for our sensory system, along with building valuable skills. 

Sidewalk chalk obstacle course

Free printable set of resources!

Free Chalk Walk Sensory Kit

We created a free printable resource just for sensory motor skill development…a Chalk Walk Kit! This activity guide has chalk drawing figures designed to support proprioceptive, vestibular, and visual input for calming and organizing sensory input.

Pick and choose the chalk walk options to create an individualized sensory path to meet specific needs.

Work on motor planning, coordination, balance, midline crossing, and much more…all with just a piece of sidewalk chalk.

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Free Sidewalk Chalk Sensory Path

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    Victoria Wood, OTR/L is a contributor to The OT Toolbox and has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.