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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.