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.
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
Look for seashells
Rinse and clean seashells
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
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.
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 email@example.com.