Outdoor Sensory Activities for the Backyard

outdoor sensory activities for kids with sensory processing challenges.

If you are looking for outdoor sensory activities, this is the place to start. Here, you’ll find outdoor sensory ideas to address each sensory system. Also included are sensory play ideas to use in the backyard when creating an outdoor sensory diet for children.

outdoor sensory activities for kids with sensory processing challenges.

Outdoor Sensory Activities or a Sensory Diet?

So often, kids are sent home from therapy with a sensory diet of specific activities and sensory tools that are prescribed for certain sensory processing needs. When a therapist creates a home exercise program, they do their best to ensure carryover through small lists of activities, parent education, and 
motivating activities that are based on the child’s interests and personal goals.

The important thing to recognize is that there is a difference between sensory play and sensory diets. Read here for more information on what a sensory diet is and isn’t.

When therapists develop a specific and highly individualized sensory diet, it’s not just throwing together a day filled with sensory input. A sensory diet  is a specific set of sensory tools used to meet and address certain needs of the individual based on sensory need and strategizing.

Each of the sensory diet activities above should meet specific needs of the child. Every child is different so applying sensory input to one child may look very different than that of another. Parents should use the tactics below along with your child’s occupational therapist.

So, using sensory diet tools within the context of environments or activities that are deeply meaningful to a family and child such as play that is already happening, can be the meaningful and motivating strategy to actually get that sensory diet task completed. And it benefits the child along with the whole family. 

These outdoor sensory diet activities are good sensory experiences to meet the needs of children with sensory processing needs or those who struggle with sensory related behaviors, perfect for a home exercise program or occupational therapy activities.

Outdoor Sensory Activities

These outdoor sensory activities are those that can be included into backyard play. That may look like independent play by the child or it might mean family time on a Sunday afternoon. Use these outdoor sensory diet activities in the backyard to as sensory tools that double as playtime for the child while he/she learns and grows… or to meet the sensory needs of the child while creating memories and enjoying time together!

Below is a huge list of outdoor sensory activities, but to focus on each sensory system, check out these resources:

These outdoor sensory activities are good sensory experiences to meet the needs of children with sensory processing needs or those who struggle with sensory related behaviors, perfect for a home exercise program or occupational therapy activities.

Bakyard Sensory Activities

  • Slide down a hill on cardboard
  • Grass sensory bin
  • Use a magnifying glass to inspect the grass and dirt
  • Mud kitchen
  • Roll down hills
  • Animal walks with bare feet
  • Create nature “soup” with grass, flower petals, sticks, etc.
  • Pick flowers
  • Cartwheels and tumbling on the grass (barefoot or with shoes!)
  • Water Table with nature
  • Cartwheel or tumbling 
  • Target games
  • Outdoor lawn games
  • Bean bag games
  • Relay races
  • Hide and seek games
  • Simon Says games
  • Tag 
  • Bell parade
  • Kazoo sound hunt
  • Listening for birds or animals
  • Record backyard sounds and playback the recording. Try to recognize and name the sound and where it was located in the yard.
  • Fill containers with items from the backyard.  Shake plastic containers or even paper bags with the items and see if your child can name the objects.
  • Play Marco Polo in the yard!
  • Auditory backyard games like: Neighborhood Listening Scavenger Hunt, Auditory Hide and Seek, Listening Tag, Noisy Toy Positioning Game
  • Create with recycled materials and make arts, crafts, and activities.
  • Pull plastic ware out of the cupboards and sort the lids onto the containers. Mix colors with food coloring in water.
  • Blow bubbles
  • Jump rope
  • Play Kickball
  • Throw a book picnic: grab snacks, a blanket, and a pile of books and head outside.
  • Dress up with old fancy dresses and clothes from mom’s closet (then throw them in a bag and donate!)
  • Bake
  • Poke holes in a cardboard box and push pipe cleaners through the holes
  • Bowl with recycled plastic water bottles
  • Act out a favorite nursery rhyme
  • Play tag games for heavy work, spatial awareness, and body awareness.
  • Put dollhouses or play sets into a bin of shredded paper.
  • Play hide and seek
  • Climb trees
  • Watch and draw clouds
  • Tell stories where one person starts a story and each person adds a sentence to continue the story.  Write it down and illustrate your story!
  • Make and deliver lemonade to neighbors
  • Go birdwatching
  • Make creative firefly catchers and then catch the fireflies that night.
  • Play charades
  • Act out a favorite book
  • Create with finger paints (make your own with flour, water, and food coloring or washable paint!)
  • Sing songs
  • Turn on music and dance
  • Pick flowers and give them to neighbors
  • Make summer crafts that build skills.
  • Have an art show and invite friends.
  • Create a spatial concepts map
  • Spin in circles.
  • Swing side to side on a swing set.
  • Hang upside down from swing set equipment.
  • Swing on a hammock.
  • Backyard dance party.  Encourage lots of whole body movements and spinning.
  • Cartwheels
  • Tumbles
  • Hopscotch
  • Play Leapfrog
  • Mini trampoline (or the big sized-trampoline) Catch a ball while standing, sitting, swinging, rolling a ball, catching between legs, etc.
  • Hit a tennis racket at a target including bubbles, falling leaves, large balls, small rubber balls, and balloons
  • Catch butterflies in a net
  • Bubble pop, including popping bubbles with a toe, knee, foot, head, finger, or elbow  
  • Play with goop
  • Draw in shaving cream on a cookie sheet outdoors. Then squirt off in the hose.
outdoor equipment for sensory input in the backyard

Backyard Sensory Equipment

There are outdoor play items you may have already that can be repurposed to use in outdoor sensory play. These are common backyard toys or things that might be in your garage! It can be fun to re-think these items for a means of adding sensory input.

Make a bin of outdoor toys that are readily available in your garage or storage area so that sensory play experiences are at your family’s fingertips. For example, all of these items could be used in an outdoor balance beam.

  • Hoola Hoops
  • Jump Ropes
  • Balls
  • Bat
  • Tennis Racket
  • Butterfly Net
  • Baby Swimming Pool
  • Tarp or Slip and Slide
  • Water Hose
  • Scoops and cups
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Bike
  • Scooter
  • Skateboard
  • Cardboard
  • Target or net
  • Shovels
  • Buckets
  • Play wheelbarrow
  • Swing set
  • Climbing structure
  • Flashlight
  • Magnifying glass
  • Cones
  • Bubbles
  • Bean bags

Outdoor Sensory issues

Summer can mean sensory processing issues that impact kids with sensitivities or over responsiveness to sensory input. For autistic children or anyone with a neurodiversity that impacts sensory processing, summer can mean a real hatred for being outside in the hot summer months.

So what are some of the reasons that sensory kids have issues with being outside during the summer?

It can be hard to encourage outdoor play (and gain all of the benefits of outdoor play) when the summer months add a different level of sensory input. Here are some of the reasons that sensory kids are challenged in the summertime:

For kids with sensory needs, it can be overwhelming to have an open space full of sights, sounds, scents, and textures.

  • Tolerance of the cuffs of shorts or sleeves
  • Tight bathing suits
  • Sensation of sunscreen
  • Sensation of socks or other clothing in hot weather
  • Humidity changes
  • Summer thunderstorms (can change the air temperature)
  • Short clothing that brushes on legs or arms
  • Sandals or open-toed shoes
  • Crowds or places where others are in close contact
  • Wearing a mask in warmer temperatures
  • Honking horns, barking dogs, and other sounds that frequent the backyard or lawn can be too much for the child with sensory sensitivities
  • Bright sun that is at a different angle in the sky than other months of the year
  • Overwhelming smells: cut grass, lawnmower gas, sunscreen, sweat, body odors, garbage scents
  • Interoceptive issues with body temperature, increased need for water, less hunger due to heat

All of these sensory issues can occur unexpectedly and that unexpectedness of sensory input can be overwhelmingly alarming for those with autism or neurodiversity.

How to help with summer sensory overload

  • Visual schedule
  • Help the child know what to expect
  • Wear shoes instead of sandals or bear feet
  • Proprioceptive input such as firm touch to the shoulders
  • Limit time outdoors
  • Know triggers for sensory overload and plan ahead when possible
  • Oral motor jewelry
  • Communicate travel or outdoor time needs
  • Calming vestibular sensory input such as side to side or forward-front slow swinging
  • Play that involves throw and play catch with a weighted ball
  • Bucket of water to rinse hands if child is sensitive to messy hands or dirt
  • Sheltered area if child is sensitive to wind blowing on skin
  • Wear a lightweight wind jacket
  • Bring a water bottle with straw for proprioceptive input
  • Calming or alerting snacks
  • Portable fan to help with overheating if needed
  • Hat with brim to reduce bright light or intense light in eyes or on face
  • Umbrella to deflect direct sun rays and prevent overheating
  • Sunscreen with firm touch before going outdoors
  • Scent free sunscreen
  • Sunscreen lotion vs. spray sunscreen (or vice versa depending on the particular needs and preferences)
  • Sensory friendly clothing, bathing suits, goggles
  • Wear sunglasses
  • Wear headphones to reduce background noise
  • Be aware of freshly cut grass which as a strong scent
  • Wear thin gloves for tactile activities
  • Use water shoes or crocks instead of sandals

More about outdoor 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 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.  

Get The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook here.

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 good sensory experiences to meet the needs of children with sensory processing needs or those who struggle with sensory related behaviors, perfect for a home exercise program or occupational therapy activities.

Working on building skills this summer? The Summer OT Bundle is for you!

Summer occupational therapy activities bundle

Work on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, scissor skills, and much more so that kids can accomplish self-care tasks, learn, and grow through play all summer long.

This bundle is perfect for the pediatric occupational therapist who needs resources and tools to use in summer therapy sessions, home programs, or extended school year therapy plans.

This bundle is perfect for parents, grandparents, and caregivers looking to provide developmental fine motor activities designed to help kids build skills.

  • Send kids back to school in the Fall without worrying about the “Summer Slide”.
  • Use these materials to work on areas like hand strength, fine motor development, scissor skills, handwriting, pencil control, pencil grasp, sensory play experiences, and much more. Just pull out the pages or activities you need for your child, and develop skills through play!

The Summer OT Bundle includes 19 resources that you can print and use over and over again:

Helping children develop and achieve functional skills this summer was never so easy (or fun!)

Be sure to grab the Summer OT Bundle, a HUGE resource of therapy tools and activities for all things building skills this summer.

Grab the Summer OT Bundle here.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

Peppermint Moon Dough Recipe

Moon dough recipe is a peppermint dough recipe for Christmas sensory play.

I have something fun to share today. This moon dough recipe is an old post here on The OT Toolbox, and one that we loved looking back at. Have you made your own moon dough?  This stuff is seriously messy and majorly fun!  We made our Peppermint Moon Dough recipe a little different than the usual moon dough recipe that is out there.  This moon dough recipe is very soft and fun even for moms to play with!  It’s a great companion to our peppermint play dough recipe from years ago, too.

Moon dough recipe is a peppermint dough recipe for Christmas sensory play.


Moon Dough Recipe

We started with what we had on hand.  When it comes to kid-related messy play and making these sensory play activities, we love to use something that otherwise would be thrown away.  Likewise, waste in these activities is not something we are big fans of.  So, when ever possible, we’ll re-use sensory play materials for other activities and save things like dyed pasta and rice for future sensory activities.  

Note: This post contains affiliate links.  

This moon dough recipe used something that would otherwise be headed to the trash bin…I had some scented lotion that I had for a while… I really didn’t care for the scent.  That and some corns starch were all that were needed to make the base of our moon dough!  

Moon Dough Ingredients

There are only four ingredients in this easy moon dough recipe. You could even omit the food coloring and make this a 3 ingredient moon dough recipe!


To make the consistency of moon dough, use a 4:1 ratio of corn starch to lotion.  This will make a nice and fluffy, but moldable moon dough. 

We added a few drops of peppermint extract and some red food coloring.  We used the gel type of food coloring, but only because that is all we had on hand.  I’m sure liquid food coloring would work just as well, although with the added liquid of scent and food coloring, a little extra corn starch might be needed. 

Also to note when making your moon dough recipe is that different brands of lotion may effect this recipe.  As you mix the ingredients together, you many need to use more or less corn starch depending on the consistency.

Moon dough recipe that kids can make for a Christmas sensory activity. Make this candy cane scented sensory dough with kids.

Half of the moon dough, I kept plain white and the other half got the red food coloring for a very candy cane look.   Add a few little bowls and spoons for scooping, and a couple of Candy Cane cookie cutters, and we were ready to play!

Peppermint dough for Christmas sensory play with an easy moon dough recipe.

We all got busy scooping, fluffing, and mixing.  This was such a fun sensory play experience (for mom, too!)  The lotion made this dough very soft and with the peppermint scent, you could no longer smell the lotion’s scent.

Peppermint moon dough recipe that kids can use to scoop and pour for fine motor work.

Baby Girl (age 2) especially loved to scoop the moon dough.  She used the spoons and filled one cup after another.  And what great fine motor skills this was for her!  She liked to mix the red and the white colors together, dump it all out, and start scooping again!  Here is information on the developmental benefits of scooping and pouring with toddlers.

We played right on the hard wood floor of our dining room for an easy clean up.  Any stray moon dough bits were easy to broom right up.  

Moon dough activity for kids to scoop and pour for a holiday sensory activity.

Little Guy’s favorite part was making the candy cane molds.  We packed the moon dough into the cookie cutters and then pulled it up.  The moon dough would hold it’s shape of the candy cane.  There were a bunch of little moon dough candy canes before we finished!

Candy cane moon dough is a sensory material that smells so fresh for holiday family fun.

    The scent of peppermint candy canes filled the room!  We had so much fun playing with this moon dough!   

Christmas sensory dough with a 4 ingredient moon dough recipe.

When we were finished playing, I poured all of the moon dough into a storage bad and saved it to make a new play activity.  We’ll be using it again, soon!

Have you made moon dough? How about candy cane scented moon dough? 

Looking for more fun candy cane scented sensory play? 

More Christmas sensory ideas

You’ll find more Christmas sensory activities here, but be sure to try some of these sensory dough materials this holiday season.

Christmas modified paper

Christmas Modified Paper Pack

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

Outdoor Sensory Diet Activities for Playing in the Woods

Kids just don’t get much time to play outdoors anymore. We talked about the impact that reduced outdoor play has to do with sensory processing needs in kids in our recent Outdoor Sensory Diet Activities post. We chatted about the benefits of outdoor play in a typically developing child as well as those with sensory processing needs. This post covers the benefits of playing in the woods or a wooded area of a backyard or park. This might be a great recommendation for families who are going camping this summer and need some sensory strategies. Playing in the woods offers so many opportunities for sensory input, movement, gross and fine motor work. Not only that, but playing in the woods is a calming and organizing way to play! 


These activities can be used as part of a sensory diet of specific activities and sensory tools designed to meet specific needs of an individual. 


This will help when explaining about what a sensory diet is and what a sensory diet looks like for kids with sensory needs. 


These ideas would be a great addition to all of our summer occupational therapy activities here on The OT Toolbox! 

Occupational therapists can use these sensory diet activities for wooded areas to recommend sensory diet activities for outdoors or as part of a home program for children with sensory processing needs or SPD.

Disclaimer: When therapists develop a specific and highly individualized sensory diet, it’s not just throwing together a day filled with sensory input. A sensory diet  is a specific set of sensory tools used to meet and address certain needs of the individual based on sensory need and strategizing. Each of the sensory diet activities above should meet specific needs of the child. Every child is different so applying sensory input to one child may look very different than that of another. Parents should use the tactics below along with your child’s occupational therapist.

Wooded Area Sensory Diet

Fallen tree balance beam
Jump in leaves
Climb small trees
Look Up scavenger hunt
Bird watch
Touch tree trunks
Natrue collection
Picnic in the woods
Magnifying glass to find bugs
Lift rocks and inspect what’s underneith
Hike
Climb rocky areas
Play in streams
Climb steap hills
Ride bikes on a trail
Bug hunt
Collect sticks
Build a fort
Climb trees
Scent scavenger hunt
Carry a backpack full of supplies


Accommodations for addressing sensory needs in a wooded area

For kids with sensory needs, the sensations of the outdoors and a wooded area can be too much for the child to tolerate. Try these accommodations for addressing sensory needs in backyard play:

Calming snacks for a picnic
Drink water from a sports bottle with a straw
Wear sunglasses
Wear a brimmed hat
Wear high top shoes or shoes that provide proprioceptive input
Wear shoes that the child is able to tolerate
Compression clothing
Wear a lightweight wind jacket
Be cognizant of the scent of bug spray
Recognize early signs of sensory overload and head back to the house or car before a meltdown occurs (Leave on a happy note)


How to incorporate sensory play into playing outside

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.

Here’s a little more information about the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Great tool for parents, teachers, AND therapists!


Be sure to grab the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and use them with a child (or adult) with sensory processing needs!

Outdoor sensory diet activity cards for parents, teachers, and therapists of children with sensory processing needs.

More about outdoor 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.
Occupational therapists can use these sensory diet activities for wooded areas to recommend sensory diet activities for outdoors or as part of a home program for children with sensory processing needs or SPD.

Sensory Diet Activities at the Beach

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. 


Kids with sensory processing challenges or SPD can use these sensory diet activities at the beach, perfect for Occupational Therapists to recommend as a home program for beach play or for families travelling to the beach for vacation.


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
Chase waves
Look for seashells
Rinse and clean seashells



Kids with sensory processing challenges or SPD can use these sensory diet activities at the beach, perfect for Occupational Therapists to recommend as a home program for beach play or for families travelling to the beach for vacation.


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 sunglasses
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.

Here’s a little more information about the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Great tool for parents, teachers, AND therapists!


Be sure to grab the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and use them with a child (or adult) with sensory processing needs!

Outdoor sensory diet activity cards for parents, teachers, and therapists of children with sensory processing needs.

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.

Kids with sensory processing challenges or SPD can use these sensory diet activities at the beach, perfect for Occupational Therapists to recommend as a home program for beach play or for families travelling to the beach for vacation.

December Sensory Processing Activities

These December Sensory Processing Activities are designed to provide sensory opportunities, Christmas themed sensory prompts, accommodations to holiday activities, and sensory challenges with a Christmas and winter theme.  For more Christmas themed developmental activities for Occupational Therapists, parents, and teachers, grab try this free Christmas Occupational Therapy activities printable calendar.



December Sensory Processing Activities

December is a time of holiday fun,
hustle, and bustle.  Families have added
activities, winter parties, and distant family to visit.  This time of year brings with it unusual holiday
songs and bells, lights, different foods to smell and taste, and crowded
stores.  For the child with sensory processing concerns, it can be a very difficult time.  



The holiday rush brings with it, added and unusual sounds, sights, smells, visitors, scratchy holiday sweaters, and schedule changes. The holiday season can be downright debilitating for the child with sensory challenges. 

The time leading up to Christmas
can be a month-long time of sensory overload for children with sensory
issues.  It can be confusing for sensory
systems!  The overwhelming feelings of
sensory uncertainty can add a whole new meaning to holiday stress.  This time of year, when even the most intentional
parents and teachers can still cause over-stimulation or under-stimulation to
the child who is already struggling with sensory issues. 

There can be a need for additional calming
sensory input or changes to sensory diet, additional modifications, and added
sensory down-time.  



When it comes to preparing for the holidays and all the adjustments it brings, a plan can help. An understanding of the sensory system and how the senses are processed can help parents, teachers, and caregivers to cope with the added sensory stress for children with sensory issues.


Having a kit of ideas and coping strategies can be a helpful tool to prepare the child with sensory processing difficulties for the holiday season. 


A list of sensory activities that can be added to the day…WITH a holiday theme can make all the difference in creating a holiday that the whole family will remember, all while keeping the sensory systems in mind. 


Below, you’ll see a packet of sensory activities that has been on this site for a little over two years. This packet of Christmas Sensory Activities are bound to help families of those with sensory processing challenges to thrive this holiday season. 


There are coping strategies for dealing with all of the added and new sensory input. 


There are activity challenges that hit on the big sensory systems, allowing for calming or stimulating sensory input with a Christmas theme. 


There are Christmas and holiday themed activities that can be incorporated into an established or new sensory diet, making a valuable tool for the child who is overwhelmed or underwhelmed by all that the holidays bring.


Read more about what’s included in the Christmas Sensory Processing Activity Packet…





Included in the Christmas Sensory Processing Activity Packet:



  • Each of the sensory systems are addressed in the 31 sensory activities.



  • There is a detailed description of the sensory system and sensory processing included in this packet.



  • Information is included on sensory diets and how they are needed during the holiday season. Sensory activities with a holiday theme can be added to sensory diets depending on individual sensory needs. 

  • Sensory challenges and modifications that can be added into daily routines this time of year.



  • A comprehensive list of sensory coping strategies is included for handling holiday stress and over- or under-responsiveness related to holiday travel, holiday visitors, and changes in routines over the Christmas season.

ON SALE for 25% OFF NOVEMBER 24-27, 2017! Just click the link to access the reduced price of $3.75!


Add these activities to your
therapy plans this month.  The activity list
is perfect for passing on to parents as a home program.  Parents and teachers can use these activities
as part of an individualized plan that meets the child’s needs. 

The activities are
outlined in an easy to follow therapy plan, however as parents and therapists
know, a day that involves children does not always go as planned.  The activities can be shifted around to suit
the needs of the child and the family.  



Does this sound like a resource that might help your client, child, or student? If the holidays make you want to curl up in a blanket because of the added stress and sensory challenges, this might just be the tool for you and your family! 

December Sensory Processing Activities for kids with sensory needs at Christmas time
ON SALE for 25% OFF NOVEMBER 24-27, 2017! Just click the link to access the reduced price of $3.75!

Play Dough Scented with Body Wash

Oh, how we love play dough!  This month on the 12 months of Sensory Dough series is scented dough.  I can’t wait to see what the other bloggers joining us have to share for scented sensory dough you can make at home.  The olfactory sense is a very powerful one.  Scents can be calming or alerting to children (and adults!) and can evoke memories.  Scented sensory play and activities are beneficial to children who are over-responsive or under-responsive to the sense of smell.  
 
We created our scented dough with an item that it seems we always have around the house.   Body wash smells amazing, comes in so many scents, and it seems to multiply in the cupboard.  
 
(OK, not really, but we do seem to have a TON of body wash.  All the time.)
 


Make Play Dough scented with Body Wash

Did you know you can make your own homemade scented play dough using body wash?  This stuff smells amazing and is so easy to make!

This post contains affiliate links.  

body wash play dough recipe

We’ve got a ton of body wash collecting dust in our cupboard.  They come in as gifts, samples, collected from hotel stays…and they are definitely used…but today, we made dough!  This dough can use any scent of body wash, although different brands may change the dough’s consistency.  We trialed two recipes with this dough and came up with a soft, moldable, scented dough that we loved!


For our dough, we used Bath and Body Works Velvet Sugar
and Bath & Body Works Beautiful Day
(which has a great apple-y scent).

Shower gel scented play dough made with flour and baby powder. A fun sensory play experience!
 
This dough is very easy to make.  The green dough used the Bath & Body Works Beautiful Day and baby powder and became a soft, moldable dough that was very soft to the touch.  The pink dough used Bath and Body Works Velvet Sugar and flour.  It was a firmer dough and not as soft to mold.
 

Body Wash Sensory Play Dough Recipe

To make the dough, add 1 TBSP body wash to 1/2 cup baby powder (or flour).  Mix together by hand to make a crumbly mixture.  Add 2 TBSP water and continue mixing.  The baby power will be difficult to mix with a utensil and mixing by hand is easier.  Add a few drops of food coloring and continue mixing.  The flour dough needed more kneading.  

Time to play!  The body wash gives these doughs a great scent.  Many dough recipes that have salt lose the scent.  This recipe seems to hold it’s scent for a while after playing.  



The pink dough (made with flour) was much more resistive and a greater workout for the hand muscles compared to the green (baby powder) dough.  If you’re looking for hand strengthening, the pink really worked those intrinsic muscles!

 

Pretend Play with Play Dough

Use your scented dough to make cookies with a great scent.  We made pink and green cookies.

 
**Always supervise your child when playing with scented doughs.  This dough should not be ingested and the scent may encourage any child to taste. 
 
Calming Lavender Scented Sensory Dough | Raising Lifelong Learners
Lemonade Playdough | Preschool Inspirations
Ice Cream Play Dough Invitation | Study at Home Mama
Epsom Salt Rose Dough Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tail
Green Tea Scented Play Dough Still Playing School
Looking for more scented sensory dough ideas? 
 
 

Almond Scented Salt Dough Recipe

We love a fun salt dough recipe.  From orange zest salt dough to gingerbread salt dough…these are a fun way to play and create.  This time we wanted to try another scent in the salt dough arena  (okay, we actually experimented with TWO scents this time…)  and tried an Almond Scented Salt Dough AND a Peppermint Scented Salt Dough.  Christmas is the perfect time of year for salt dough.  This dough is great for molding and cutting ornaments from.  And the memories that you’ll have each year as you decorate the tree are well worth the salty hands and sticky counter tops you get from making these doughs!
 


 
Almond scented salt dough recipe for Christmas ornaments.  These smell fantastic!
 

 

 


Almond Scented Salt Dough Recipe

 
This post contains affiliate links.  Read our full disclosure here.
 
It’s important to note that all doughs come together differently.  Different flour, slightly different measuring techniques, different kneading skills…all make a difference when it comes to mixing together doughs.  This recipe came together as described.  You may find slightly different results, but play around with your dough.  If it seems too sticky, knead it and add a bit more flour.  If it seems too dry, knead and add a small amount of water.  Always add additions in very small incriments and knead before adding more flour or more water.  Whatever your result, it will be a fun sensory experience with the kids!

 

Almond scented salt dough recipe
 

 

 
To make this almond salt dough, we started with our standard salt dough recipe.  Once the dough was mixed together, we poured in a shake or two of almond extract.  (Like those exact measurements?)  It was probably about a teaspoon of almond extract, but you can add what seems good.  You will need to add a bit of flour after adding the liquid almond extract, to take the stickiness away when kneading.  Be sure to flour the counter top surface before kneading in the extract and keep kneading until the dough becomes smooth.  Warning:  this dough smells AMAZING.  Like almond cookies that you will want to eat.  Refrain yourself and just enjoy the almond scent. 

 

 

 
 

Next, we molded circles of salt dough with our hands and flattened them down a bit.  We pressed the almonds
into the dough in designs or just strait into the dough.  You certainly don’t need the almonds in these ornaments, but it was fun for us to add them in.

At this point, you’ll want to poke holes in your ornaments.  I used a chopstick to do this.  Bake the dough at 200 degrees F for about 20 minutes.  Then, turn off the oven and let the ornaments sit in the warm oven.  When it’s time to make dinner, or you need the oven for something else, pull them out and let them sit overnight.  It may take an extra day to completely dry, depending on how thick your ornaments are.

At this point, I sprayed our ornaments with glitter spray.  This glitter spray is permanent, so be sure to spray on a napkin or other surface.  I wanted to use the glitter paint to seal in the almond and keep the skins from flaking off.  So far, it’s holding up well on our tree.  We’ll see how they stand the test of attic storage by next Christmas.
 
 

 

 
Add a bit of string to hang your ornaments (We used embroidery thread provided to us by www.craftprojectideas.com).  
 
This was such a fun ornament to make that we had to try a different version with the same dough and a different scent that we had in our pantry.

 


Peppermint Scented Salt Dough Recipe

Peppermint scented salt dough recipe for Christmas ornaments
 

 

 
We made this dough with the same technique as above, only instead of adding the almond extract to our standard salt dough recipe, we added peppermint extract.  This dough smelled equally amazing and was such a fun sensory play material to just manipulate and explore.  Its a great activity for the Christmas season!
 



Of course we had to experiment with peppermint candies in our dough.  We used a sugar free version because that’s all we had in our house at the time, so I’m not sure how the regular peppermint candies would work in this ornament.  We did cook ours in the oven for about 20 minutes like we did in the recipe above, and it turned out melting the candy just slightly to keep it attached to the ornament.

 

Looking for more scented salt dough? More scented salt doughs you may like:



 

 

Christmas modified paper for holiday handwriting for kids

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Coupon code is HOLIDAY25

Use the Christmas modified paper handwriting pack to work on handwriting, letter size, letter formation, and legibility with meaningful and motivating activities:

  • Letters to Santa
  • Wish List
  • Holiday To-Do List
  • Shopping List
  • Thank You Notes
  • Recipe Sharing
  • Winter Writing Prompts

Click here to get your packet.

Orange Zest Salt Dough Recipe

We love a fun play dough recipe!  From glow in the dark dough to crayon dough, we’ve done a lot of dough experiments.  This time, we whipped up a salt dough recipe with an added ingredient…orange zest!

This recipe is perfect for ornaments for the holidays, or just a fun sensory experience for playing with.  The kids loved zesting their oranges (and then eating the insides) and have actually been asking to zest an orange each day since!




This post contains affiliate links.


To make orange zest salt dough, you’ll need a few ingredients:

flour
salt
water
orange

We started with our standard salt dough recipe and added 1/2 cup of orange zest.

The kids seriously zested oranges for close to an hour.  Our salt dough had more than a little pulp added in, but that’s ok.  We used a box cheese grater and that worked great for the kids.  Keep a close eye on children if they are zesting oranges.  It’s easy to scrape knuckles, but with supervision, this is a fine activity for children (my five year old and 7 year old did this part…I helped the 3 year old with hand over hand assistance).



Our kitchen smelled amazing.


Mix the zest into the salt dough and knead, knead, knead.  This is the important part and if your dough seems to sticky, keep kneading.  You can add a bit more flour, too.

Awesome!  Once the zest was fully kneaded into the salt dough, the scent was less strong.

We started playing!  Flatten out the dough, roll, cut with cookie cutters.  I LOVE using my mini mason jars as a cookie cutter or ornament cutter.  It’s the perfect size.



We did need a little bit of flour added to the surface of our cutting board while we played with the dough.  Dab the salt dough onto the flour and cut with a cookie cutter or mason jar.



We made starts and will use them for fun Christmas ornaments.  Kind of like our gingerbread salt dough recipe where we made gingerbread men for a fun garland.



If you make your dough into an ornament, bake on a cookie sheet for 3 hours at 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  Be sure to poke a hole in the dough before baking.  We used a chop stick.

This post is part of the 12 months of sensory dough series

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