Monthly Movement Activities

October movement activities for preschool and toddler development.

Looking for ways to keep the kids moving and active? Maybe you need some indoor play ideas. Perhaps you are looking for movement activities for children when getting out of the house just isn’t possible. Kids just aren’t moving like they used to. Need a few ways to add movement activities into each and every day? Adding extra movement breaks or brain breaks into the classroom or just daily play can be a helpful tool for improving the underlying skills kids need for strengthening or just getting the sensory input they crave and need to develop. Sometimes, it’s as simple as coming up with creative movement ideas. Other times, kids play the same favorite gross motor games over and over again. These monthly sensory movement activities provide the sensory input and gross motor movement that kids need! 

Monthly movement activities for kids
Use these sensory movement ideas for kids to add movement and play into activities for kids all year long! They are perfect for play and occupational therapy activities.

Monthly Movement Activities

Add a few of the occupational therapy activities in this post into your therapy line-up. Having a few monthly themed activities for therapy can make the routines less boring and a great way to throw a wrench at the burnout machine.

Use the lists below to inspire therapy plans for the month or weeks ahead. Simply add the theme into your occupational therapy activities for the week. Then, use specific graded activities to meet the needs of each child on your caseload. This strategy can help in planning OT activities in the clinic or school-based interventions. (And, having a theme set up for the week totally helps with carting items from place to place in that trunk of yours, too!)

Monthly Movement Activities for Kids

Kids love a fresh occupational therapy activity, too. Adding a fresh and fun new game or activity can make a rainy indoor day more fun or can bring a little something different to a sunny afternoon outdoors. The best thing about these movement and play ideas is that they provide all of the right kind of sensory movement input that kids need to pay better attention, calm down, or self-regulate. Use these activity ideas as movement activities for preschoolers in planning lessons that meet movement needs. 

The movement activities listed below are play ideas that promote proprioceptive input, vestibular input, gross motor skills, body awareness, fine motor skills, visual motor integration, bilateral coordination, crossing midline, core strengthening, motor planning, and so much more. Best of all, they are FUN! 

Movement activities for Preschoolers

In the preschool setting, there is often an emphasis on writing letters. However, there is a much more important area that needs addressing…movement! Adding movement activities for preschoolers in learning builds the underlying skills that are many times, lacking in preschool-aged kids, and beyond. By adding movement activities to the preschool classroom, kids can learn letters, colors, numbers, and more through movement, and really gain that kinesthetic learning component.

Given that so many kids are spending more time on screens and have less opportunities to play outside, I wanted to provide a big old list of movement pay ideas that can be incorporated into every day of the year! These ideas cover each month and have themes but can be expanded on so that every day of every month is covered. 

occupational therapy games and activity list

Therapists will love to use these movement activities as home programs or as part of therapy interventions. Adding themed activities is a fun way to work on specific skills or goals using occupational therapy games with this activity list.

Teachers could sneak some of these movement ideas into the school day as brain breaks, indoor recess activities, or movement breaks to improve attention. 

The list below separates each month into themed sets of activities that can be used in handwriting, gross motor games, fine motor activities, sensory movement activities, movement breaks, and more.

Parents will love adding these activities into everyday of the year to get the kid active and moving both indoors and outdoors! 

A Year of Sensory Play
This year of movement activity list is part of our A Year of Sensory Play packet. It’s a printable packet of TONS of themed activities that will last the whole year long. Each activity is designed to promote movement and sensory processing through sensory challenges and play activities. There are 67 pages in the Year of Sensory Play Packet  and the activities cover every season. The packet also includes 12 months of sensory planning sheets, and the monthly movement activities listed below. There are also monthly sensory bin filler ideas so that every month of the year is covered when it comes to gross motor and fine motor sensory play. 


The Year of Sensory Play packet is a resource for planning out and actually USING the sensory ideas that provide sensory input kids need to develop the skills they require for attention, focus, regulation, handwriting, learning, managing clothing fasteners, and overall functioning as a thriving kiddo! 


Now onto the sensory play ideas! 


Monthly Sensory Movement Activities

The ideas listed below are movement-based activities. Each sensory activity doubles as a gross motor or fine motor movement activity that builds on sensory based activities. These are fun ways to get the kids learning through play and are activities for toddlers to gain skills like balance, eye-hand coordination, fine motor development, and core strength. 

When intending to improve various skills in preschool-aged kids, use these sensory movement activities for preschoolers, as well.

Try incorporating these ideas into each month for a year of movement and fun!

January Movement Activity Ideas

January movement activities for preschoolers, toddlers, and sensory learning.
Jumping Jacks
Indoor Yoga
“Snowman Says”
Indoor Tag
Build a couch fort
Hide and Seek
Burpees
Push-Ups
Brain Break YouTube Videos
Build with blocks
Indoor parade
Packing peanuts
Blanket tug-of-war
Bean bag toss
Hop on paper snowflakes


February Movement Activity Ideas

February movement activities for preschoolers, toddlers, and sensory play.
Heart hopscotch
Obstacle course
Masking tape maze
Paper plate ice skating
Slide on cardboard on carpet
Indoor snowball fight (paper)
Draw on windows-dry erase marker
Scrub floors with soapy water
Build with cardboard boxes
Gross motor Uno
Bedsheet parachute play
Crawl through tunnels
Movement scavenger hunt
Marching games
Wash walls


March Movement Activity Ideas

March movement activities for learning, play, brain breaks, and sensory learning.
Indoor trampoline

“Leprechaun Says”
Therapy ball
Sit and spin
Charades
Tumbling
Dance party
Balloon ball toss

Shamrock balance beam
Hoola hoop
Dribble a basketball
Plastic Easter egg race on spoons
Animal walks
Roll down hills
Easter egg hunt

April Movement Activity Ideas

April movement activities for occupational therapy games and activities.
Playground tour
Jump in puddles
Bear walks
Dig in dirt
Plant flowers
Sidewalk chalk race
Trace shadows with chalk
Bounce ball on wall
Flutter like a butterfly
Grow like a flower
Pick flowers
Fill a recycle bin
Wheelbarrow walks
Crawl like a bug
Draw big flowers with both hands

 

May Movement Activity Ideas

May movement activities for kids.
Leaf balance beam
Hula hoop race
Beach ball toss
Ride bikes
Mother May I
Use a bike pump
Outdoor yoga
Swim relay
Bouncing ball tic tac toe
Lawn games
Jungle gym
Hike
Outdoor picnic
Bounce a ball on a line
Collect sticks





June Movement Activity Ideas

June movement activities for occupational therapy activity planning.
Swimming
Craw walks
Log balance beam
“King of the Mountain”
Kick a ball course
Throw paper airplanes
Hammer golf tees into ground
Climb trees
Play catch
TV Tag
Limbo
Ride scooters
Collect nature
Walk a dog
Toy scavenger hunt



July Movement Activity Ideas

July movement activities for preschoolers and toddlers learning and play.
Fly like a bee
Jump waves
Creep like a caterpillar
Catch fireflies
Jump rope balance beam
Leap frog
Waterguns
Freeze tag
Shadow puppets
Put up a tent
Water balloon race
Pull a wagon
Pillow fight
Cartwheels
Blow bubbles




August Movement Activities Ideas

August movement activities for kids
Slither like a snake
Hop like a frog
August Sensory Bin
Catch bugs
Gallop like a horse
Sort seeds
Small toys frozen in ice
Finger paints
Hang clothes on a clothes line
Hunt for sounds
Walk with a ball between legs
Hit a kickball with tennis racket
Run through sprinkler
Pick fruit or berries
Water table play



September Movement Activity Ideas

September movement activities for occupational therapy games.
Write on sandpaper
Pool noodle balance beam
Balance board
Hop on leaves
Scurry like a squirrel
Fall hike
Bob for apples
Roll like a pumpkin
Fall leaf hunt
Collect acorns
Family walk
Bike parade
Wash the car
Donkey kicks
Waddle like a duck





October Movement Activity Ideas

October movement activities for preschool and toddler development.
Spin like a spider
Carve a pumpkin
Stretch spider web netting
Punch holes in leaves
Cut leaves
Football toss
Farmer in the Dell
Jump in pillows
Paper football
“Scarecrow Says”
Autumn art projects with leaves
Wash apples
Chair push-ups
Make applesauce





November Movement Activity Ideas

November movement activities for brain breaks, and classroom movement and learning.
Jump in leaves
Rake leaves
Catch falling leaves
Waddle like a turkey
“Turkey Pokey”
Thread beads on feathers
Flashlight Tag
Thanksgiving Charades
Crumble and stomp on leaves
Trace leaves
Turkey hunt
Roll a pumpkin
Run in place
Cut feathers
Blow a feather with a straw





 December Movement Activity Ideas

December movement activities for preschoolers, toddler learning, and occupational therapy activity planning.
Christmas themed yoga
Wrap presents
“Santa Says”
Prance like a reindeer
Shovel relay race 
Decorate a tree
Roll and knead dough
Pull a sled
Crunchy walk on ice or snow
Holiday themed charades
Holiday march
Jingle Bell Catch
Relay with gift bow on a spoon
Stocking guessing game
Push boxes


Looking for more ideas to add movement throughout the day? Check out The Sensory Lifestyle handbook to add sensory input throughout daily activities to create a lifestyle of sensory success! 

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.
 
Use these monthly movement activities to encourage sensory input or gross motor play all year long.






Outdoor Sensory Swing

outdoor sensory swing

Taking sensory diet activities and other sensory play activities into the outdoors is as easy as walking outside! There are so many opportunities for outdoor sensory experiences using the world around us. Add a few key components like water, chalk, playground equipment, toys, and tools and you’ve got a sensory gym right in your backyard. While we’ve shared a lot of outdoor sensory diet activities here on The OT Toolbox, there are so many sensory experiences that are just plain fun right outside. Using outdoor sensory activities in occupational therapy is a great strategy to support sensory and emotional regulation needs.  

Today, we’re talking about taking the sensory processing experiences up a notch using an outdoor sensory swing!   We were lucky to try out the (Amazon affiliate link) Harkla Sensory Pod Swing, and it has been a huge hit with my own children. The Occupational Therapist in me can’t help but see how awesome this sensory swing is for addressing sensory needs right in the home…and in the backyard!

 
 
Use an outdoor sensory swing for the ultimate sensory experience for kids with sensory processing needs, self-regulation challenges, attention, and more.

Add an Outdoor Sensory Swing to your Child’s Sensory Diet

Sensory diets play a huge part in the lives of so many children. Kids with sensory processing needs, attention issues, self-regulation challenges, and other areas. Read more about the goals of a sensory diet looks like in kids and how a tool like a sensory swing can play a part in addressing sensory needs.
 
In fact, there is much research on outdoor sensory play.

The fact is, research shows us that some of the developmental and primary tasks that children must achieve can be effectively improved through outdoor play. These include: exploring, risk-taking, fine and gross motor development, absorption of basic knowledge, social skills, self-confidence, attention, language skills, among others.   

So knowing the benefits of being outdoors when it comes to addressing sensory needs, taking the sensory tools used in a sensory diet outdoors can be the obvious next step.   

Use an outdoor sensory swing like the Harkla pod swing for calming sensory input when outside.

Why take a sensory swing outdoors? 

The outdoors offers so much to our senses naturally. Sights, sounds, tactile experiences, and even air pressure can have a bountiful sensory impact!    A bright day can be alerting to the child who struggles with alertness. A warm and sunny day can have a calming effect.  

A slight breeze can offer a brush with the nerve endings on the skin, alerting the child. It can be a calming change from indoor air.   The feel of grass on a child’s toes can bring awareness and body perception.   

Background noises can be an opportunity to develop auditory processing skills. In fact, there are many ways to address auditory processing needs through backyard auditory processing activities.   

Ambulating to a sensory swing area is an opportunity to address balance and stability in a natural and functional environment.   

Swinging provides an opportunity for improved body awareness as a child learns how their body moves and responds to movement. Taking an indoor sensory swing into the outdoors provides a change in routine that can “wake up” the child’s awareness about certain movements.   

The outdoors offers a vast tactile play box! From the feel of a tree’s bark to pebbles and stones, playing outside combined with needed sensory input a sensory swing offers can promote skills like fine motor strength, precision and graded grasp, separation of the sides of the hand, bilateral coordination, crossing midline, balance, endurance, core stability and strength, and so many other skill areas!   

Use this outdoor sensory swing for outdoor calming sensory input in kids with sensory processing needs.

Outdoor Sensory Swing 

When we received our Harkla pod sensory swing, the kids were eager to put it up in our home. After some time waiting for this to actually happen, because as we adults know, making changes to the home can sometimes take longer than expected, we finally decided to try it out in the outdoors.   

We took the sensory pod swing and the attachment components to a large tree in our backyard. After a quick installment, it was clear that the outdoor sensory swing was a success.   

Use a sensory swing outside as part of a sensory diet for calming sensory input.

  What a calming experience this was!    For the mom of four kids, it can be overwhelming during summer days when the kids are free from routine. All four of the kids swung in the Harkla sensory pod swing and were noticeably more calm and relaxed.   

The enclosed pod provides a calming nook where kids can relax or calm down.    For the child with sensory needs who thrives after use of a sensory swing in therapy, taking the sensory swing outdoors can be a beneficial and therapeutic experience.   

I love that the swing can be used indoors or outdoors. Simple attachment mechanisms make this swing easy to install. The adjustable strap allow the swing to be attached at a preferred height for safety.   

Use a sensory swing to help kids calm down and organize sensory input for improved self-regulation with an outdoor sensory swing.

  Since using the pod swing outdoors, we’ve used the swing several times outside on our big, shady tree. My older kids use the pod swing as a cozy reading nook. What a way to work on that summer reading list!   I did bring the swing in after we used it, just so it wouldn’t get soaked in the next summer rainstorm. Putting it back up was easy, using the installment belt and clip.   

For those without a tree branch that would hold kids, a regular swing set can be an optimal placement for the sensory swing. Simply pull the regular swings to the side or remove the chains and attach the sensory pod using the belt and clip.  

The price on the sensory pod swing is great for those looking for a sensory swing that can fit within a budget.    As a therapist whose seen many therapy equipment catalogues, this is a great price! There is a coupon on the website for saving 10% on your first purchase, along with free shipping in the US.   We will be using this outdoor sensory pod swing all summer and installing the swing indoors, too. When the swing is not in use, just unclip the belt!  

Click here to purchase the Harkla Sensory Pod Swing.

Click here for more outdoor sensory diet activities and ideas.

Harkla sensory pod swing is great for calming sensory input at home.

  Disclaimer: The information presented here is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat children with sensory needs, or other areas. Using a sensory swing can have a wide variety of responses on children. Also, recognize that every outdoor experience is different for each child as the environment is different in each experience. Consult your child’s occupational therapist for individualized recommendations. The OT Toolbox provides educational information only and is not responsible for any issues. Reading information found on this website acknowledges your consent to this disclaimer.   This post contains affiliate links.    

Outdoor Sensory Diet Activity Cards

Outdoor sensory diet cards

The outdoors are the ultimate sensory experience for kids! It is possible to create the “right kind” of sensory experiences to improve regulation, attention, focus, body awareness, motor development, and sensory processing. Outdoor play provides sensory input in all planes, directions, and with multiple senses.  This printable packet all about taking sensory diet activities into the outdoors. Outdoor sensory diets are the perfect way to add sensory input that kids need!

Outdoor sensory diet cards for families

Outdoor Sensory Diet Activity Cards

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. In fact, 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. The outdoors are a vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile, and overall sensory-enriched goldmine!
 
There’s more: Providing opportunities for sensory diet activities in the outdoors encourages open-ended play, imagination, creativity, body awareness, learning skills, self-confidence, gross and fine motor development, attention, and social-emotional skill development.
 
It can be a real struggle to help kids manage tricky sensory-related challenges.
 
Parents find it  difficult to weed through all of the information and pull out what will work for their child.
 
Teachers may struggle with kids who fall out of their chairs, can’t focus, and feed off other students. They may feel compelled to help these students but lack resources, time, or tactics.
 
Therapists may search for fresh ideas that provide the right kind of sensory input and will be carried over at home and at school, all while fitting into the child’s occupational performance sweet spot.
 
 
 
Do one or more of the categories described above sound familiar?
 
Maybe you are trying sensory strategies, searching for information, and creating sensory diets that just aren’t working. You’re doing all of the right things, but struggle to meet the sensory needs of an individual child.
outdoor sensory diet activity cards
 
That’s where the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and Sensory Challenge Cards come into play.
 
They are a 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!
 
Here’s the thing: Outdoor play is the ideal setting for incorporating the “right kind” of sensory input. A child who uses a therapy band in the classroom receives just one direction of proprioceptive input. Outdoor play provides sensory input in all planes, directions, and with multiple senses. The sensory diet cards in this free printable pack can be used in SO many ways to help individuals with specific sensory needs.


Check out more about outdoor activities…like play…and sensory diets:

There’s more:
  • Outdoor sensory diet activities are easy, fun, and motivating…and they make memories for the whole family while meeting the needs of a child with sensory processing challenges.
  • Outdoor sensory activities can be completed as a group or on an individual basis, and learning can be incorporated right into the tasks.
  • Teachers will find the outdoor recess sensory diet cards appropriate for the right kind of sensory-based brain breaks throughout the day.
  • The great outdoors is the biggest sensory gym you can imagine…and all of the sensory equipment is already there! From tree stumps, to hills, to pebbles, to pavement…outdoor sensory diet strategies can occur with little or no equipment.
  • Parents will love these outdoor sensory strategies that make memories for the whole family.

 

  • The whole family can join in on these sensory brain breaks! They provide the best kind of calming proprioceptive input, alerting movement, and sensory-based play that we ALL need!

 

  • The outdoor sensory diet strategy cards include a section of outdoor recess activities. These are perfect for the parent advocating for more sensory input for their child at school. The school playground is a powerful source of calming and organizing input!

 

  • Therapists will find the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards a valuable tool in creating home programs. Every child needs more of this type of play!
 
  • Sometimes therapists run into issues with sensory diet carryover at home or in the classroom. These are sensory-based activities that kids will love and WANT to do!
 
  • As an added bonus, the Outdoor Recess Sensory Diet Cards included in this free packet can be used at any neighborhood playground, making a quick stop at a park a motivating means of incorporating much-needed sensory exercise.
 
  • The Sensory Diet Challenge Cards incorporate all of the senses and are a quick checklist of activities that can be used for easy sensory activities.
 
Be sure to grab the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and use them with a child (or adult) with sensory processing needs!
 

 

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.

Recess Sensory Diet Activities

Here, we’ll discuss how to make a recess sensory diet for school. 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…there is just less time for kids to get outside and PLAY! 


When it comes to sensory play, using the outdoors in meeting sensory needs and through sensory challenges is perfect for those looking for easy and fun ways to meet sensory needs in kids!

 

 

Use these outdoor recess sensory diet activities for kids who need sensory input throughout the school day or crave sensory activities. The sensory diet activities can be used in various settings in the school environment, providing sensory challenges and activities that occupational therapists might recommend.

 

Recess Sensory Diet



For the child in school, it’s known that recess time helps with attention, sensory needs, motor development, learning skills, language, executive functioning, and so much more. In fact, research about outdoor play tells us a lot about development in kids! 


The activities below are just some ways to encourage sensory input through outdoor recess. The fact is that plain old outdoor play will expand a child’s developmental needs and provide the kind of sensory input that kids need to learn and grow. 


But sometimes, a child who has a need for a specific sensory diet will benefit from a prescribed list of sensory diet activities. And using the playground at the school is a great way to do this! 


We’ve talked about sensory integration on the playground before and also sensory diet activities that can be used on a playground or park setting. 


But the sensory diet activities listed below are those that can be combined with other outdoor sensory diet activities and completed on a blacktop surface or a schoolyard setting. 

Outdoor Recess Sensory Diet Activities



These outdoor recess sensory diet activities can be used at a recess setting or within a sensory diet that allows for an outdoor movement break. 


Using the natural setting of the playground is perfect for allowing a student to use the setting within the school to get the sensory input he or she needs. 

The Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards are activities that can be done with little or no special equipment, making carryover easier.


The outdoor sensory diet activities below are GAMES and PLAY that kids naturally love! That means other students can participate in activities that come natural to recess time…while providing the much needed sensory diet activity that is necessary for meeting sensory needs of specific students. 


These activities are part of our Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards packet. It’s a resource that uses natural and therapeutic play activities that can be done in the great outdoors. 


The Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards packet includes sensory diet cards that meet a variety of needs and can be used for any child, based on specific needs. Therapists will love the variety of cards that can work for any child and can be adjusted to meet specific needs of clients. 


Part of the packet is outdoor recess sensory diet activities that come in card form for easy scheduling and recommendation of activities.


This is a free resource. Just click on the link below, enter your email, and access the file that is delivered to your inbox. 


If you use these sensory diet cards, share it with others! Share the link so others can grab it too. Be sure to catch a pic of your use of the cards and tag @theottoolbox on social media! 

Outdoor Recess Sensory Diet Activities

Teach the child to ask if they can push another child on the swing
Utilize playground equipment 
Walk or run on the perimeter of the playground area.
Bounce balls
Kickball
Stress ball in hand during playground play
Chewing tool for sensory overload
Running games
“I Spy” scavenger hunts for colors or shapes
Keychain fidget tool
Obstacle courses
Tug of war activities
Carry equipment bins onto playground area and back in after recess
Organize one-on-one play with a buddy


The Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards printable packet includes A TON more ideas for outdoor sensory diet activities and outdoor recess sensory diet activities. 


In fact, 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.

 

 



Get the Outdoor Sensory Diet Activity Cards HERE.

Use these outdoor recess sensory diet activities for kids who need sensory input throughout the school day or crave sensory activities. The sensory diet activities can be used in various settings in the school environment, providing sensory challenges and activities that occupational therapists might recommend.

 

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.
 
 
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.
 

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.

Pre-Writing Activity Leaf Theme

Handwriting and the visual motor skills needed for writing letters and numbers happens long before a child writes the alphabet.  There is a developmental progression of skills that a child must master before they are able to write A-Z. Pre-writing skills and pre-writing lines are just one of the skills that occur before a child writes or copies letters. The prewriting activity below is just one way to help children work on and develop the skills they need to accurately write letters on their own.

Pre-writing activity for helping kids develop the skills needed for pre-writing lines and handwriting using fall leaves

Pre-Writing Lines Activity 

Working on the skills needed to write letters and numbers involve the development of pencil control, visual motor skills, and visual perception.  You can read more about the developmental progression of pre-writing lines as well as a free printable that lists out pre-writing lines as they typically develop here on The OT Toolbox. 
This post on our Facebook page shows development of pre-writing lines and shapes by age
The pre-writing lines activity described below is just one way to help kids develop these skills, while working on abilities such as crossing midline and fine motor skills needed for handwriting.

Pre-Writing Activity Leaf Theme

You’ll need just a few items for this pre-writing activity:
Affiliate links are included in this post.
Leaves (Try to find smaller sized leaves to boost fine motor skills. We used leaves that had already changed colors on our burning bush.)
Permanent marker

Pre-writing activity for helping kids develop the skills needed for pre-writing lines and handwriting using fall leaves

To do this activity, simply draw one pre-writing line or shape on each piece of paper.

Use a glue stick to trace lines and work on pre-writing skills with this pre-writing lines activity for kids.

Pre-writing activity for helping kids develop the skills needed for pre-writing lines and handwriting using fall leaves

Then, ask your child or student to trace over the line with a glue stick.  A purple colored glue stick helps kids to see where they have traced the line. Be careful to provided assistance with this part of the activity if needed. The glue stick uses very little resistance when swiped on the paper. Kids can easily draw the glue line off of the stimulus line.

Then, kids can place leaves right on the glue line and sharpie line.  Ask them to gently press the leaf down, using finger isolation and separation of the two sides of the hand.

Pre-writing activity for helping kids develop the skills needed for pre-writing lines and handwriting using fall leaves

Leaf Theme Fine Motor Activity

This is a great activity to incorporate fine motor skills. Show your child or student how to pick leaves from a branch.  This allows children to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of their hand while working on bilateral coordination, graded grasp, pincer grasp, and an open thumb web space.
Don’t have small leaves in your area? No problem! Use paper cut outs by punching leaf shaped paper using this leaf hole punch. Allow the kids to punch the holes to boost hand strength.

This leaf themed activity goes along perfectly with the popular children’s book, Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert. Read the book and work on pre-writing lines with this leaf themed pre-writing activity!
Red Leaf Yellow Leaf is this week’s book in the Virtual Book Club for Kids series.  Check out the ideas below to find leaf themed movement, play, development, and learning ideas:

Use these fall leaves activities to help kids learn and develop skills like fine motor skills, gross motor skills, scissor skills, handwriting, and more using leaves.

Spell Your Name With Leaves   Clare’s Little Tots
Leaf Measurement and Sorting Activity  Inspiration Laboratories
Fall Sensory Bin  The Moments at Home
Foil Leaf Preschool Art  Preschool Powol Packets
Handprint Art Messy Little Monster
Nature Color Hunt  My Bored Toddler
Salt Painting – Artsy Momma
Leaf Printing   CrArty Kids
Fall Color Leaf Viewer  JDaniel4’s Mom
Lines and Watercolor Fall Leaves  Views From a Step Stool
Fall Leaf Color Stomp  Toddler Approved
Fall Leaf Shape Match  Teach Beside Me

Pre-writing activity for helping kids develop the skills needed for pre-writing lines and handwriting using fall leaves
Here are more LEAF ACTIVITIES that you will love:

Motor Planning Activities with Sidewalk Chalk

Motor planning is a skill that is needed for every action that we do!  The motor planning activities in this post are designed to promote motor movement development into play, using sidewalk chalk. These are the perfect activity for outdoor play with a sensory component.  Find more information about motor planning and how to incorporate motor development into play by checking out the tab above under occupational therapy.

Work on motor planning activities when outdoors using sidewalk chalk to address gross motor needs, core strengthening, and praxis.



What does motor planning look like? 

Let’s first talk about what you might see in the child with motor planning difficulties:
The child that moves as if they can’t figure out where to put their arms and legs.


The child who is frustrated with movements.


The child who bumps into other students in the classroom or in crowded hallways.


The child who falls or stumbles way too often for their age.


The child who can’t figure out how to perform tasks if they are holding an object.


The child who avoids sports because they can’t move fast enough to catch a ball or perform several tasks at once (catch, run, throw).


What is motor planning?” is a common question.  Motor planning involves problem solving, planning, and action related to movement.  This is a HUGE collection of skills and results in hugely different outward appearances in kids.  One child who struggles with motor planning can present totally different than another.


Motor Planning Activities with Chalk

These activities use sidewalk chalk to address motor planning and movement. Work on these activities on a small scale or a big scale.  That’s the benefit of using chalk- You can draw a small hopscotch board on a sidewalk step and use your fingers to “hop” through the course.  OR, you can create a gigantic hopscotch board in an empty parking lot and leap from square to square!

All of the activities listed below can be modified in size.  Think outside of the box of chalk so to speak!

Even drawing and creating the activities below involve motor planning.  In fact, motor planning is a huge part of handwriting.  Read more about motor planning and handwriting to see what I mean. 


Sidewalk Chalk Motor Planning Ideas

  • Hopscotch
  • 4 square
  • Balance Beam – Draw a line that involves lots of turns and bends!
  • Draw to the beat of music
  • Draw a game board – Think Monopoly, Candyland, Sorry, or Chutes and Ladders.
  • Draw a bowling alley
  • Draw a baseball field
  • Draw a ping pong table
  • Draw a bullseye – Throw pebbles or bean bags at the target
  • Draw a big road – Run or ride bikes/scooters on the road.
  • Draw a railroad track
  • Make a sidewalk maze
  • Obstacle courses- Use symbols to indicate “stop”, “jump”, and “turn around”, and arrows for directions.
Try using chalk to make a balance beam while working on motor planning skills. 

Work on motor planning activities when outdoors using sidewalk chalk to address gross motor needs, core strengthening, and praxis.