Outdoor Sensory Activities: Visual Sensory Processing

Getting kids outside is more important in recent months and years than ever before. That’s why I’ve put together a series of blog posts on outdoor sensory activities for visual processing and visual motor strategies to incorporate in outdoor sensory play. You may have seen our Backyard Summer Sensory series that covers all things outdoor sensory activities. You can see the other posts in the series, including backyard oral sensory activitiesoutdoor sensory activities for tactile sense, outdoor proprioception activities, backyard auditory processing activities, and outdoor oral motor sensory activities (yep, that’s possible to address in outdoor play!)

All of these outdoor sensory diet strategies are powerful ways to help kids thrive.

Visual sensory processing may be over-responsive or under-responsive. We explain how these areas appear as a result of sensory challenges in our blog post with a visual graphic sensory processing disorder chart.

Outdoor Sensory Activities for Visual Processing

Today, I’m sharing visual sensory activities that can be done right in the backyard. The visual sensory system is so closely related to the auditory and vestibular systems and is essential for function and independence in skills like reading, writing, and motor planning, balance, eye-hand coordination, among many other areas.  The visual sensory system is responsible for visual acuity, oculomotor control of the eyes, and processing of what our eyes take in.  When one or more of these areas are a problem, functional skills are affected.

We’ve been sharing creative and easy sensory-based activities that can be done right in the backyard.  This is perfect for summer (and the series was intended as a backyard summer series!) but each post in the series can totally be adapted for year-round sensory ideas for backyard play.  

Visual sensory processing activities that can be done in the backyard this summer

Backyard SENSORY ACTIVITIES for Visual Processing:

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

  • Grass hide scanning- Use grass clippings to fill a large plastic bin.  Tuck small items, coins, or small parts into the bin.  Ask kids to scan the area and locate items with just their eyes.  Kids can try to remember the order that they found the items in a visual memory game.
  • Backyard Toy Memory Game-  Continue to work on visual memory and scanning visual perceptual skills by spreading out small toys into a plot of backyard.  Ask your child to look at the toys and try to remember all of the items.  Cover the toys with a blanket and then remove one or two items.  Remove the blanket and ask your child to recall the missing item.
  • Cloud Scan-  Lay on the ground with your child as you look up at the clouds on a clear but cloudy day.  Watch clouds as they move across the sky.  Ask your child to see images in the clouds shapes.  Ask them to rotate on the ground so that their head is now where their feet just were.  Ask them if they still see the same shape or if it is a new shape. Discovering an outline of a shape in a form uses a visual perceptual skill known as form perception and works along with visual closure and form constancy to allow us to determine that shapes, letters and numbers are the same no matter what their direction.
  • Figure Ground Hunt- Use rocks and letters to practice visual perception with a sensory bin like we did in this activity.
  • Catch a ball.  Try catching while standing, sitting, swinging, rolling a ball, catching between legs, etc.
  • Hit a tennis racket at a target.  Ideas include bubbles, falling leaves, large balls, small rubber balls, and balloons. 
  • Scavenger hunts-try doing these while crawling.
  • Catching butterflies in a net.  Try catching fire flies, too.
  • Visual scanning between targets.
  • Bubble pop- Try popping bubbles with a toe, knee, foot, head, finger, or elbow.
Visual sensory processing activities that can be done in the backyard this summer

  Looking for more backyard sensory ideas for summer?  

The Summer Sensory Activity Guide is the place to find everything you need for a summer of sensory input.  Use the sensory activities described in the booklet as a guide to meet the individual needs of your child.  The activities are not a substitute for therapy.  Rather, they are sensory-based summer activities that are designed to address each sensory system through summer play.  Activities are described to involve the whole family.  Check out the Summer Sensory Activity Guide today!

The guide is included in our Summer OT Bundle: 

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

outdoor sensory activities for visual processing

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