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Warm Weather Sensory Activities

Sandbox in the Dotson Back 40 at the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota in Mankato

Sensory play is beneficial to children all year, and in the cold months of winter, making messes indoors feels worth it on some of the longer days. But summer provides the perfect opportunity to engage in sensory play with children, because you can take the messes outside! Sensory play not only captivates their imagination but also promotes their cognitive, physical, and emotional development. By stimulating their senses through various activities, you can create memorable experiences and foster their growth. 

So let’s explore exciting sensory play ideas for summer and delve into how each activity contributes to their development.

  1. Water Play:
    Water play is a classic sensory activity that offers endless possibilities. Fill a small inflatable pool or a basin with water and provide cups, buckets, and watering cans for pouring and splashing fun. Add floating toys or freeze colored ice cubes to introduce additional sensory elements. Water play enhances fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and cognitive development as children explore cause and effect by manipulating the water flow.
  2. Sand Exploration:
    Heading to the beach or setting up a sandbox in the backyard can provide hours of sensory delight for preschoolers. Encourage them to dig, build sandcastles, and bury toys. Introduce different textures like wet and dry sand or mix in kinetic sand for added sensory stimulation. Sand play enhances tactile perception, motor skills, creativity, and social interaction as children collaborate in their sandcastle creations.
  3. Nature Scavenger Hunt:
    Take advantage of the natural wonders of summer by organizing a nature scavenger hunt. Create a list of items for children to find, such as leaves, flowers, rocks, or seashells. Allow them to explore their surroundings, engage their senses, and encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills. This activity promotes observation skills, cognitive development, and a deeper appreciation for the natural world.
  4. Ice Cube Painting:
    Cool down on a hot summer day with ice cube painting. Fill ice cube trays with water and add a few drops of food coloring to each cube. Once frozen, provide large sheets of paper and encourage preteens to glide the colorful ice cubes across the paper, creating beautiful watercolor effects. This activity enhances fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and allows for creative expression.
  5. Outdoor Sensory Obstacle Course:
    Challenge your children with an outdoor sensory obstacle course. Set up stations with various sensory challenges, such as walking on a balance beam, crawling through a tunnel, or blindfolded treasure hunts. Incorporate different textures, sounds, and smells to engage all the senses. This activity promotes physical coordination, problem-solving, and sensory integration.
  6. Fruit and Herb Tasting for All Ages:
    Engage the sense of taste by organizing a fruit and herb tasting experience. Gather a variety of seasonal fruits and herbs and encourage children of all ages to explore different flavors and textures. Discuss the unique characteristics of each item and encourage descriptive language. This activity enhances sensory discrimination, vocabulary development, and can promote healthy eating habits.

Sensory play in the summer not only offers entertainment but also supports the holistic development of children across various age groups. By engaging their senses through water play, sand exploration, nature hunts, ice cube painting, obstacle courses, and taste experiments, you provide opportunities for cognitive, physical, and emotional growth. 

As you embark on these sensory adventures, remember to observe your child’s interests and abilities and adapt the activities accordingly. Embrace the joy of sensory play this summer and watch your children thrive as they explore, learn, and create lasting memories.

And of course, you’re always welcome to join us at the Museum to engage in different types of sensory play! Our permanent exhibits offer a wide variety, and our program coordinators set up different engaging activities daily. See you soon! 

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