14 Summertime Sensory Friendly Ideas for Children on the Spectrum

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Many children with autism have sensory sensitivities. With the extreme heat, summertime can often be a challenge for parents. You want to include sensory experiences in your daily routine but need to keep sensitivities to temperature and heat in mind. The following are some fun sensory experiences you can enjoy in the summertime.


    Bubbles – Blowing bubbles is a great sensory experience. It helps build oral skills and you can add to the experience by including color or scents to your bubbles. There are some colored bubble mixtures on the market or you can make your own. Momtastic has a recipe for colored bubbles using everyday kitchen ingredients.  The same is true for scented bubbles. JellyBelly has scented bubbles you can buy or GoodIdeasforYou.com has a recipe for lavender scented bubbles and GoGrowGo.com has a DIY recipe for vanilla scented bubbles.

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    Head to the movies – Some movie theaters around the country are now offering sensory friendly movies, with dimmed lights and the volume turned down. Check out your local theaters to see if they offer this. If not, look for movies early in the day, which tend to be less crowded and less expensive. AMC Theaters offers one sensory friendly film a month at some of their theaters. If your theater doesn’t offer sensory friendly films, talk to the manager about adding one and let him know you will help spread the word.


    Sensory friendly sprinklers – Some sprinklers are too harsh for children with sensitivities. Look for sprinklers that have lighter sprays but still offer your children an opportunity to get wet and stay cool on hot summer days.


    Free concerts – These might be a bit loud and crowded for some children, however, because they are outdoors you can bring a blanket and sit far enough away that the music isn’t overwhelming. Free concerts are great because if your child does become overwhelmed, you can leave anytime and haven’t wasted your money. Check your local newspaper, online or at the local library for a list of free concerts in your area. Some localities have special concerts or performances geared toward children once a month.


    Visit the library – Libraries often have different children’s activities going on all summer long and many are now offering certain programs for special needs children. Check to see what types of programs are offered at your library.


    Water parks – Water parks are a great way to have fun and stay cool but on hot days the crowds might be too much for your child to manage. Talk to the park ahead of time and ask what days and times are less crowded. A few water parks are now offering “special needs” times, such as Sam’s Oasis in New Jersey and Rancho Sahuarita in Arizona. Check with the water parks in your area to see if there are certain times they cater to special needs children.


    Explore a different playground – You might visit the same playground each day or week with your child. Try venturing out to different playgrounds. Because each one might be set up differently, they offer practice with different motor skills and sensory experiences. It also helps build social skills by introducing different children to your child’s day. You might want to check out several playgrounds first, without your child, and look for times of day when there are a few children without it being overwhelming.


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    Build a sandcastle in your backyard - Use a child’s wading pool and fill it with sand. Your child can add the water and build a sandcastle. Be sure to poke small holes in the bottom of the pool so the water can drain out without all the sand disappearing. Cover the sandbox at night so neighborhood cats don’t use it as a litter box.


    Use outdoor furniture to create a backyard obstacle course - Include a kiddie pool as part of the course so your child can stay cool as he goes through the course. You can also put a sprinkler aimed toward chairs and have your child go under the chair for a wet tunnel.


    Paint with ice -Use ice cube trays to freeze tempera paint. Place a craft stick in each paint cube – if the craft sticks don’t stand up on their own, use plastic wrap over the tray to hold them up. When the paint cubes are frozen, lay out large sheets of paper and let your child paint with the frozen paint.


    Create sensory experience fruit kabobs - Use your child’s favorite fruits, such as strawberries, pineapple, apple slices or grapes and help your child slide the pieces of fruit on skewers. Keep them in the refrigerator so your child can grab a healthy and cool snack during the day.


    Create personalized glitter water bottles - Save your empty water bottles (large openings are best).  This is a good outdoor activity or you can do it inside on a rainy day. Visit your local craft store for foam letters, glitter, beads, sequins and other small items that add interest and sparkle to your bottles. Have your child put items in the bottle so it is about one-quarter filled. You can have your child add the letters of his or her name, put in letters he is learning or add random letters. Fill the bottles half way with water and fill the remaining half with corn syrup. Your child can shake it up and watch the items fall through the bottle.


    Make frozen lemonade - Use fresh lemons, lemon juice or the powdered lemonade. Fill the blender with ice, sugar (if using lemons or lemon juice) and add water. Blend together to create frozen lemonade. You might have to experiment with the amounts of the ingredients to get the flavor your child likes.


    Remember, any time you are outdoors during the day, use sunscreen and protective clothing, such as a wide brimmed hat. Keep your child well hydrated and stay in the shade as much as possible. Practicing sun safety is important. 

Published On: June 17, 2014