It’s natural to associate outdoor sensory play with the younger ones, but don’t forget, your older primary school kids also need time to explore the outdoors. So this holiday, get them involved in these outdoor play ideas to stimulate their senses and minds! Getting them outside is a great way to expand their horizons, even if they’ve reached the 1st grade age.
What is outdoor sensory play?
Sensory activities are designed to engage all or a combination of our five senses: taste, touch, olfactory, sight and sound. These activities are designed to train awareness and balance amongst children.
With more senses engaged by the activity, more parts of the brain are engaged to process their thoughts and emotions. By getting them involved in sensory activities, your child gains a sense of awareness of their surroundings, finding themselves keen to explore new and unfamiliar environments!
This highly-hands on sport has been increasing in popularity, but did you know that rock climbing itself engages our senses, namely touch and sight? Rock climbing is also an excellent way to develop your child’s cognitive and motor skills (such as movement and balance).
For example, there are numerous rock climbing routes, with some more challenging than others. Your child would have to assess the placement of the rocks to craft a path that seems the easiest – stimulating their problem-solving skills. Using their bare hands also engages their tactile senses, teaching them how to move and balance as they grip firmly and climb to the top.
Grow your own herb patch
If your child is more of a gentle grower rather than a sporty explorer, growing a herb patch could be what sparks their interest. Whether it is an outdoor garden or the balcony of your apartment, herbs can grow easily anywhere.
Encourage your child to tend to the garden as they explore the different scents, textures and tastes between various herbs. This activity also teaches resilience as they explore gardening methods and tools to care for their herbs. In addition, when they see their herbs used in your daily cooking, it is sure to give them a sense of achievement!
Friendly taste test while blindfolded
After your herbs and other vegetables have grown, a taste test is always fun to have. However, for this sensory activity, a twist would be for you to conduct it blindfold. For this, slowly guide your children into the garden and have them pluck a handful of herbs, perform a quick rinse and ask your child to bite into them.
When we close our eyes, our other senses become sharper to make up for it. By conducting the taste test with a blindfold, you are developing your child’s senses such as taste and touch.
And if your child is finding some difficulty identifying the herb or fruit, drop them a clue by asking them to retrace their steps – where did they pluck this food from? Tracing back their steps also trains spatial awareness.
For those itching to get out for an adventure, organise a scavenger hunt to keep them occupied. Scavenger hunts might seem messy and complicated, but it is easy to pull off.
First, do some homework on the space you are conducting the hunt. For example, you could use your backyard or garden spaces around Singapore. Next, develop a scavenger hunt sheet with activities that involve most of the senses. For example, sight, touch, and smell are commonly used senses for this activity. An example of such an activity would be to ask them to find items that feel gritty or rough.
Such activities allow them to interact with their environment and strengthen their understanding of the natural world. However, do make sure to reiterate the various park rules to your children, especially if you intend to use nature parks as hunt sites. These include not plucking flowers and leaving things as how they were found.
Who says storytelling can only happen indoors and at bedtime? Take storytelling outside – doubling them up as an interactive lesson time!
For instance, craft a plot based on what you and your child encounter outdoors, perhaps a scene at a playground or in a neighbourhood park. While you are telling the story, your children could find themselves experiencing the same emotions as the characters, whether it’s experiencing the sweltering sun or the comfort of sitting a grass patch.
Another interactive idea would be to pause during the story and ask your child to guess what could happen next or mimic the character’s action in the story! They can explore the different movements as they imagine themselves transported into the story world.
As your child enrols in a primary school in Singapore, it can be natural to place a greater emphasis on homework rather than outdoor play. But, at international schools in Singapore, we say outdoor sensory activities never grow old and provide the perfect opportunity for your kids to learn and have fun simultaneously!
No matter how old your child is, outdoor sensory play can always be scaled up or down to keep them curious and wondering about the world! Use this holiday to get them falling in love with the outdoors again.