|Warming Up Your Sensory Play This Winter
Deanna Macioce, MS, OTR/L
The holidays are winding down, which means all of the excitement and chaos are coming to a close. Although that can be a very comforting thought, it also means that now the winter months have fully arrived. Winter is a difficult time of year to keep any child entertained, but it provides a different challenge for those of us who have or work with children with sensory processing or therapeutic concerns. In the past we have looked at various indoor and outdoor activities to do during these months, but this month we are going to take the time to expand upon those outdoor ideas, as well as look at them with refined eye.
For those of us who reside in areas that are fortunate to experience the joys of snow, there are many things you can do outside. Playing in the snow can provide tactile, proprioceptive, and vestibular input as well as increasing body awareness, bilateral coordination and strength. From forming snow balls, to building a snowman, to even writing letters in the snow, winter provides many great experiences for our sensory kiddos.
Sled riding is a tried and true winter activity that provides proprioceptive and vestibular input. Not only does the rush of heading down a large hill provide the movement that many of our children seek out, but the climbing back up the hill is great for proprioception. If your child chooses to keep things a bit more level, attach a rope to the front of the sled and pull them around the yard at different speeds to provide the movement component. Increase the activity by switching roles and having the child pull or push you or a peer. Spice up the creativity to your sledding activities by setting up a theme. For example, have children pretend they are a train or train conductor pushing the sled to make various stops for people or cargo, and what better cargo than snowballs!
Snowball forming is a great bilateral hand activity that can also address hand strengthening and provide proprioceptive input when packing the snow. Once the snowballs are formed use them for target practice to improve hand-eye coordination. This is a great way to break up the monotony of your typical therapeutic ball activities.
And increase your snowball forming by building a snowman. Remember, Frosty can come in any size. Building a snowman is great for increasing strength and endurance, as well as providing proprioceptive input. It also encourages bilateral coordination, and even some core stability when attempting to build a life size one.
Bilateral coordination, body awareness, and tactile skills can all be addressed while decorating the lawn with snow angels. This a great activity to use with those children who are trying to learn how to perform jumping jacks.
Bring out the artistic side of a child while working on hand strengthening and motor planning skills by using spray bottles filled with colored water to decorate the snow. And since we are always looking for fun new ways to address handwriting, the snow provides a great medium for letter and design formation.
Although it takes a lot of extra effort to make many of these activities happen, it is important that we allow our children to experience the joys of winter while being therapeutic. It is a great time of year to give into our inner child and re-live our own childhood. So, button up your overcoat and have some winter fun! Don't forget to enjoy a nice warm cup of hot cocoa when you are all done!