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Summer Activities for Children with Sensory Sensitivities

Parents of children with sensory sensitivities may feel a sense of anxiety in advance of summertime activities. Summer heat, playtime with large groups of kids, and participation in summer camps all pose challenges for the child with sensory processing disorder. In order to help your child enjoy summer break, try the following sensory-friendly activities instead.

Beat the Heat

Kids who are sensory sensitive may not be tolerant to the drastic temperature changes that accompany hot summer temps outside and cold air conditioned air inside. Limit outdoor activities to early morning or late evening to avoid the more intense daytime temperatures. Schedule indoor daytime activities like a trip to the museum, a day at the aquarium, or an arts and crafts project at home. Consider keeping your summer thermostat set a little higher to reduce the temperature variance between outdoors and inside.

Build a Fort

Whether you use linens and furniture indoors or sticks and leaves outside, fort building is a great activity for all children - allowing them to express their creativity and cognitive skills while also moving their bodies. It gives them an opportunity to work on planning skills for the initial fort design as well as problem solving ability to fix it if it falls apart. They also build core and upper extremity strength as they complete the structure and play within it. In addition, small spaces can facilitate a calming or regulating effect for some children.


Swimming is one of the best sensory activities thanks to its even hydrostatic deep pressure. If your child is resistant to the water, consider these swim tips first. Also be mindful of the other sensory sensitivities that may arise around swimming environments. When putting on sunscreen, your child may prefer a light touch or a firmer massage. Consider putting the sunscreen on before arriving at the beach or lake, so that it has time to dry - minimizing the amount of sand or dirt that sticks to the skin. Provide water shoes or socks to protect the bottom of feet from extra-sensory input and burning. For kids who are extra sensitive to smells, try nose plugs to minimize the chlorine smell at some pools or find a local pool that uses saline in lieu of chlorine.

Take Cues From Your Child

While school and family time are vital to a child's upbringing, summer activities are largely individual. If your child is unhappy with a certain summer activity, take the time to discuss his or her feelings. If you can find an environment that works for your child, make changes; but if not, stick with experiences that you know your child finds fulfilling and promotes self-esteem.

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