Sensory stimulation – whether a soft, quiet corner with music or a playful sword fight in the mud – can have a positive impact on ADHD. Exercise can also improve focus, boost self-confidence and self-esteem, reduce stress and anxiety and encourage children to get away from computers and smartphones.
However, during these unprecedented times, the physical activities from various environments children are used to doing – such as swimming, team games, playing with friends – have been cut down drastically in order to stay safe.
Now with restrictions easing, you and your children can have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors again. The ideas below cover outdoor activities you can do in your garden, local walk and at the park.
Eye-hand and eye-foot coordination activities are a great way to engage and play with your child in the garden (or in the park). Grab a football, tennis ball, frisbee or whatever you have to hand and play! You can also try and get creative and include spot markers for bases.
You could introduce your child to gardening – you can show them lots of sensory activities such as raking the dirt, moving twigs, picking up leaves, pulling weeds and exploring the plants and flowers in the garden. Your child could also start planting seeds and watering them – they will feel a huge sense of accomplishment once they see their seeds start to grow!
Relax in a hammock
If your child needs some calming down, chilling out on a hammock is a great option. Swinging is also an excellent sensory input and fun for all ages. You will need two trees to stabilise the hammock or you can purchase a swing chair.
Sandpits provide huge benefits for younger children – they’re great for sensory input, provide stimulating creative play and encourage children to use their strength to dig, scoop and sift through the sand. Children can have endless fun in the sand!
Slip-slides are fun for children of all ages and are a great way for the whole family to join in. All you need is a large plastic groundsheet and a hose or watering can – add fairy liquid for an extra slide and you’re good to go!
Retreat in the garden
If your child is overwhelmed and needs some space, make a retreat in the garden like a tent when your child experiences these feelings. They have the security of still being close to their family whilst having their own space to calm down and relax.
A local walk
Older children love learning to map read and gain a great sense of achievement from directing a group using a map. With the help of a map-reading adult, your child can search for exciting discoveries in your locality. You could even try geocaching – a treasure hunt for the digital generation. Find out more about geocaching from the National Trust here.
Your child can connect with the natural world, with the added bonus of developing more of a desire to protect the environment. Begin with garden bird watching, identifying ducks, flowers, trees, animals, shells. Encourage your child to also record sightings and include keepsakes like feathers, shells or pressed flowers.
Vary your walking locations
If your child enjoys walking, you can keep things interesting by continually changing the locations and sights of your walks. Take new routes to discover historic buildings and architecture, beautiful scenery, green surroundings – you and your child can be creative with this! Discussing the various sights on your walk with your child will keep them engaged and their imagination buzzing.
At the park
Explore green space
The whole family can take a day out in the park to explore the green space – come rain or shine. Whilst out in the park, point out to your children the colours, plants, animals, sights, sounds and smells. Children can continue their experience at home – they can talk, write or draw about their time out with the whole family and the exciting discoveries they’ve made.
Aerobic exercise is one of the best ways to relieve any nervous tension. Any fun exercise that gets the heart pumping will do the trick! You can go running, cycling or take an exercise routine you usually in your home outdoors instead.
Get stuck in the dirt!
Playing in the mud, trees and stream are all great sensory input activities. Let them get stuck in the dirt and carry out their own muddy adventure! Try not to worry about how dirty they’ll get – clothes can be washed and so can the kids!
Scavenger hunts are a brilliant outdoors distraction for children. You can create scavenger hunts anywhere – at a park, nearby beach, on a walk or even in the garden at night. You can find scavenger hunt ideas and printable lists here.
Barefoot walking is a great stimulus exercise for children. If possible, encourage your children to take their shoes off in the park and let them feel the grass in their toes.
Make a den
Making a den is a stimulating exercise that will allow your child to use their imagination to create their own elaborate den. There are numerous benefits to this – this will help their physical development, learn how to work as a team by communicating and will help them grow in self-confidence.
If you would like more inspiration, watch our ‘Building a sensory home during lockdown’ webinar delivered by Charlotte O’Reilly. Her talk provides resources to better understand sensory processing and tools to help you build a sensory home. Charlotte’s advice can also be applied to outdoor activities you can do with your children.