Monday, August 8, 2011

A Summer Sensory Diet: Animal Adventures for Sensory Summer Fun

Today,we spotlight a childhood favorite to enjoy at the playground for some Vestibular, Proprioception, Oral-Motor, Motor Planning, Gross Motor and Speech Fun:

Animal Adventures

As a confirmed Playground Junkie, I am always looking for ways to make the playground an integral part of our son’s sensory diet – new twists on the everyday experience of enjoying all the great stimulation and exercise that is inherently a part of playing at local playgrounds.  Here’s a fun one we like to use.
Simply tuck a book with some animal pictures in it or some animal flashcards into a backpack.

Walk to your nearest playground, swing set or playscape. On the way over, make up a story about whatever type of animal you have pictures of at the zoo, in the jungle, lost in your neighborhood, surviving through different seasons... If possible, have everyone add a bit to the story, making it as adventurous and fantastic as possible.

When you get to the playground, pull out your animal cards and make the story come alive. Have your child pretend to be the different animals facing obstacles by using the playground equipment in unique ways. Be sure to encourage everyone to make animal sounds as they do in order to get those oral-motor skills going!

For example, you might say “Once upon a time, there was a gibbon who swang from a tree...” while you child chooses to “belly swing” for some vestibular stimulation or to hang from high bar for some procprioceptive fun. Then, you might continue, “Oops, he fell down and found himself on the jungle floor, with bushes and branches thick around him. Could he crawl around and find his way to a clearing?” The child, at this point, might choose to crawl through and under different equipment, at which point you might say, “Whoops! He ended up on a muddy hill and began sliding down it!” Then, your child might take the sliding cue to shimmy down a pole, whiz down a slide or bottom-slide along the ground, until you say, “Yikes, he landed in crocodile infested water.” This, in turn, might cause your child to try to find a piece of equipment to get up and balance on. Or, perhaps, it will be time for him to become the crocodile...

Of course, with a great imagination, you don’t need animal pictures to do this activity, but they do help many children formulate ideas about what to do. And, also, can give them the cues they need to help them make suggestions for advancing stories themselves.

Looking Through Your SPD Lenses

Balancing on, and swinging from, different equipment provides vestibular input.

Using muscles to pull, climb, hang, etc. provides proprioceptive challenge.
Making animal sounds like hissing, monkey calls and crocodile snap jaws give oral-motor stimuli. And, of course, the more exaggerated and silly the sounds – and the more animals imitated – the better!

Figuring out, and following through on, how to travel over, under and through different equipment requires motor planning.

Adding to the story encourages speech.


(1) Name a location. Have child tell you what each piece of equipment could be at that location. Then, pick an animal and have fun exploring the playground-cum-location.

(2) If you’ve got several in the crowd, secretly show each child a different animal picture and then announce to all what the playground is – a jungle, a seaside, a zoo, etc. On “go”, have each child make the scene come alive, using their own animal’s calls as they pretend each piece of equipment is a different object in the imaginary location. A swing becomes a vine. A platform becomes a boat. A jungle gym becomes a cage...

(3) Pick one animal and a single piece of equipment. Try to imagine how many ways the animal might use the equipment – as a feeding trough, a scratching post, a nesting area, a climbing obstacle... Keep going until no one has a suggestion to enact. Then, try a different piece of equipment.

(4) Be different sized animals trying to use the same piece of equipment. How would a chipmunk stretch to get on the piece? How would it travel across it? How about an rhinoceros trying to balance on it? A cheetah leaping on and off it? A group of ants sliding down it?  Encourage lots of stretching, contracting and pretending with this idea.

(5) Be the animals trying to make it across quicksand pit. Use playground equipment, large rocks, etc. to try to get across the entire playground without touching the sinking sand. (Older children especially like the challenge of trying to do this – stretching, jumping, arm-swinging, etc. to get from one object to the next without touching the ground.)

Whatever you do, simply wear your SPD lenses, get out and have fun. Sensory fun, a good dose of Vitamin D, await you.

I’d love to hear about your playground adventures.  Is there something unique you do?  Do you weave extra challenge or sensory stimulation into your outdoor adventures?  Please share in the comments below or blog about it and leave the link.

Also, be sure to stop by soon for our final part of this Summer Sensory Diet Series where we will be stepping back inside, and also, check out any of the past parts of the series you may have missed:


Related Posts with Thumbnails