Sensory Play Ideas for Autumn

Sharon Galitzer (Physical Therapist) by Sharon Galitzer (Physical Therapist) Additional Needs

Sharon Galitzer (Physical Therapist)

Sharon Galitzer (Physical Therapist)

I'm a pediatric physical therapist and also the sibling of an adult with special needs.

Sensory Play Ideas for Autumn

There is so much out there to experience this time of the year. Every experience is an opportunity to learn. We have five senses (touch, smell, taste, sight, and sound) and kinesthetics awareness. The fall is a perfect time to enterprise on all of these senses to create learning experiences. The most obvious and in abundance are the leaves.

Leaves - Whether your child is lying, sitting, stomping, throwing, raking, collecting, crushing…..Small movements yield great sensory benefits. The colours, textures, and sounds of leaves rustling around provide immediate visual, auditory and tactile awareness like no other.

Roll around in the leaves-this creates a great environment to explore movement in a safe environment.

Jump on the leaves- a great big pile of leaves is an inviting area to try to attempt a jump even when the execution is scary.

Stomp through the leaves- the soft textures create an uneven surface for all types of little feet to practice balance reactions. Walk, march, crush...whatever fun game you want to create.

Gather the leaves-there are so many fun ways to scoop, gather, mound, rake, and collect all the leaves falling from the trees.

Touch them- regardless of your child’s position, they can sort, count, paint or glue the leaves onto different surfaces. A leaf pool or sensory bag, a pine cone, or a big giant pumpkin are all easy examples of sensory sensations. This is a great way to work on fine motor, midline orientation, hand-eye coordination, and in-hand manipulation.

Walk - Whether your child is ambulatory or requires assistance to move about the community, while you walk, talk about the trees, the leaves, and the weather. What do you think your child will enjoy seeing? Are there any questions that you can ask your child about what you’re seeing or experiencing?

Introduce your child to a mound of fallen leaves and see what they do? How will they explore those leaves? What will they do? This sensory experience will stir up their sensory experience but also complement their motor, coordination, and communication development. As a parent/caretaker or therapist, we’re always looking for a child’s response to their environment because that means they’re taking it in, thinking about it, and the end result is their response. That’s how they learn. They collect all these experiences, memories, and thoughts, and build on them. Nature can be calming or exciting, but regardless it surrounds all of us. There’s no right or wrong way to engage in sensory play. It’s self-directed, it’s inclusive and it’s hands-on. These are learning principles that should be applied to all play.

Dr Sharon Galitzer, PT, DScPT, MS, CIMI

Pediatric Physical Therapist


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