When I first would take my daughter on walks, I would hurry. I wanted to get it over as soon as possible, before she had a melt down two blocks away and I had to carry her home, kicking and screaming, leaving a bike or wagon to be picked up later. I would often become frustrated with her because she would place her bare feet on top of the wheels of the stroller. She liked the feeling of the wheels on her feet. Then as we walked past our neighbors gravel driveway, she would hold her hand down to drag it in the small stones and often want to stop to collect a handful for the rest of the walk.
The more I observed her and put my frustrations aside, I noticed that she liked many of these textures and found this to be pleasurable in our walks. This was a learning opportunity for her to make connections about the textures and how she felt about them. It also gave us an opportunity to learn new words and practice using adjectives.
Going forward, we went on sensory walks. We could spend twenty minutes and only get six houses away because we stopped to feel everything. Next time you decide to head out for a walk, bring a bag along to collect items from the walk. As you go, stop often to feel what you see. If your child likes the feeling, put that item or a piece of that item in the bag. They can hold the bag as they walk and carry with them in the stroller. Once you are home, use the items in the bag to practice learning adjectives such as rough, smooth, hard, soft, cold, etc.
Here is a list of things you may want to have your sensory child experience from a tactile perspective:
- tree bark
- wheels on the stroller or bike
- exterior walls of the house (brick, wood, aluminum)
- cold flag pole
- large rocks
- fruit on the trees
- berries on bushes
- hot sand
- fur on a dog or cat
- any many, many more
I also gave her a pair of binoculars to take with her to look for things she wanted to touch. All of these activities give the walk purpose and fun without even traveling that far. This can be an easy activity to add into a daily or weekly routine.
To keep the walks creative, try some of these adaptations:
1. Throw things in the wind to see where the go, or rocks in the pond. For example, blades of grass, sand, etc.
2. Decide to explore only things that are “rough” for that walk. Another day, ask them to explore everything that is soft. One day, you may ask them to show you all of their favorite things.
3. On a rainy day, let them wear rubber rain boots and explore the puddles.
4. Talk a relative along, such as a grandparent and let the child show them how to explore.
5. Play games like “I spy…” using the new words they are learning.