Most of my early years with Sophia I spent avoiding public places because my goal was to avoid too much sensory input. Over time I learned that I needed to do just the opposite. I needed to help her engage in these senses. The key was to take enough time to do it. If I needed to go to the store I doubled my estimate for how long it would take if I brought her along.
As we walked through the store, I would stop to open up the lid on a shampoo bottle and have her smell it. I would over emphasis my reaction to the ones I liked and the ones I didn’t like. The soap aisle became a favorite for her and she would grab each bar to smell. If there was one she liked, I would buy it and let her use in the tub.
The produce section is another fun place to explore texture. One time I grabbed a basket and asked her to help me only put red things in it. She would point and I would place the item in our basket. You can also explore the concept of “cold” by venturing over to the frozen food aisle. Let them hold a bag of frozen corn and react to it. As you move to the bakery, you can put talk about the smell of what is baking. If there are samples available, show them how to taste it and see if they will try.
There are so many games and activities that you can do in your everyday events that will help them learn, but you need to slow down, take lots of time and play with them.
And before you get in the car to go to the store, decide on your goal. Is it a quick trip for groceries or a field trip for your child? If it is a quick trip for groceries, you might as well find a sitter for your child and go solo. If you have the time to make it a learning experience for your child, then don’t hurry. Take time to stop and smell the soap!
For other sensory outings, see my post on a Sensory Walk
PS – After you are done with your sensory outing, make sure to shut down other input for a while. Be prepared to head straight home after the store, no quick stops to grab your dry cleaning, keep the music in the car off and limit your conversation with them. Let them have some quiet down time when you get home. If you don’t you have really just teed them up for a major meltdown!