Sensory Play for Children with Cerebral Palsy

The weather in the summer affords a number of great opportunities to get out of the house and play outdoors. With a landscape to play with and much easier cleanup options available, summer is a great time to dive into sensory play!

Sensory play involves activities that engage your child due to the feelings associated. Sensory play can include smells, tastes (be careful what you use!), touch, visuals and sounds. While this may seem self-explanatory, many parents simply think of sensory play as Play-Doh or goo. Instead, it can involve a wealth of other options, all intended to engage your child, regardless of the severity of their Cerebral Palsy

Friendship Circle takes full advantage of the outdoors with their Creative Sensory Idea overview. Some of the options are fantastic and creative but, unfortunately, may involve activity that exceeds the options available for some children with CP. Some of the more expansive crafts that can cater to children of most physical capacities include:

  • Freezing toys in ice, allowing children the option of deconstructing the block to get at the items within. This option is fun because it not only allows for a ‘cool’ way to take advantage of the heat, but also adding time behind the activity. This means kids cannot jump from toy to toy in a matter of minutes but, hopefully, work with each as you go along.
  • Utilizing older cooking tools to make your own ‘Mud Kitchen.’ This not only allows for repurposing of items you have replaced over time, but also helps bridge the gap between an activity your children have regularly seen parents do and their own imagination.
  • Use of painter’s drop cloths to expand projects beyond your kitchen table! With the size and affordability of these canvases, your child can tackle a larger project than normal. Sounds like a lot of fun!

One other idea involving ice for sensory play comes from Achieve Beyond, noting that painting with ice cubes affords a unique opportunity for painting. By filling an ice cube tray or other container with ice and watercolor paint, using cloth or paper as a canvas. What’s more, water on a driveway also affords a unique, temporary drawing space that can involve paintbrushes, sponges, water bottles or any other medium. Special sprinklers also offer a sensory opportunity so be sure to see which ones allow for different pressures, heights, movement and more.

Friendship Circle also has a fantastic recipe for creating your own play dough, which does not necessarily have to be played with outdoors but could make for a ‘create and go’ opportunity for a fun summer day! If you are looking to try their simple recipe for play dough, you’ll need the following:

  • 1 cup water, cold
  • 1 cup table salt
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Food coloring

You can always try two parts corn starch to one part water also. We’ll let you check out their website for the directions but, from the ingredients above, you can see that not a lot of shopping, or money spent, are needed to make something your child can feel ownership over (and pride in having helped create!)

Don’t forget the value of noise and sights! Allowing your child to bang around the kitchen with a ladle and pots and pans can help stimulate the senses while aluminum foil outdoors can allow the sun to do some bright and fun things! Blindfolding your child and letting them put their hands in a bowl full of pudding can be a fun way to activate their senses of touch and taste, just be sure to not let a mess unfold!

For more sensory play ideas for the summer, check out Ability Path. Besides fun ideas like “Spray an outside table with shaving cream and let your child smear it around or fill a bin with rice and dig your fingers in,”they also provide ideas including films, play and, perhaps most important, avoiding over-stimulation during events like the 4th of July.

Finally, be sure to check out our blog throughout the summer for fun craft ideas that include sensory play for children of all ages and ability!