Sensory Diets in Outdoor Play Environments

Sensory Diets in Outdoor Play Environments

The following article has been reposted with permission from LAND Connections, O’Dell Engineering’s monthly e-newsletter authored by Chad Kennedy, ASLA.

During a recent trip to the sunny beaches of San Diego, California I watched my three children closely as they interacted with the salty ocean water and the silky smooth sand. I am constantly amazed at the differences between each of them and their distinct individual actions at the beach were no surprise. The oldest, methodically traveled the beach, fascinated with the textures and colors of the many seashells and with the spongy qualities of the sand as evidenced in the depth of her footprints. The middle child was timid and tiptoed across the sand trying, futile as it was, to avoid as much skin to sand contact as possible. The youngest ran across the sand to the water’s edge jumping, tripping, rolling and splashing without reservation and continued with messy, wet play for hours. At the core of these different approaches to the beach (play environment) lays the concept of acceptable sensory stimulation limits. Each child had separate and distinct sensory stimulation needs and they each found their own way of meeting them. The middle child was self-regulating his sensory stimulation by minimizing the sensations of sand pressing against his skin. The youngest however was experiencing the other side of the spectrum as his sensory needs at the time were oriented around more extremes with fast movements, cold water and compression sensations. Occupational therapists are keenly aware of sensory needs and often use the term “sensory diet” to … Read full article


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