Summer is our favorite season because it signifies freedom. Freedom from the rest of the year’s school schedule. The way I see it, summertime and having freedom is the perfect opportunity to teach kids about making good choices. They can choose to laze around for days on end or they can create their own schedule and pursue hobbies, practice a talent or even (gasp!) review or advance in schoolwork. I know that when I don’t accomplish much all day, when it’s time to go to bed I feel unfulfilled and not good about myself. I want to teach the lesson about making good choices to my children now because it translates into so many every day life situations such as: “Do I consume all the sugary junk my friends do or will I regret it later?” “Should I forget about my homework because playing ball is much more fun?” “The ball rolled into the street, should I just run after it while Mom’s not here to see?” etc etc. I want to train them to make good choices all the time, especially in absence of my presence. This is the key to raising children to well-behaved, responsible adults, in my opinion.
Many children with sensory processing disorder thrive on rigid scheduling. My son MeMe craves the organized feeling that comes with knowing what he’ll be doing when. He craves it so much that now that we’re in the period between camp and school, he took out his notebook in the beginning of the week and wrote up an entire schedule for himself. He has every day of this week between the hours of 9:45 AM and 3:30 PM all planned out and mapped in a chart. I didn’t give him the idea but I sure was glad to see he’ll be keeping himself busy! I had to smile when MeMe said that he expects himself to be dressed, breakfasted, and ready to start his activities at 9:45 sharp. He can be so strict with himself sometimes.
So here are some of the fun summer activities we’ve been doing, overlapping with some of the sensory exercises MeMe needs, oblivious to his knowledge:
1) On the really hot, humid days, we set up our blow up wading pool in the backyard. The pool needs a good half-hour of blowing up- hand-pump and MeMe to the rescue! I can’t think of a more perfect activity for his scrawny arm muscles I’ve been trying to build up forever.
2) Blowing bubbles! And blowing up balloons. Did you know that many sensory kids can’t blow through their mouth for longer than a second or two? This skill is important for oral development. I’ve also been working on this skill with all sorts of toy whistles.
3) Sports galore. In daycamp it seemed to me that MeMe played sports almost all day. They had official leagues and ended the summer with playoff and championship games. I thought he’d be bored to death but he surprised me, telling me numerous times how much he loves soccer, football, basketball, kickball, etc. Sports are a great way to exercise the core body which is weak in many sensory kids, and also terrific for motor skills and coordination.
4) Trips and hikes. Don’t tell MeMe but there was a reason I chose to put our water supply in his backpack. (Don’t worry, I didn’t overload him.) It’s the same reason why I put our library books in his backpack when we go return or take out books. The extra weight is very grounding for sensory kids who can’t quite tell how heavy they are or how far away their feet are from the ground (Proprioception).
5) Of course I can’t leave out swimming. The exercise benefits are obvious (core body and coordination again) and it has the extra advantage of also being a great sensory exercise. Being surrounded in water gives a nice amount of deep pressure which helps a child’s proprioception, or sense of where he is.
Share with us!
Which exercises did your child love this summer and which ones were especially beneficial for him? How does your child fare without being on a strict schedule?