This sensory activity was a hit! I have taught kindergarten for years, and one thing that I have learned is that they love being outside. They don’t care if it is hot, freezing cold, or even raining, they just love being outside.
I have started to change my activities so that they could be done outside as much as possible. The more that I started going outside, the more that I enjoyed it as well.
As more and more classes and teachers are striving to take learning outside, one comment that someone said to me has stuck with me for years. An educator once said to me that virtually any activity you can do in the classroom, can be done outside. This is so very true.
Once you get in the habit of taking learning outside it becomes very easy to do. There are only a few materials, such as clipboards, that I have found necessary to have on-hand when teaching outside.
I have been teaching a lot of outdoor education and I am always looking for activities and centers that could be incorporated into our learning. I also love to be able to give my students new experiences.
The Sensory Walk
During the fall we have been learning about all of the wonderful things that fall brings, like the leaves turning colour, hayrides and even pumpkins. I created a variety of fall centres for my students to explore during an outdoor period.
We do lots of hands-on exploration and experiments, which my students always love. This time, I wanted them to explore in a different way.
So, instead of exploring with their hands, today they took off their shoes and socks and explored in a whole new way… with their bare feet!
We did our fall centres outside in our beautiful outdoor space and I wanted to add a sensory activity for the kids. I decided that walking, in bare feet, would be a great activity!
I filled 7 buckets with different sensory items from nature. In the buckets, I used, dry corn, sand, crunchy leaves, stones, pine cones, pumpkin mush and wood/bark.
The buckets were each big enough so that 2 little feet could easily fit inside them.
I set the buckets out so that children could step from one bucket to the next. A few children had no interest in taking their shoes or socks off, and they just walked through with their shoes on (except the pumpkin mush!) I always give them the choice so that they are comfortable.
I was, pleasantly, surprised by how many kids tried out our sensory walk with bare feet. By the end of our time outside almost every single child had tried it out.
I think when students saw how much fun their friends were having walking through the bins, they wanted to try it out too.
Since I did this at school, I wanted to make sure that it was, not only a great sensory activity, but to get as much learning out of it as possible.
It was a great chance to encourage children to use words to describe the way the different items felt on their bare feet.
The leaves were described as soft, dry and crunchy. The stones were cold, hard and smooth. Many children did not really like the bin with the pinecones. The were prickly and hard on their feet.
Overall, the most popular bin was the pumpkin bin. Although many thought that it felt gross, slimy and gooey, it was their favourite and something they had never experienced before.
I had so much fun doing this activity with all of the kindergarten classes. Their expressions when stepping into the pumpkin were priceless.
Since students were so excited to do this sensory walk, and many did it again and again, I will be working to do many other similar sensory activities.
It was such a hit at school that I had my kids try it out at home. They are older, but loved it just the same. Again their favourite part was the pumpkin mush. It is a great opportunity for children to explore their world and sense of touch in a new and exciting way.
A Few Tips and Ticks
If you choose to create a sensory walk for your children, I have a few suggestions that I learned while doing it.
If you want to keep it simple, take out the pumpkin mush. Although it was the favourite bin, it was also the messiest. If you do use the bin, make sure to put it at the end of the buckets so that children end with the messy bin.
Therefore they won’t track pumpkin mush through the other bins.
Also, if you use the pumpkin mush, please be careful. It is quite slippery. I was able to set our buckets along a chain link fence so children were able to hold onto the fence on one side, and my hand on the other.
Make sure that children don’t fall while going through their walk.
Also, at the end of the line of buckets, I had some old towels. Children took their shoes and socks off at the end so that when they were done their shoes and socks were already there for them where they finished.
I laid 2 towels out at the end. The first towel got off most of the big stuff that they had walked through off of their feet.
The second towel had a clean bucket of water beside it that kids were able to rinse their feet and then dry them.
I used this sensory activity as a centre during outdoor education so it was available for students to walk through during a 40 minute period. At home with my own kids, they were entertained by it for 10-15 minutes.
More Hands-On Teaching Ideas
If you are looking for more ways to get kids learning outside, below is a list of 63 outdoor learning activities for kids. They are organized by subject to help educators easily find ideas.
There is also a collection of other learning activities for kids, from escape rooms and science experiments to printable choice boards and art activities, there’s lots to keep kids busy and learning.