Are you planning on going on a vacation and connecting with nature? Here are some suggested sites and important items to remember if you have children with sensory sensitivities.
First, a quick reminder about children with sensory integration issues.
Remember, children with sensory sensitivity issues cannot always adjust their actions to maintain optimal functioning in an uncomfortable environment. They may not be able to make sense of or react appropriately to the incoming sensory data, which is causing their brains to feel overwhelmed.
Sensory Seekers and Sensory Avoiders
This may lead to sensory avoiding and seeking behaviors:
“Sensory Seekers” are children who don't get enough sensory stimulation and are constantly seeking new sensations to reach that "just-right" level of activation. These actions might cause problems since they can't concentrate or pay attention until they're at that just-right point.
"Sensory Avoiders" are those who are sensitive to sensory input and prefer to avoid it because it aids their bodies in deciphering the messages.
That’s why finding a place to visit and preparing the child for what is to come is important to steer clear of any issues that may come up.
Now, Where To Visit?
Look to travel to places that are within a short driving distance or in places that are not too far from home. That will allow you to make a smooth transition into the vacation without any stressful airline experiences or long and difficult car rides that can lead to overwhelm before you even start your vacation.
Some places where you might consider include:
- Visiting a beach
- Going on nature walks
- Visiting parks
- Trekking lakes, rivers, or other natural locations that involve water.
If you are looking for a more adventurous trip, consider camping or hiking. All of these activities will provide plenty of opportunities for proprioceptive and tactile input. Children with sensory sensitivities would enjoy all of these activities because their bodies would be naturally in a state of comfort.
Benefits of Natural Settings
A key benefit of visiting natural environments includes fostering creativity and letting children lead their experiences. They can dig, walk, run, jump, explore, and do whatever they want. They are free to experience life in the way that makes sense for them and there are no rules to follow. This freedom leads to being creative to use their imagination in many ways.
Another key benefit is being confident in themselves since they are the ones dictating the day. They naturally ask questions like, “What would happen if I dig a hole? What happens if I jump in a puddle? What happens if I run fast?” They are constantly learning about themselves in the environment that they are in.
When children run around, they increase the production of endorphins which makes them alive, with great energy. This leads to happy children and a great vacation!
There are other benefits through these activities:
The proprioceptive system is responsible for telling one about his or her position in space. Proprioceptive information is gathered through heavy work that uses one’s joints. Activities such as walking, climbing, and other outdoor activities are great for children with sensory sensitivities. Proprioceptive activities help to organize the body and provide a sense of calm.
When planning your vacation, include some proprioceptive activities that will encourage your child to move their bodies. Nature is a great way to help children with proprioceptive activities since there are many opportunities to walk, climb, and explore without having to plan.
Children will be in a great state and environment when it comes to these natural environments.
The vestibular system is responsible for movement and balance. It is located in the inner ear and is responsible for sending information to the brain about movement and changes in position.
Children with vestibular issues may have difficulty with balance and coordination. They may also get dizzy easily or feel nauseous when they move their heads too fast.
When planning your trip, be sure to include some vestibular activities that will help your child to feel more comfortable. You may consider taking some breaks on your nature hike to avoid overwhelm or be sure to visit a place where there are lots of opportunities for vestibular movement like the beach. This will allow the child to enjoy nature in a way that is not overwhelming.
Some children with sensory sensitivities may be sensitive to certain textures such as sand, clothing with long sleeves, or bug repellent. When planning your trip, consider these tactile sensitivities and plan accordingly. For example, if your child is sensitive to sand, use a blanket or towel to avoid the touch of sand and bring along a small sandbox for them to play in.
If they are sensitive to clothing, pack light clothing that won't irritate their skin. And if they are sensitive to bug repellent, consider using natural repellents or investing in some mosquito netting.
You can also prepare the child while you are at home by preparing tactile activities such as playing with sand, water, or mud. This will help them to get used to the sensation and be more prepared for it when they're on vacation.
The Right Foods
Eating the right foods can make a big difference for children with sensory sensitivities. First, make sure that your child has eaten well before visiting any of these places. Secondly, be sure to pack plenty of healthy snacks and meals that will help to keep your child on track. Preparation is key!
Some good options include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain crackers, yogurt, and of course, bring plenty of water. Avoid sugary drinks and snacks as they can cause a sugar high which can lead to a crash later on.
Pack them in a light cooler to avoid sun exposure and heat.
Widgets and Objects To Calm Down
It is also important to bring objects, toys, or other types of widgets that will allow your child to self-regulate if they become overwhelmed. These objects can provide deep pressure and help to calm and focus the child.
Some good options include a weighted blanket, fidgets, a squishy ball, or even noise-canceling headphones so that children can find their own way to self-regulate in a difficult situation. Bring items that the child is familiar with and feels comfortable using.
Bringing It All Together
A vacation in nature with children who have sensory sensitivities can be a great way to provide them with the proper input they need to stay regulated.
Being outside is a calming and restoring experience, so they will love to be outside!
With a little planning, you can have a great vacation that the whole family will enjoy - even if your children have sensory sensitivities. By considering their needs and including activities that will help to stimulate their proprioceptive, tactile, and vestibular systems, you can ensure that everyone has a great time.
Where will you go next?