Tips For A Successful Summer

by Anne Trecker, M.S., OTR/L

The warmer weather and slower pace of summertime provide an excellent opportunity for children to get increased sensory input through enjoyable activities. Learning new skills may be easier without the pressures of school. However, for some children with sensory motor problems who thrive on consistency, routines and structure, summer can be disorienting and lacking needed direction. Transitions from school to a summer program or camp may be difficult, and vacations, however enjoyable, can further disrupt a child‘s routine. Below are some suggestions from the OTA-Watertown staff to help children with sensory integration difficulties (and their parents) enjoy the summer months.

Fun Summer Sensory Activities

Ideas About Camp

Inform camp directors and counselors about your child‘s special needs. It is easy for uninformed people to misinterpret sensory defensiveness, gravitational insecurity, and motor planning problems as behavior problems. Explain sensory integration, point out your child‘s underlying difficulties, and discuss strategies that work for your child. OTA-Watertown can provide written material, and/or your child‘s occupational therapist can talk with camp counselors.

Include sensory diet items in your child‘s backpack. (A sensory diet consists of a variety of multi-sensory experiences that help a child to maintain self-regulation. This kind of program is developed by an occupational therapist and is meant to be implemented by parents, teachers, and other individuals working with the child.) Items such as sour candy, gum, objects to squeeze, theraband strips, and putty can easily travel to camp. It is important to explain the sensory diet concept and the use of the objects to camp counselors.

Car, Boat and Plane Trips

For the child who gets motion sickness, provide ginger snaps, candied ginger or ginger capsules, which often help. Acupressure wristbands, available at most drug stores, can aid greatly in motion sickness. Chewing gum, pulling on a piece of theraband, or listening to music or stories through headphones can often alleviate motion sickness and general restlessness. On car trips, make frequent stops that include opportunities for movement. Pushing against a parked car during a quick stop can provide needed heavy work input.


Attempt to establish a routine when away from home. Fairly regular mealtimes and bedtime provide needed energy for the next day‘s activities. Continue sensory diet activities while away. Bring the child‘s favorite, packable toys and comfort items to ease being away from a familiar environment. Educate and remind relatives about sensory integration problems and your child‘s need for a steady, balanced sensory diet and other accommodations that will help the child have a successful summer

Anne Trecker, Occupational Therapy Associates (OTA), Watertown, MA.

[Initially published in New Developments: Volume 4, Number 4 - Summer, 1999]

All material in this web site is given for information purposes only and is not to be substituted for advice from your health care provider.

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