Camping and sensory experiences for children

Posted: 20 May, 2016

By: Annabella Sequeira

Section: Education, Parenting

camp

Whilst sitting next to a mud pool on a recent camping trip to the beautiful Magaliesburg mountains, this question came to mind:
What kind of experiences are we giving our children and what kind of experiences are we not giving our children without knowing…unconsciously? In this modern day and age (and I don’t have to mention the factors that influence our daily choice of activities), what kind of sensory experiences are we choosing for ourselves and more importantly, what are we providing for our children in terms of healthy sensory choices?

This particular camping trip literally happened at the last minute. Needless to say, my tactile defensive daughter (who needs to know EVERYTHING about ANYTHING in advance) was “encouraged” to problem solve and play a game of “what if situations” on the way.  So what happened during the trip?

  • The mud pool was eventually (after pacing around it for about two hours) welcomed with laughter, releasing all the feel-good hormones.
  • The sounds of nature further provided the auditory input that we are not used to in the city; I found it fascinating to learn how much of the sounds we could (and could not!) identify!
  • Walking back to our tent in the dark that night, made me so aware of our body’s “GPS system” (also known as the Vestibular system), guiding us to where we are in space.
  • The deep pressure provided by lying close together in a tent, rounded the day off perfectly by not only providing emotional security but also providing the calming effect of deep pressure as interpreted by our proprioceptive system (the body sense)!

If you were to be so very blessed like myself with a child who struggles to deal with different types of sensory input, one may have to pre-empt potential areas of discomfort or melt-downs and planning for it may relieve anxiety (for both parent and child!) and enhance the sensory experiences that you would like to provide. So do take along a torch, familiar bedding, a comfort toy and familiar food in case nothing else is available.

However, from first-hand experience I may hint that a fussy child might just decide that scrambled eggs look very appetizing when eaten at a camping table on a tin plate. Those unexpected cuts and bruises may just be interpreted as being “just part of life” and the wonderful sensation of walking barefoot on grass, sand or a slippery muddy surface far outweighs the benefits of wearing shoes!

Togetherness, the sharing of a common experience and having memories to talk about in days to come make all these sensory experiences so worthwhile!  Happy camping, sensory smart parents!!