How to Find Natural Sensory Experiences Outdoors

Sensory outings don’t have to be elaborate – Mother Nature often supplies the perfect natural sensory experiences.

You just have to get a little creative in how you look at the environment around you.

Be sure to check out our other fun sensory activities for kids!

Natural Sensory Experiences in Mother Nature

Our favorite sensory outing is a rock beach. We live right near Lake Michigan.

In fact, one of our favorite things to do when the weather is nice is walk through our neighborhood’s nature preserve and spend time at the rock beach along the shore.

My boys think of it as a great place to explore and get some quality one on one time with the parents.

Little do they know it’s a smorgasbord of sensory input.

Finding Natural Sensory Experiences in Mother Nature

Let’s talk about the main senses and how we use them at the rock beach to give you some ideas on how you can use Mother Nature in your own sensory outings.

And be sure to download my FREE Nature Scavenger Hunt Printables.

Rock Collecting


Ask your child — Can you find two rocks that look alike?

Can you find two completely different rocks?

Can you describe to me what a wave looks like?

What colors does the water have in it today?

Pick up a rock and ask your child if they can spot another one like it.


Ask your child — What do our footsteps sound like when we walk on the rocks?

Does it sound differently when we walk on the sand?

What do the waves sound like?

Do you hear any animals nearby?

Can you hear the wind today?


Ask your child — What does the air smell like today?

Does it smell like rain is coming? (And what does it mean for the air to smell like rain?) 

What do the plants smell like?


Ask your child — How do the different rocks feel like?

Can you sort the rocks by texture? Smooth, Rough, Sharp, etc.

Do the rocks feel different after they get wet?

Rocks from Rock Beach

Gross Motor

If you think you aren’t going to get in some serious gross motor action at a rock beach, you are sadly mistaken!

Boys were born to throw rocks… and then throw some more rocks… and then throw some more rocks. Whew!

Throwing Rocks at the Beach - Gross Motor

Building Block Activities

Don’t forget about all of the other building block bonus activities the kids get.

From honing their observation skills to working on their descriptive language abilities, kids are getting a full classroom in a fun outing with mom or dad.

Introductory Earth Science

If you want to take it a step further, bring some earth science to the table.

Talk about how the different rocks were formed.

Ask them if they have ideas.

Discuss why some rocks are smooth. Did the water do that over time?

Found Objects on the Rock Beach

We actually found a piece of driftwood.

My youngest son loved throwing it into the surf, only to have it returned minutes later.

It was the perfect excuse to talk about how waves and currents work, moving objects across oceans. We also talked about the tides and how the moon affects low and hide tide.

We also found feathers and talked about what kind of birds might have dropped them.

And, to our delight, we also found a lady bug sunning herself on a rock.

Environmental Awareness

Recycle recycle recycle

We found a discarded Coke can lying on the beach.

My boys have always been hyper aware when someone leaves trash behind.

We discussed why someone would dump a piece of trash… Were they not paying attention and accidentally left it behind?

Did it blow away and wash up on shore?

Or did someone just not clean up after themselves because they don’t understand what it does to our earth?

We also talked about the sea glass we collected. While it’s beautiful, for sure, it’s also a sign that people dumped trash where it got into our water systems and was smoothed by the ocean over many years.

Mother Nature hosts a plethora of natural sensory experiences… you just have to get a little creative in how you look at the environment around you.

What your favorite natural sensory outlet in Mother Nature for the kids?

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    This post is part of the A-Z of Outdoor Activities Series on Crafty Kids at Home!


    1. Great ideas! Fall is the perfect time to head outdoors for some natural sensory experiences. Just today we were outside and we found a whole bunch of acorns. I can’t wait to do some fun craft idea with them on pinterest! My son had a great time finding them and playing with them too.

      1. There’s so much sensory stuff around us… sometimes we just have to look 🙂 All of our acorns, however, have been kidnapped by the local squirrels. We’re going to have to find something else to put in some sensory bins this season.

    2. My son has sensory processing difficulties and we live in a seaside village. As a family we love going to the beach with our dog and as well as doing the activities you have mentioned we also love going rock pooling. It’s amazing the conversations we have about our finds, such as crabs, shrimp, sea enemonies etc. Oh and he also has a shoebox which is filled with his bone collection (all found at the shore)

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