Summer Outdoor Activities
by Carmen Willings
Updated August 4, 2019
As you begin to make your summer plans, you may wonder what summer enrichment activities would be appropriate for the child who is blind or visually impaired. Summer is a perfect time to go on vacations, day trips, or simply explore your local area. With some simple adaptations, children who are blind or visually impaired can participate fully in summer activities that most children enjoy! These are also excellent ways to introduce concepts and encourage hands on exploration.
1. Buy a frozen treat from neighborhood ice cream truck.
Buying a frozen treat from the ice cream truck can be so much fun for kids...and grown ups too! Take advantage of this opportunity to have your child practice making purchases. Encourage your child to identify the coins or bills needed and check the change. Additionally, encourage your child to independently remove the wrappers on frozen treats, resisting the urge to remove it for them.
2. Catch lightning bugs.
Catching lightning bugs can be more challenging for students who are visually impaired. If your child is unable to catch the lightning bugs on their own, catch the bugs for them and let them enjoy watching the bugs light up the jar that has holes punched in the top. Encourage your child to get leaves or blades of grass to put in the jar for the bug.
3. Collect seashells at the beach.
Go for a walk with your child on the beach and encourage them to visually (or tactually as they walk) scan to locate seashells. If your child is not mobile, place a variety of shells within their reach and encourage them to search to locate and obtain them. Once your child has a collection of shells, encourage your child to feel and identify the similarities or differences.
4. Find a train and go on a train ride.
Going on a train ride, particularly on a scenic route is a fun way to travel and help your child gain an understanding of various forms of travel. Many areas offer theme related train rides that can be especially fun for kids!
5. Find constellations on a starry night.
If your child has enough vision, it can be fun to go to the country and look at the stars at night and try to find various constellations. Consider purchasing a constellation book to help you locate different constellations in your area.k here to edit.
6. Go camping.
Weather camping in the backyard, in a tent or in a camper, camping can be a fun experience to get back to nature. Many states offer camps for the blind, both in the summer and in the winter. Of course if you are an outdoor lover, you can set up your own camping trip with your family! If this isn't your area of interest, or perhaps to compliment your own family camping trip, consider signing your child up for a Lions Camp.
7. Make trail mix and go for a hike.
To involve the child in the whole process, begin by visiting the store to gather ingredients to make a home made trail mix. Help your child scoop amounts of each trail mix item into snack bags. Find a trail to go hiking on depending on your child's endurance as well as the simplicity or complexity of the trail.
8. Go geocaching.
For the child who enjoys the idea of treasure hunting, go geocaching. According to the Geocaching website, geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. You can work together as a team to navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at the location!
9. Go on a boat ride.
Whether a sailboat, rowboat, paddle boat, canoe, or motor boat, summer is a great time to help your child understand what makes a boat unique. Provide opportunities for your child to feel and compare the differences in boats. Be sure to provide hands on experience and teach safety with boating.
10. Play ring toss.
This outdoor game can be adapted with glow sticks turned into rings and see who can get closer to the target. Alternatively, a sound source can be placed by the targets, or the targets can be adapted to give them high contrast.
11. Go swimming.
Swimming is not only a fun activity, but learning to swim and be safe in the water is essential for most everyone. Seriously consider arranging for private swimming lessons for your child or teach him or her yourself.
12. Go to a drive in movie…or have your own in the backyard.
Sadly, drive-in movie theaters are harder and harder to find. You can search for drive in theaters near you by visiting driveinmovie.com. There is nothing like watching movies under the stars, and if you aren't able to find a nearby theater, you can create a similar experience in your backyard with a projector and a home-made screen.
13. Go to an outdoor summer concert.
Summer can be a fantastic time to listen to a variety of music that children may not otherwise be exposed to. If your child is sensitive to loud noises, consider providing your child with earplugs to minimize, but not eliminate the sound.
14. Have a picnic in the park.
Picnics are fun on their own or as part of a hike or road trip. When planning a picnic, have your child help prepare the sandwiches and help pack the other picnic foods.
15. Make a water obstacle course.
A water obstacle course can be a fun activity for a really hot summer day! You can creatively include various sprinklers, wading pools, squirt bottles, water guns, hula hoops, and pool noodles to make unique obstacle courses!
16. Mini-road trip.
Summer generally allows you more flexibility in exploring your area and going on small (or big!) road trips! Make the planning of what to visit a family experience. Be sure to include activities from each family members interest. Children need to learn appreciate and be respectful of different preferences. This is also a great time to expose your child to activities that your child may not naturally be inclined to participate in.
17. Pick berries or peaches at a farm.
Depending on the area you live in and what fruits are available during different seasons, the summer can be a great time to have your child experience picking berries or tree grown fruits! Children can visually scan to locate fruits and compare ripe fruits from those that still need time to grow. This is a great hands-on experience!
18. Plant something (a tree, bush, flowers, etc).
Planting something, whether an indoor herb garden or a tree, bush, or flower bed, is an excellent hands on experience that allows the child who is blind or visually impaired with the opportunity to explore and better understand how plants grow. It can also develop into a lifelong hobby or interest for your child! Consider planting a sensory garden in your backyard with various scented plants.
19. Play miniature golf.
Miniature golf is a fun family activity and there is no reason your child who is blind or visually impaired can't join in on the fun! Mark Riccoobono, Executive Director of the National Federation of the Blind, has written a great article on Introducing Your Blind Child to Miniature Golf!
20. Roast marshmallows over a fire and make s’mores.
Although you should take safety precautions, there is no reason why a child who is blind or visually impaired can't enjoy this great outdoor activity! Be sure to orient the child to the area and provide any assistance.
21. Visit a farmers market.
A farmers market can be a wonderful hands on experience for children to touch and sample a variety of vegetables and fruits they may not otherwise have a chance to taste.
22. Go fishing.
Whether it's a fishing pond, stream, lake or ocean, going fishing can be a fun hands on experience for kids. As much as possible, have your child be involved in each step of the fishing experience.
23. Visit a fair or festival.
Visit Fairs and Festivals website to find fairs and festivals near you! There are so many different types of fairs and festivals that there is sure to be one in your area that would interest you. Music, fun foods, rides, and petting zoos are just some of the many activities at fairs and festivals that may interest your child. Encourage your child to make their own purchases and interact with the various activities.
24. Wash the cars and bikes.
Washing the cars, trucks and bikes is a perfect way to have hands on with experience with the different areas of a vehicle and compare the similarities and differences.
25. Watch a parade.
Many towns and cities have parades during the summer. Parades can be fun for students who are blind or visually impaired. Your child may need to be provided with auditory descriptions.
26. Watch fireworks.
Although a fireworks show can be frightening for a child with no vision or is auditorily defensive, it can be a fun and enjoyable activity for many children including those with visual impairments.
27. Go horseback riding.
When provided with assistance, horseback riding is a fun activity for children of all ages. Many areas also offer therapeutic horseback riding, called hippo-therapy. Riding a horse allows the child to feel a normal walking gait, particularly if the child is unable to observe the posture of others.
28. Go for a bike ride on tandem bikes.
Although some students with low vision can still safely ride a bike, it may not be a safe hobby or sporting activity for students who are blind or have limited vision. This doesn't mean that riding a bike can not be accessible. Some parks offer tandem or surrey rentals. If your child loves the experience, you may consider purchasing one of your own!
29. Go to a sporting event.
If your child uses a monocular or binocular, encourage them to bring it along and use it to scan, track and visually spot and identify the scores on the scoreboard. It can also be used to view choices on the menus of the concession stands. For children with limited or no vision, provide audio descriptions of the game and activities.
30. Go for a walk.
Go for a stroll in the park or a walk on a paved trail. Be sure to keep safety in mind. If your child uses a white cane, be sure they bring it along and assist with a guide technique when needed.
31. Play outdoor games (cornhole, jarts, etc.)
Outdoor games can be fun and easily adapted for students who are blind or visually impaired. For students with low vision, adapted the targets to create contrast by selecting materials with high contrast or place contrasting duct tape around the target or on the objects to create more contrast. Sound sources could be used to help the student locate targets.
32. Visit a zoo.
Visiting the zoo can present challenges to students who are blind as they will typically not be able to interact with the animals unless the zoo features a petting zoo. For students who have enough vision or are able to use a monocular or binoculars, the zoo can be a fun place to practice visually scanning to locate animals and tracking their movements!
33. Do a service project.
It can be easy for children to become accustomed to having others do things for them. Help your child learn how great it feels to help others. Through service projects, children can practice problem solving and contributing to the community. There are many ways children can volunteer their time from church projects to local projects. Some possible ideas include: picking up litter at a park, make treats for a senior home or firefighters, volunteer at a pet shelter, go on a mission trip, help with a food drive or assist with a housing projects.
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