Summer Sensory Tips For Kids (and their moms too!)

I typically spend a lot of time prepping for our summer break every year.

Fun activities, new learning plans, field trips and small getaways – I organize and plan, hoping for some sense of summer order and fun.

Still, every single year, what I inevitably forget to factor in is the simple fact that summer – all of its heat, bugs, smells and then, even hotter heat – overwhelms my children with sensory processing disorder in ways that make even the most exciting and fun activity a disaster.

But not this time.

This year, I came to play.

Summer Sensory Tips And Tricks

This year, I put together a list of my best tips and tricks to help my kiddo survive, and actually thrive a little, in the summer heat.

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Summer Sensory Hacks For Kids

Frozen Towels

A sweet reader recommended this a few months ago and it has changed our lives. I now keep a supply of soft towels in the freezer. On really hot days, I grab a couple and give them to my boys as they get into the hot car. They can wrap up in them, put them over their heads, sit on them – anything they need to stay cool.

Ice Chests

Seriously, never, ever leave home without one in the summer. The ice alone can be enough to calm down an overloaded child. Add water bottles and a few favorite drinks and my kids are good to go.


Nothing is as daunting in the summer (or even at playgrounds in the winter for that matter) as sand. Sand in the shoes, the feeling of sand on the feet, sand in all the wrong places under the swim trunks – sand is our summer nemesis. We used to just avoid the beach, but as my sons have gotten older, they have been better able to at least try. Here’s my secret to success with sand –  I always, always, always take baby powder with me. Yes, baby powder. Wiping sand away with a towel can scratch sensitive skin and usually makes my sons even more agitated. But generously sprinkle baby powder on the sandy parts, and it falls away. Best summer hack ever. 

Sticky Sunscreen

The only thing worse than the feeling of sticky sunscreen for my sensory kiddos is the sensory torture of a sunburn. You may have to experiment a bit to find the sunscreen that works best for your children – and once you do, stock up. We have never been able to use spray sunscreen. But the creamy, sensitive sunscreen typically for faces, works well for both of my children all over their bodies.

Night Swims

When it’s just too hot to handle, we love to hang out at home for the day, in the air conditioning and then venture out to our friend’s pool at night. The kids sleep well, I call it a bath, and everyone’s happy.

Short, Sweet and Easy

Above all, I try to plan the activities that I think are going to bring us a certain level of success. I would never take my boys on a hike in the middle of the day, but a short trip to the park may work. I accept that we may need to cut our time short if it is just too warm and too much. Short, sweet and easy is my summer motto. 

I know we still have a whole lotta summer to go.

But I have found that being intentional, and accepting the realities of sensory overload in the summer have made life so much easier (and our summer so much more fun).

More Resources For Summertime Sensory Sensitivity

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  1. Candie Hotchkiss says:

    I leave 2 liter bottles filled with water in my car that we use to rinse sand off of legs and feet. The water gets nice and warm from sitting in the car and I don’t have to rub sand off uncomfortable kids 🙂

    1. I love this idea!!! Thanks for sharing.

    2. Brett Spore says:

      Yes! I have a gallon jug in the back of my truck for this purpose or for emergency water if we ever need it. I just used this water last week when we had a field trip to study tide pools and the park had no running water. Sandy feet – rinsed and ready to roll out!

  2. Lindsay Wyllie says:

    We rely heavily on the frog toggs chilly pads – just wet the little rubbery towels (even with warm water), wring them out and they become cooling towels. They really do help!

    1. Ooooooh. I love this idea! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Brett Spore says:

    This isn’t exactly a SUMMER Sensory hack for us, but an ALL YEAR Sensory hack. Most of us don’t actually use all of our trunk space very often. Put a Rubbermaid style tub in the back with a full change of clothes for your kids and a soft towel and maybe a fidget or other distraction for during the clothes changing process.

    If there is a mess, water play or sand invasion on their clothes, it is not as big of a deal when they can change into fresh clothes before riding all the way home from wherever you are at. We have done this since our kid was a baby, and I have not once regretted it. As the kids get bigger, it does take up more room so choosing items of clothing and towels that take up less space but are still comfortable for them will make a big difference. Since we only have one child, we also carry clothes for me and my 6’5″ husband. That way we can participate with our child without worrying about getting wet or dirty. My only additions to the current bin we have is one of those pop up changing tents (on my wishlist for this summer) and flip flops/crocs/something small that can be worn if the shoes get wet.

    I can’t even tell you how many times we have used this bin of clothes and towels. I would wager almost once a month – more in the summer. It’s like having insurance! You just feel more confident.

    1. I LOVE this idea, Brett. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Oh my goodness – these look amazing! Thank you for sharing.

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