Sunday, November 11, 2018

Creating Our Barefoot Sensory Path and the Importance of Outdoor Play

Our school has an Outdoor Learning Committee that I am a part of.  We all feel very strongly that the environment where the children play outside is just as important as the environment inside our school. We have worked hard to make our playground an area where the kids can run, exercise explore and yes...learn!

Outside play plays an important role in children's development!  They are working gross motor muscles and getting must needed exercise.  They learn how to solve problems such as when social disagreements arise. They learn empathy as they help friends who get hurt. They learn to take risks and see where their limits are and feel empowered as they take those risks and succeed.  They create games and role play. They learn science concepts as they discover things in nature and learn to look closer and ask questions about what they see as they discover new things.  They learn kindness as they try to save an insect in danger or nurture a plant.  They are literally learning about life and life skills as they play outside, so we knew the environment needed to support that.

We had an area that we were having some problems with in the middle of our asphalt area.  We wanted to turn it into something all of the kids could explore and benefit from and decided to create a Barefoot Sensory Path. We came up with a design and my husband figured out how to make it so that it would be sturdy and last. Our amazing PTO gave us funds to purchase the materials and we had fun shopping at Lowes for items that would provide the sensory experiences we were hoping for.

Our team came in on a Saturday and went to work. Our maintenance team had dug the area down four inches so that it would be even with the asphalt. We put down a layer of paver sand, and then the 4x4's.

We glued some materials to 2x2 pieces of plywood.

The sections were all 2x2. We filled the sections with paver base and tamped it solid.

My son even came and helped!

Here is the finished frame.

Of course, we had to test it out!

Here is the finished path!! We were so excited for the kids to try it!

It was a huge success!!  The kids absolutely loved walking on it with bare feet, crawling on it and feeling with their hands and even laying in it enjoying the warmth radiating from it from being in the sun.

Another new area we created was an area to create roads, ramps, etc. using scrap wood, cars, signs and other loose parts. This lovely lady below had the vision for this area!

We also added an area to really work those gross motor muscles. Mr. Doyle created a boundary to keep it all contained to one area. We filled it with stumps, logs, and large branches.  The kids have created obstacle courses and love lifting these up to show how strong they are!  They jump, balance and create here. They collaborate and problem solve.  They use both critical and creative thinking skills. This is a great area to develop 21st Century Learning Skills as they play!

For our nature lovers, we have an area with plants for them to explore and observe.  Some are edible such as peppermint and fennel.  We have cone flowers, milkweed, irises, sunflowers and more.  This area is a great place to explore and observe insects also!

Here are some other things on our playground where they can let lose and have fun!

Our playground is still a work in progress!  We have many more ideas that we want to implement some day!  One step at a time!


  1. My son is building a similar sensory walkway for his eagle project at a local elementary school. I would love to know how the walkway has held up over time. Also, I see that you secured some items to plywood. Did you use treated plywood for outside and how has that held up? Thanks for your help.

  2. Hello! I was wondering if you had the list of measurements and materials used for this sensory barefoot path?

  3. I absolutely love this idea. Our school is also a public neighborhood park so I'm not sure the rocks will stay in place. I am going to ask if we could do it in a secured area. Thank you for the idea!