Indoor and Outdoor Activities to keep your child occupied
Every parent is struggling right now to manage work or unemployment with everyone at home together, but parents of special needs kids have a particularly difficult job. Family routines have been disrupted, social outlets have been removed, and professional supports have been decreased or eliminated.
Create a flexible routine
Routines can create structure and give your child an idea of what to expect during the day. Write a basic, uncomplicated schedule you all can follow. Include the times your child is in online learning, and also include the times you need to be working, preparing meals, or recharging for yourself. Once you have your basic daily timeline mapped out, plug in the activities you know your child can participate in independently during the times you will need a break.
No surprise, your child will probably want to spend some (or all) time on some type of electronic device. No judgement. The iPad is more precious than gold in our house. But to prevent meltdowns when we need to take the iPad away, we only allow it as a special, time-limited reward. Having a schedule helps you plan when your child (and you) can take a screen break.
Below are some screen-free activities to keep your special needs child occupied.
This could include: writing letters to the neighbors or others who might be stuck at home alone or to healthcare workers; sending positive messages over social media. Create a care package and mail it to an older relative.
Candy Conversation Skills Game
This game is played with any multi-colored food, such as M&M’s, fruit snacks, or Fruit Loops. Write out specific conversation prompts for each color candy. For example, red: tell us one thing you learned today. Yellow: tell us one thing you would like to do this summer. Each person picks one food item. After they answer the conversation prompt for that color, they get to eat the food item.
Word puzzles, picture puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, math puzzles. Find a type of puzzle that your child enjoys. There are lots of free versions available online.
Lego bricks, a train set, or blocks can keep kids occupied in imaginative play for hours.
If your child enjoys coloring, keep paper and art materials on hand.
Let your child choose some music and jump around. If you have a smart speaker at home, this is another opportunity to practice speech skills. If the child wants to hear a particular song, he needs to ask Alexa in a clear, loud voice.
Inspired by the book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, social distancers all over the world are leaving teddy bears in their windows for kids to see from outside. Go on a “bear hunt” walk through the neighborhood looking for them.
Planting seeds, pulling up weeds, or arranging flowers are all ways to connect with nature. You could start a compost pile and teach your child how to compost.
Focusing on the fresh air, the feeling of sunlight, and the scenery of plants can have a relaxing, therapeutic effect on children with special needs, allowing them to take a break from negative stimuli.
Kicking or tossing a ball around is a good way to be active outside.
Have a picnic
Pack a blanket and some portable food and eat outside for a change.