It’s that time of year again. Winter is on its way out some days, and other days we are hit with the cold and white and don’t know how to get around it. If it’s challenging for us parents, think of our children with autism who have more challenges with sensory issues, noise, and temperature changes in some cases. Often times we are overwhelmed ourselves and wonder, what are good activities that can help our children regulate as well as have fun? With Spring Break right around the corner, if we are stuck in town for the week and the weather is iffy, it’s always a good idea to have some ideas of how to keep our special needs kiddos busy. Here are 10 ways to survive the Winter Blahs with Your Child Who Has Autism:
1. Snow games
If your child is tired of sledding, building snow men and snow angels, there are always things like making snow forts, playing hide and seek behind snow banks, snow shoeing or hiking. Getting them some fresh air when it is mild is good, plus these activities are a change from the usual ones.
2. Outdoor Skating
If they can’t handle the noise of an indoor rink and the weather conditions are good, they can go skating with you outside. You’ll have to bring your own walker though, as outdoor rinks don’t provide them for kids. They can also hold your hand.
3. Building an indoor fort at home
This uses simple things like blankets, pillows and other common household things. You can have them turn the fort into a tent, roast marshmallows and make popcorn. If they are older and enjoy cooking/baking, kids can help with this. It’s a great way to spend a morning or an afternoon.
4. WI Games
I know. Most of our kids play too many video games or spend too much time on the computer. But after they’ve had a chance to burn off energy sledding, skating, or playing in the snow and have had a snack and rest, this is a great way to keep them moving. They get to practice fine motor skills (manipulating joystick), and gross motor with movement. This is also done in teams, so social skill practicing can be done.
5. Simple board games that are developmentally appropriate
Board games will only work if parents find the ones that are DEVELOPMENTALLY appropriate for their child. Remember, age wise our kids may be a little behind their peers intellectually or socially. You know your child best so make the decision based on their likes and dislikes and skill level. Games that are always hits: “Snakes and Ladders,” match games, “Hungry Hippos,” “Candyland,” and “Connect 4.” These would be good choices for the younger set. “Operation,” “Monopoly,” “Perfection,” and “Guess Who,” would be good choices for the older set.
6. Swinging on indoor swing
These are great activities to keep special needs kids busy, meet their sensory needs, AND have fun. An indoor swing can be an expensive purchase, but it is well worth it if you have a child who needs the vestibular movement. It is also possible to make a swing and put it up in your basement. As long as you make sure the ceiling is reinforced for it, no problems.
7. Indoor trampoline
An indoor trampoline is also something good to have for kids with need to jump. It helps stabilize them and meet their sensory needs. It is also great exercise
8. Blanket Swing
And, for very little ones who don’t weigh too much, a great game is the blanket swinging game. The child lies in the middle and a parent takes either end gently swinging them. This not only meets sensory needs for rocking and squeezing, but parents can practice language and social skills by prompting the child with “Up” and “Down” and then doing the motion after child says it. If non-verbal, the parents can model the word and any time child makes a noise, reward them by doing the motion.
9. I Spy With My Little Eye
This is a great game to play at home or when you are inside somewhere else. It is helpful if the child is verbal and/or has some language, but you can try to adapt a version of it with pictures where you try to get them to see what you are describing, and make it a kind of charades. Charades would be a good game to do with the older set.
10. Movie and Popcorn at home
If a parent chooses an age appropriate movie and makes some popcorn or fruit, watching a movie with your child can be a great way to work on sitting skills, listening, both expressive and receptive skills. After the movie is over, parents can talk with kids about their favorite part of the movie.
So there are 10 simple things parents can do over the winter time and even on Spring Break to keep the kids busy. Remember, you know your child best, so use your parenting gut to adapt and have fun with these everyday types of activities. Here’s to a happy rest of the winter!
By: Joanne Giacomini
Joanne is a writer, editor, speaker, parent coach, and the mother of a little boy, Michael, who just happens to have autism. Her personal blog,“Exceptional Mom/Exceptional Child” chronicles their adventures!