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Home Activities Perfect for Your Child with Autism
As much of the world finds itself staying in to prevent the spread of the unfamiliar COVID-19 or coronavirus, millions of kids are finding themselves limited to entertainment and exercise within the walls of their own home. This includes a vast number of children with autism who are struggling with the new and unexpected changes to their daily living routines.
After a few weeks and a few more to come, you may be running out of ideas, so we’ve put together at home activities for your autistic child. If you have the AngelSense GPS Tracker for Kids there are some additional tips and activities you can do with it here.
We also put together a list of online freebies for kids to help as well.
In-home Activities Perfect for Children with Autism
Since autism is a wide spectrum, you can’t expect all children to respond the same way when they are told that they will be staying home for the next several weeks, and in some cases without an answer as to when they’ll be able to go back out into the community. As a parent, you are more familiar with how your child will react than just about anyone. Assess their response, expect some resistance and behavioral problems that come with the changes, allow for them to be upset, and then start adjusting your in-home plan to keep them occupied and engaged.
Just like eyeglasses, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to choosing the perfect activities for all children with autism. Just like typically developing children, children with autism will have a wide array of unique needs and interests. Explore and introduce activities based on what you know about your own child while keeping in mind new activities that your child may be interested in learning about during your time in quarantine.
Below, we have listed several categories of in-home activities for autism that you might find useful and entertaining for your child with autism. You don’t have to try all of them or spend a fortune on new toys and crafts. Just peruse the resources and see what may closely fit your child’s interests, age range, and abilities. You may also want to check out our post on Autism Therapy You Can Do with Your Child at Home.
Physically Demanding Activities & Exercises for Kids with Autism
Children of any age with autism will have moments throughout the day where they just need to get their wiggles out. Being at home all day will only add to the stir-craziness, which can result in some difficult behaviors. Take a couple hours out of the day, which can be broken up into several minute intervals, to run your child through physical exercise. Here’s a few in-home exercise for kids ideas:
- Army Drills: A combination of pushups, situps, jumping jacks, and running in place.
- Stair Relays: Have the child retrieve toys at one end of the stairs and then run up (or down) to place toys in a basket.
- Dance Party: Get your music list rolling and have a dance-off.
- Indoor Obstacle Courses: Using furniture, pillows, blankets, and other items you don’t mind having your child climb on to create a fun obstacle course. Check This Out
- Hopscotch: Outline a hopscotch game on the carpet with tape or sidewalk chalk outside. See How
- Crawl Relay Races: Use a combination of bear crawls, crab walks, and alligator crawls.
- Pediatric Yoga: Pull up a few Youtube tutorials about yoga for kids. Here’s One We Love
- Indoor Tag: Use nerf guns, bouncy balls, bean bags, or other soft tossable items to duke it out over a game of tag.
- Nature Walks and Jogs: For some quarantine orders, you can still go outside and walk around your neighborhood.
In order to best carry out these exercises, you as the parent will most likely be participating too. If you are physically unable to, recruit a sibling or another family member in your home to help. You can also check out exercises Special Strong shared with us.
Intellectually Stimulating Activities for Kids with Autism
Instead of having your child mindlessly watch movies all day (which is still okay in small quantities), pull out some of these autism activities at home to get their brains reeling:
- Mind Games: Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, Word-Finds
- Reading: Turn to online books and magazines for more variety
- Jigsaw Puzzles: Buy puzzles online or print out a puzzle template and add a picture or have them draw their own
- Painting: Here are some Paint-by-number printouts to get started
- Pen Pal Letters: Have them write to friends, teachers, and loved ones they can’t see in quarantine
- Homework: Of course make sure they keep up with any assigned homework from school
- TV Learning: Watch documentaries on a wide variety of topics (history, animals, etc.)
- Fun Math: Simple addition and subtraction problems using toys, food, etc. – Here are some ideas
- Music Time: Listening to music, playing instruments, following and mimicking rhythms through dance or percussion
- Creating Stories: Make a book out of folded & stapled pieces of paper and help them write a story with their own illustrations
- Scavenger Hunt: Create an old fashioned scavenger hunt or try an escape room for them or see if they would be willing to create one for you
- Science Experiments: Look up some safe and easy-to-make science experiments that you can put together in your own kitchen – Here are some ideas
Messy Play Activities for Kids with Autism
Pediatric clinicians, particularly occupational therapists, frequently use messy play in order to address sensory issues related to picky eating and other tactile needs. In other words, it’s a delicate subject for some children with autism, but if your child is the type to dive into the mess, give these activities a try (outside if you can):
- Shaving Cream Finger Painting: This can be done outside or in the bathtub. Color cream with water-soluble paint to make it more fun. Use whipping cream if your child is small and has a tendency to put everything in their mouth.
- Gardening Activity: Plant seeds in pots and finger-paint the pots.
- Rock Painting: Go find some rocks outside, clean the dirt off and decorate.
- Mud Play: Send your child outside with play clothes and the hose. Let them go crazy creating mud puddles.
- Bubble Time: Blow bubbles on the porch using store-bought or homemade bubble solutions.
- Homemade Play Dough, Gak, or Putty: Look up some fun recipes that use inexpensive ingredients, and if your child is age-appropriate have them participate in making the dough.
- Driveway Chalk: Unstructured or academic learning via outdoor chalk.
Calming and Self-Regulation Activities for Children with Autism
It’s important to have a way to wind down and cope when things get a little overwhelming. Here are some calming ideas:
- Pediatric Yoga: Yoga can serve as both a physically intense workout and as a calming routine prior to bedtime. Here’s a fun one to try
- Reading Forts and Tents: With bed sheets, furniture, or other tent-building materials, create a fort. Put pillows, blankets, plush toys, and reading books inside to create a quiet safe space. String up Christmas lights or plug in night lights with non-abrasive lighting to create a calming atmosphere for all of your child’s senses.
- Drawing, Coloring, Painting: Let your child have some time to themself to paint,draw, or participate in other calming art activities that require little direction from you.
- Mindfulness Activity: Find some online tutorials about short (less than 15 minute) mindfulness activities you can use for emotional regulation when things get overwhelming for your child.
- Snuggle Time: Gather up some blankets, towels, or even a pile of freshly, warm laundry on the couch or the bed. Snuggle with your child for deep pressure needs, or let them snuggle into the materials alone if they need the space.
- Screen Time: Sometimes, it is alright for your child to sit down and watch a movie or play a video game. Try to keep screen time down to 1 hour intervals or less.
Hands-on Skills Development Activities for Kids with Autism
Now that you both have all of this time at home, you can explore some of those old hobbies or research some new ones that you and your child can work on together. These days, hundreds of free tutorials are available online covering just about any topic:
- Cooking: Very basic recipes that require few ingredients and tools, then advance your way up in difficulty.
- Learning a New Instrument: Online piano, guitar, percussion, etc.
- Karate Lessons: Online karate tutorials in a wide variety of disciplines.
- Coding: Many kids on the spectrum excel at computer programming and it is a great skill to learn early on – CodeMonkey has a 30 day free trial.
- Learning a New Language: Use apps such as DuoLingo to learn a new language together.
- Woodshop Skills: If your child is age appropriate and you have the equipment and experience, teach your child how to make birdhouses or other simple wood-making tasks.
- Home Maintenance: Painting a room, fixing a plumbing issue, etc.
- Sewing: Quilting, cross-stitch, crochet, knitting, weaving, etc.
- Car Maintenance: Changing the oil, the air filter, or a flat tire.
Tips for Coordinating In-home Activities for a Child with Autism
Remember, all of our activity suggestions will not necessarily be suitable or interesting for all children with autism. The activities you select will depend on materials available to you in the home, what you are willing to spend on new materials, the age of your child, the functional abilities of your child, and your child’s overall priorities and motivations.
Select activities by allowing your child to participate in the choosing process. Select one or two new activities that you can work on together over a period of a few days. Allow your child to take calming breaks when physical exercise doesn’t solve the problem and their little systems start to get overwhelmed. Be proactive and ready to participate with your child so that you can provide them with the full benefits of each activity.
Keeping Your Child Protected at Home
In our blog post School Canceled? Protect Your Autistic Child During Uncertain Times we go over some of the safety concerns that can arise during a time like this. Our mission at AngelSense always has been and always will be to keep your child with autism and special needs safe. If wandering has ever been an issue, there is a possibility that it could get worse or start again due to today’s circumstances. Our AngelSense GPS Safety Device provides the highest level of protection available and is designed specifically for those with special needs. Our customer care mom’s all have children with special needs and are working from home to answer any of your questions.