Spend family time outdoors this summer!
In addition to all of the physical and social development that playing outdoors promotes, it’s just plain FUN! Our kids are naturally drawn toward being active outdoors and it allows them to explore their surroundings, improve fine and gross motor skills and coordination and gain self-confidence and self-reliance. Encourage children (and adults) to participate in physical activity during outdoor time, making sure to offer praise and help each child feel successful. Fun disguised as learning will lead to additional accomplishments for children with special needs. Below are some great ideas for playtime in the Great Outdoors:
Indoors or out, tent building is a favorite for any child. Make the “tent of all tents” by pulling out all your blankets and chairs (warning: this fun will overtake your living room or backyard!) Decorate the interior with pillows and bean bag chairs and make sure your child brings her favorite stuffed animal, a book and flashlight, too. If your child needs soothing, this provides a hide-out or quiet place. This is worth hours of fun! Click here for building instructions.
** Bonus Activity: Bring an old sheet outside and play parachute games (shaking it, circling with it, making waves with it, or bouncing foam balls on it).
Visit a Local Firehouse
Do your children know what to do in an emergency? A quick visit to your local fire station is a great way to familiarize them with the equipment, fire safety and to introduce them to the rescue workers (especially if your child wanders.) Make sure you call ahead and don’t forget to take pictures!
Provide a tape recording of bird calls or other sounds you might hear on a nature walk. This is particularly helpful for children with perceptual or sensory deficit. On your walk, help them identify the different sounds.
Easy Access Garden
Place a 20-pound bag of topsoil on a table for a wheelchair-bound child to create a tabletop garden. Cut several large “X” shapes in the top of the bag. Insert small plants (marigolds are easy to maintain) into the spaces. Water and watch grow. It’s easily movable, too! Encourage your child to share the garden with friends.
Who doesn’t remember this schoolyard game?! Practice listening and moving (great for kiddos with ADHD) by placing obstacles (a safety cone, etc.) on the playground or use designated points (like the swing set) to tag or run around. For example, say, “Simon Says…hop 5 times on your right foot;” “Run around the tree two times;” or “Skip in a circle.” Listening, moving, and focusing on directions will enable children with ADHD to learn while having fun. Don’t forget to take YOUR turn doing what Simon Says–your kids will get a kick out of it!
Art En Plein Air
It sounds fancy, but it just means “Art in the fresh air”. Provide large sticks of chalk for sidewalk drawing or outdoor easels complete with paint and brushes. This is great for children with fine motor difficulties and for children in wheelchairs.
**Bonus Activity: Try “water painting”! Let the kids grab a brush and a bucket of water and “paint” the side of the house. It is great exercise for the arms and upper torso while sneaking in some teaching moments about wet and dry, light and dark, and evaporation.
Toy Car Wash
Again, water is great for outdoor play! Put out a bin with water and soap and throw in some toy cars or other right-sized toys for your child’s hands. Your child will love washing the cars and it’s a great opportunity to teach sorting by color, size, shape, etc. (Careful the little ones don’t get soap in their mouths/eyes!)
For the Birds!
A bin filled with bird seed is a hands-on sensory activity that incorporates nature. The textures and color variations of the seeds will keep the kids busy–add buckets, cups, shovels, etc., to make the sensory bin fun last longer.
As with any activity, please make sure it is age and skill appropriate for your child and do not leave a child unattended.