For a parent of a child with Autism, fun and playtime can be stressful to consider; it may be difficult to think of activities to keep a child with Autism engaged in a fun and safe way.
Crafts, songs and games will help with fine motor movements and can help the child stay focused, associate words with objects to improve language and numerical skills, and improve social interaction with others (from taking turns to playing imaginative games).
Crafts provide sensory experiences that can stimulate attention and foster calm, and crafts involving the alphabet, matching and sensory bottles/areas are especially effective. Alphabet letters and blocks help develop word recognition and expand sight word knowledge by physically building sight words. You can get creative with materials too – try using blocks, magnets and puzzle pieces as well as paper.
Matching activities could include matching colors on two objects that are different in size or appearance or creating your own sorter. Take a sippy cup and poke holes into the top. Color around the holes with different colors and give your child color-coordinated pipe cleaners to match to each hole. Another way to facilitate matching is cutting a symmetrical picture in half so your child can practice matching halves.
A fun activity for a child with Autism is creating “calm down bottles” filled with water, glitter and glue (and sealed with glue at the top to prevent leaking). Another engaging sensory activity is adding texture to everyday toys. Whether it’s a plastic egg, a plastic ball or even a piece of paper, adding texture with fuzzy sticks, buttons, pompoms and more will greatly aid stimulation. Plus, all you need is glue and the items!
Songs help engage a child because of the singsong nature and repetition. You can find on the internet for days of the week, months of the year, planets in order and so on, but you can also make up a song for daily tasks like going to the bathroom or getting dressed. These songs can include physical movement like jumping or skipping, which creates harder activities for the child to promote independence.
Games like I Spy or guessing games help expand descriptions but also develop focus to note these expanded descriptions. I Spy allows an object to be described as much as possible and allows the child to process all of the given clues before coming to a solution. I Spy strengthens the use of the sense of sight because the more descriptive the clue is, the easier it is to conclude. Guessing games aid sensory stimulation because the child can close his or her eyes and touch or hold an item to figure out what it is. For nonverbal children, you can provide pictures of objects and allow them to select which object they had. This teaches children they need to use more than just sight to get the correct answer – they can use touch, smell and maybe even taste or hearing!
The most important thing with these activities is to keep the child physically engaged with hands-on activities; inappropriate behaviors usually begin with disengagement. The options are endless; have fun!