Free Play! Sensory Activities for Children with Special Needs

Free Play Sensory activities for special needs children

Free play! Sensory activities for special needs children should go beyond play. While play is fun, it also has purpose, building social skills, problem solving, motor planning, and more. But free play, or play without purpose, is unstructured play and provides a much needed sensory break to be ourselves, live in the moment — and self regulate. Now is the time to let your kids experience free play with minimal restrictions (other than for safety), which experts say is vital. Then you’ll see what these golden moments of unstructured play can do for your whole family.

Free Play Sensory Activities for Special Needs Children - fold and go trampoline

Fold and Go Trampoline

Free Play Sensory Activities for Special Needs Children - anemone floor sliders

Anemone Floor Sliders

Create an Obstacle Course for Free Play

  • Romp Around. For starters, don’t move anything out of the way, in fact, throw in a few obstacles that might make this a bit more fun. Then romp around, which means you walk, strut, jump, hop or run around wherever you are.  In sum, being challenged is the great secret to motor planning and balance skill training.
  • Next, roll over the couch, climb under the table, jump on the trampoline or hop over the spot markers. It’s like a non-professional obstacle course that just happens to be there when you show up. In fact, managing the turn of events is a great tool for motor planning too.

Test Your Linear Acceleration with Free Play

  • Slip Slide and Away. Get on your slippery socks or our Anemone slippers and mittens and have a fun time sliding across the floor.  Next, slide across on all fours or upright. You will work your balance reactions, linear acceleration, coordination and muscle control while having a great time.  In the end, this free play may just leave you with a cleaner floor!

Free Play Sensory Activities for Special Needs Children- airlite tire swing

Air-Lite Tire Swing

Free Play Sensory Activities for Special Needs Children - saddle scooter

Saddle Scooter

Unleash Free Play in a Swing Gym

  • Swing High or Lay Low. You don’t need a fancy swing set up to soar. Whether or not you use outdoor, indoor, doorway, ceiling or frame support, you can suspend your favorite swing for a no-frills goof off time. Go for a wild ride or just lay back on a hammock and let momentum do its trick.

Let the Good Times Roll with Free Play on Wheels

  • Ride On. Grab a scooter, bike, trike or skateboard or ride-on toy and let the good times roll. First roll up against a wall and push away. Then roll down an incline. Next, lie on your back and watch the ceiling roll by. Enjoy the serious thrill of fast or slow mobility toys.

Free Play Sensory Activities for Special Needs Children - jumbo weighted lap pad

Jumbo Weighted Lap Pad

Free Play Sensory Activities for Special Needs Children - fiber optic flexible lights

Fiber Optic Flexible Lights

Build a Sensory Fort, Teepee or Hut

  • Build a Fort. Gather your blankets, weighed lap pads, fiber optic lights and make a fort. Then crawl into your fort for a humdinger of a time. Take a book, a flashlight, and a companion and just hang out. Think of it as the Happiness Fort.

Dress Up for Free Play

  • There’s nothing more fun than dressing up and goofing off. Wear your favorite costume, space explorer, or transformer and stretch your way around your house with eyes open. Now try it in the dark with flashlights. Next, slide across the floor on your belly or roll across the carpet for a great core and upper body workout.

Free Play Sensory Activities for Special Needs Children - emotion cushions

Emotion Cushions

Free Play Sensory Activities for Special Needs Children - Squeaky Spots

Squeaky Spots

Free Play with Follow the Leader

  • Follow that Path. Tip toe across your emotions. Or make noise as you jump across your squeaky spots while pretending that you’re crossing the river of doom. Don’t fall in or you are sure to get eaten. Then challenge your balance as you follow the leader.

Concluding our Journey of Free Play

To conclude our journey of free play, where do we go with our imagination when we play without purpose? Chances are your head is more clear, your body more energized and you feel a bit….goofy. With free play, your imagination soars, ideas flow and you can feel recharged to take on the rest of your day.

One thought on “Free Play! Sensory Activities for Children with Special Needs

  1. As a child of the 50s, I remember playing outside all day, even in the blistering heat of a Texas summer. We played every kind of tag imaginable, climbed trees, rode tricycles and bicycles, ran races, etc. Yet when I started school, I must have desperately needed vestibular input because recess wasn’t recess if I didn’t get to swing. For two whole years, the swings were my favorite. Then in third grade, I played hopscotch and jump rope constantly. Can we say proprioception?? Yes, I’m a retired OT, and I see more and more need for free play today. Most children don’t get anywhere near the heavy work exercise that we did. No wonder they can’t focus in the classroom and need CNS stimulants.

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