Splash down! Camps are in full swing, homework is something long forgotten. For children with special needs summer offers a plethora of opportunities. Summer activities can offer outlets otherwise left untapped and skills can be mastered outside of the classroom. Lets take a closer look at my top 10 favorite summer activities for children with special needs that you can all enjoy while the days linger a bit longer….
1) Family games! Pull out the board games. Remember when families sat around together after dinner listening to the radio? Well, maybe you don’t, but they did. Our favorite is Mill Bornes. Game night teaches social skills, turn taking, focus, how to lose, how to win and attention.
2) The woods are calling you! This is by far my favorite activitiy for kids with special needs. A hike provides auditory, visual, tactile, smell and spiritual lift. In the summer, morning and evening hikes are best so as to avoid the heat and hikes that follow a creek or waterfall provide the best in sensory experiences.
3) Take a road trip to the beach! No need to explain much here. The beach provides a plethora of sensory sights and sounds. In addition, you have the benefit of sand play. You can also bring along some toss games and go on a shark tooth hunt or collect sea shells.
4) Hit the pool! Who doesn’t love a pool? Actually for children with sensory challenges the change from dry to wet or wet to dry can be quite over stimulating. Yet, the benefits of water play and learning to swim can far outweigh its challenges. The resistance and tactile input provided by swimming can help normalize tone, increase muscle strength and coordination, improve respiration and normalize sensory integration. If your child is water hesitant, try sitting on the side of the pool, wrapping in a wet towel, playing near the water to start. If you can find an occupational or physical therapy program that combines water/pool with land therapy, then you’re in luck! And, don’t forget the sunscreen! If your child has issues with sunscreen, use sun protective clothing or swimwear.
5) Water! I love rainy days in the summer. As soon as it starts raining, I send my kids outdoors. Wet clothing is a great sensory experience for children with sensory processing challenges. But you can also put on their swimsuits. Umbrella or no umbrella is great too. Watch the steam come up off the streets. Smell the difference in the air. Walk in a stream of water. Don’t miss the next rainy day!
6) Recycled art. Take all those tossed out toilet paper rolls, plastic tops, lids, and old magazines. Grab a pieces of wood and some glue. Now start attaching the items to the board. You can pick a theme or just go with no theme at all. Turn on some background music and watch the creations you and your kids can make. See you at the next art exhibit!
7) Chef nite. Now is a great time to make a smoothie, favorite cake or new dinner creation. Let your kids get in the way. They can help read directions, shop for ingredients, measure, mix and cook. They will learn a plethora of skills including the art of cooking!
8) Tell a Story. Pick a summer reading book and read it out loud together. No rushing off to bed. Discuss the way its written. What do they like about the book? Favorite part? How could it have ended differently?
9) Create a Sensory Cave. Grab all your blankets and create your own sensory cave! Put some flashlights inside and have at it! Toss some pillows in and make it a family fort!
10) Hug a Kid. Give your kids the attention and deep pressure they crave. Have a hug session. Wrap your kids up in blanket and make them into a “hot dog.” Roll around on the floor with them. Enjoy each other’s company and get some good hugs in while you’re at it!