Friday, June 15, 2018

14 Fun Things To Do With Your Child With Special Needs This Summer


If you're like me and wondering how you're going to occupy your child with special needs this summer, then read further for some ideas I've come up with:

1. Go to the library together

Check your local public library's website to see what programs are available. Some libraries have programs specifically for kids with special needs, such as Sensory Storytime. You could also take your child to the children's room in the library, where you could read and/or play with toys and games together.

my son playing at a library

2. Go to the zoo together

Check to see what programs are available on a given day. Some zoos have animal feeding times open to the public or short educational sessions where you can learn about specific animals. If your child is really into animals, consider getting an annual zoo membership so that you can go as many times as you want for a set yearly fee.

3. Go to a science museum or children's museum together 

Science museums are great places for kids to do hands-on science and technology activities such as turning knobs to see gears turn, creating marble runs, and experimenting with bubbles. Children's museums often have play scenes set up that encourage your child to, for example, have a pretend tea party, or pretend to mow a lawn or drive a train. Museums are a great way to give your child new sensory experiences and opportunities to learn more about the world around them. Check out your local science or children's museum's website for any special programs available this summer.

my son and me in a giant bubble at the NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam

4. Take your child to adaptive swim lessons

One-on-one adaptive swim lessons can be a great option for kids who need more support and supervision than a typical swim class might offer. Check your local YMCA to see what's available.

5. Attend music classes or a music therapy group with your child

My 4-year-old son, who has cerebral palsy, has attended a couple of music therapy groups for kids with special needs. Both have been small groups of 4-8 kids and have been interactive, supportive groups where the kids could play different (mostly percussion) instruments and imitate the movements of instructors in rhythm with music. The music therapy group my son currently attends encourages development of language and social skills through musical games and activities. Look online to see what's available in your area.

6. Attend hippotherapy sessions 

Hippotherapy involves riding a horse to improve balance, coordination, and strength. During a hippotherapy session, a trained physical, occupational, or speech-language therapist purposefully manipulates a horse's movement "to engage sensory, neuromotor, and cognitive systems to achieve functional outcomes," according to the American Hippotherapy Association's website.

7. Take your child to an accessible playground

...or to a regular, age-appropriate playground, depending on his/her needs. If your child needs a relatively quiet play environment, consider going on an overcast day or another time when you know it will be less crowded.

8. Take your child to an indoor playground/kids' gym

These often have slides, ball or "cheese" pits, bouncy houses, trampolines, and climbing towersall sorts of fun stuff for kids to play on or in. They can be a great place to go when it's raining or when you need a change of scenery, and they can be a great way for your child to further develop his/her gross motor skills.

ball pit!
In a similar vein, you could consider enrolling your child in classes at your local kids' gym. I've heard good things about Little Gym from another parent of a child with special needs.

9. Take your child to local special events, such as family-friendly concerts or movies on the lawn

Check your municipality's website to find out what special events are available in your area.

10. Enroll your child in local recreational activities

Check your municipality's website: Does it have a recreation division? If so, are there any activities listed, such as sports clubs or educational activities? Some municipalities have activities specifically geared toward kids with special needs.

11. Do art and science projects together using crates from KiwiCo

This post isn't sponsored, and I'm not affiliated with KiwiCo in any way; I just think their crates look super-fun and I'm eager to try them with my own kid. KiwiCo has several different lines of crates aimed at different age groups: the Cricket (Ages 0-2), Koala (Ages 3-4), Kiwi (Ages 5-8), Doodle (Ages 9-16+), and Tinker (Ages 9-16+) crates. Each crate comes with creative materials for at least 1 activity; a parent guide or, for older kids, kid-friendly instructions; a kids' magazine; and online tutorials. They can be purchased individually at the KiwiCo online store or as one of several subscription packages. They look like a fun way to encourage development of your child's fine motor and cognitive skills.

12. Go to a beach

Do you live near a lake or ocean, or are you up for a day trip? You could go to a beach and wade in the water, ride the waves in an inflatable boat or intertube, or play in the sand. There are all sorts of sensory experiences to be had at the beach: hearing the waves breaking, feeling the waves lapping against your feet, feeling the motion of the water when you're in an inflatable boat or intertube, feeling the sand between your toes or in your hands.

If your kid has an aversion to touching sand, as mine once did, you could encourage him/her to play with the sand using tools such as shovels and rakes, or by running a toy truck over the sand. My son's therapy team at school encouraged him to play with sand in these ways, and he gradually became less and less aversive. He now enjoys playing in the sand.

my son and husband on the North Sea

13. Play outside with a sand or water table

Experience some of the benefits of the beach in your own backyardor, for those of us who live in apartments and condos, a balcony or outdoor common area.

14. Have a play date with a classmate, neighbor, or other friend

You could invite your child's classmate, a neighbor, or other friend over to your home for a play date (with his/her parents present, if you'd prefer), or you could meet up in a public place such as a park or playground.


I hope this list has given you some good ideas for things to do this summer with your child with special needs. If you have any additional ideas, I'd love to hear them in the comments section below! Thanks so much for reading!

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