It can be hard to find activities and games suitable for Autistic kids. Games might only be fun for a short time before frustration sets in, or they may need to be played in a group, quickly overwhelming your child. Sensory processing issues might also come into play, preventing your child from enjoying something they would usually love.
Meanwhile, activities that seem perfect for your child on the surface may not be structured to their liking or lack the pull of their special interest. It might also be the case that their preferred game or activity may not be deemed age-appropriate, making it hard to regularly take part.
While it can be hard to find the right activity or game for your child, it’s important to keep two key elements in mind - their special interest(s) and their sensory preferences. In most cases, these elements are the cause of meltdowns when playing activities and games but they can also be the source of much joy and satisfaction.
When suggesting games and activities, always try to include their interests and be mindful of their sensory needs. These are key to helping your child enjoy themselves. It’s also important to never force them to play a particular game or to try an activity. Just offer it to them and let your child make their own decision. To find activities and games that might engage your child (keeping in mind their interests and sensory needs), try some of these ideas as a starting point.
Younger Children (Preschool and Kindergarten)
Good for developing sensory perception in your child, a ball pit or ball pool can be lots of fun too.
Apart from the sensory benefits, your child can sort the balls into colours, find hidden objects and watch how the balls move when they push them around the ball pit.
A magnetic drawing board is a great way to help your child learn to draw without making a mess. It’s easy to erase mistakes and can provide hours of fun. Similar options include whiteboards, chalkboards (watch out for chalk dust), and online drawing apps on a device.
Games like lego, duplo or building blocks can be fun and engaging for little ones. Get your child to build something based on their special interest. Time how long it takes to build a tower. Have fun sorting colours and shapes. Work together to follow instructions or do a free build.
Older Children (Primary and High School)
Books can be a great choice, especially when they focus on a special interest. They are a safe way for kids to learn facts and understand social situations. For kids who don’t like reading, audiobooks are a great option too - just ensure the environment is calm and sensory friendly.
Games such as Rush Hour, Qwirkle and wooden cube puzzles are great for kids who like experiments and logical thinking, challenging them to solve problems. Just watch for signs of frustration when playing, as these games could trigger a tantrum or meltdown.
Drawing or Colouring
For creative kids, drawing and colouring can be an immensely satisfying and soothing activity. Whether your child chooses traditional pen and paper for their art or uses an online drawing program, there are so many fun ways for kids to explore their creativity.
A fun way to increase emotional understanding, get your child to match different emotions with pictures. Charades is another alternative, where your child uses body language and facial expressions to give clues for you to solve. You can find many more suggestions online.
All Ages Autism Toys
Sensory Swing or Hammock
This is an absolute favourite activity for many Autistic children, as swinging helps calm the body down, with rhythmic movement encouraging relaxation. Let your child have a swing before and after demanding activities, such as school, therapy appointments and shopping.
Table games such as puzzles, memory games or board games can be a big hit.
Try linking the game to their interests (e.g. nature, cars, Disney characters) and start by working cooperatively to teach the rules of the game before making it competitive.
Like swinging, jumping on a trampoline is almost universally loved by kids on the spectrum. Let them jump freely but also think about gradually introducing challenges to make things more interesting, such as getting them to land on their knees, make a star shape or curl up in a ball.
Putty or Kinetic Sand
This can be a highly satisfying activity for tactile seekers! Try making different shapes with putty or filling small containers with various amounts of sand. You can also bury small items for your child to find. Just be mindful of resistance if your child doesn’t enjoy tactile sensations.
A favourite with most kids, turn on the radio and let your child listen or dance. Get them to choose the music and observe how they react. Encourage your child to play a musical instrument or create your own with pots and pans or glasses filled with different levels of water.
This is a sensory friendly activity that is calming and soothing. Blow bubbles for your child to chase or get them to blow bubbles for you. Count how many bubbles are blown each time, see how long they last before bursting and watch how they move about in the air.
Put dried beans, rice, noodles or lentils into a plastic box and let your child explore. This is a good way to develop your child’s tactile perception. Vary things up by hiding objects and get your child to search for them. Just make sure your child can accept hidden objects.
Create a table with different sensory materials, such as building stones, marbles, sand, sensory boxes, fabrics and different coloured objects. You can use anything from inside or outside your house. Let your child craft, build or play with a wide range of sensory materials.
Create a calming corner for your child, where they can go to relax and calm down if overloaded. Dim the lights, add a comforting lava lamp or projector night light, play soothing music and create a cuddle corner with pillows and blankets to help your child find calm when upset.
Put different objects into a bag so your child can guess what they are, only using touch. You can change up the objects or the bag itself to make things more interesting. If your child tolerates it, you can get them to wear a blindfold while feeling for objects to increase the difficulty.
As you can see, there are lots of different games and activities you can try with your autistic child. The age ranges provided are for guidance only - sometimes older children like to play games for younger children and vice versa - and that’s totally okay! Just remember to find a way to incorporate your child’s special interests into games and activities and be mindful of their sensory preferences.
Your child might also benefit from wearing JettProof sensory
clothing which may provide a sense of calm and deliver all-day support to combat stress, anxiety and sensory overwhelm.
For more recommendations on games, there are many autism resources and psychologist recommended games you can try, as well as companies that sell games specifically designed for Autistic kids such as the Autism Community Store and Autism Games.
About Jettproof Sensory Clothing
JettProof calming sensory clothing may assist children and adults living with Autism, as well as ADHD Sensory Processing Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Apraxia, Dyspraxia, OCD and Anxiety.
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