Contributed by Dawn Allcot
All children love crafts and activities. Autistic children may need extra encouragement to play but once they get started on these creative activities, they will love the sensory stimulation, different colors, and the ability to see how they are affecting the materials. Taking part in these activities with an autistic child will also strengthen the bond between you and the child while encouraging social interaction and interaction with the child’s environment.
A sensory table filled with sand, rice or water is the old standby when it comes to activities for autistic children. These activities for autistic children will stretch the boundaries of their creativity and provide a truly unique experience, an experience as unique as the children who take part.
1. Scented bubbles – As the weather warms up and we want to find more outdoor activities for autistic children, scented bubbles engage multiple senses – sight, smell and touch – while encouraging the development of oral motor skills. Most neurotypical children develop the capacity for joint attention, shared attention between an object and another individual, as early as eight months. Blowing bubbles can help with the development joint attention, a skill autistic children often struggle with. Using scented bubbles, the caregiver of an autistic child can make eye contact with the child, then turn attention toward the bubble, and then back to the child.
2. Play with liquid soap foam – Mix 2 Tbsp. of dish soap with ¼ cup of water plus food coloring or liquid watercolors. The more color you use, the brighter your soap will be! Mix with a hand mixer on high for 1 to 2 minutes until the mixture thickens and peaks begin to form (almost like making a meringue.) Children will love to create art from the colors, as well as play with the soap in their hands.
Keep in mind that just a small amount of dishwashing soap can make a lot of foam. Put foam in a large Rubbermaid bin, a small kiddie pool, on a water table outdoors, or even in the bathtub for tons of sensory fun!
3. Turn your sand table into an archaeological dig – Rather than just filling a sand table with sand, bury small toys of different shapes and textures. Give your child a small rake and shovel, and let your child dig out the toys.
4. Play with ice cream dough – If you spend a lot of time looking for activities for autistic children, you’ve no doubt seen many recipes for homemade play dough. But have you heard of ice cream dough? This dough has a different texture than conventional play dough recipes and looks just like ice cream. Whip up a batch using shampoo, conditioner or body wash (or a combination of all three) plus cornstarch. Add cocoa powder to make chocolate ice cream, if you want. Give your child an ice cream scoop, containers of different shapes and sizes, and several other utensils for engaging, sensory fun.
5. Use paint samples to tell a story. – Here is an activity for older autistic children. If you’ve ever chosen paint for your house, you know paint colors have amazingly creative names. First, go to a home improvement store and pick out a collection of paint chip samples. At home, let your child choose five favorite colors. Write a story using the paint color names. Your child can write the story on paper and glue the selected paint chips to the page. Or you can take photos of the chips and transfer them to your computer as JPGs. If your child is good with a computer, he can type in the story and lay it out with the samples. Your child might prefer to tell you the story out loud, which is a great way to bond. You can even build upon her story, round robin style, with your own choices of colors to encourage interaction.
If you’re helping care for an autistic child or siblings, try some of these activities for autistic children to really make a positive impression on the children and their parents.