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Activities for kids with special needs for a “stay at home” summer



13 tried and true ideas to keep minds working

activities, kids, special needs, pandemic, home

As families across the Hudson Valley are preparing to keep kids entertained at home this summer, we wanted to give a special shout out to those with children with special needs. Some day camps may open, some may not. Some parents may not be ready to send their kids to camp even if they’re open. But with a few ideas up your sleeve, these suggested games by Time4Learning.com for special needs children include tactile and sensory activities that not only calm and soothe but help with fine motor skills.

Finger-painting – Put on a few old shirts and don’t be afraid to get messy. Finger-painting is a fun way to keep children engaged and is great for strengthening the muscles in their hands and arms as well as improving fine motor skills.

Chalk art – Whether it’s on a blackboard or on a cool sidewalk, have your child scribble and scrabble to their heart’s content. You can also draw pictures, practice spelling words, or learn new shapes.  Sidewalk chalk is usually large and chunky, making it the perfect complement to your writing program for dyslexic students and other special needs.

Sensory bins – Grab a few small boxes and create a summer sensory station with different themes. Create an underwater setting with smooth, blue beads for the ocean, green felt for sea kelp, and small, marine animal toys. You can also ‘take’ a trip to the beach and use sand, small shovels and a variety of sand molds. This activity is ideal not only for children with special needs, but also toddlers and preschoolers.

Indoor camping – If summers are rainy in your neck of the woods, your child need not miss out on the fun of camping. Whether you use an actual tent or throw a big blanket over some chairs, creating a fun and cozy indoor camp will be an enjoyable experience for any child – with or without special needs. Be sure to bring in some favorite toys and snacks. S’mores anyone?

Water play – Most children love just about any activity that entails getting wet. Whether you head to a nearby water park, turn on the sprinklers in your yard, or blow up a small inflatable pool, your child will have a blast keeping cool when the temperature spikes.  Your child will develop their gross motor skills thanks to all the physical activity.

Arts and crafts – Use household items to create works of art. Pasta in different shapes like bowtie and macaroni are great for gluing onto construction paper. Use safety scissors to cut from magazines and create a summer collage.

Hide and go seek – In addition to being tons of fun, playing hide and seek with your child will teach them how to remain calm when looking for you. The game is also great for your child’s physical development and for learning how to count.

Shapes in the clouds – Grab a blanket and a grassy area to lay down in and look for shapes in the clouds. Ask your child to use their imagination and creativity when searching, and then describe what they are seeing.

Stars and constellations in the sky – When you homeschool a child on the spectrum, one of the best ways to reduce sensory overload while reinforcing your space studies is identifying celestial objects in the night sky away from bright city lights. Look for the moon and Venus, as well as constellations such as Orion and the Big Dipper.

Make up the story ending – Read all but the last page of a storybook and ask your children to suggest an ending. Another option is to have them draw the ending. This will give them an opportunity to use their imagination and creativity, known strengths for many students with dyslexia.

Water balloon target – Draw a target on the ground and mark each circle with a point value. Then fill up some water balloons and try to aim for the circle with the most points. This fun game will help your child with improve their math skills by adding up scores, and help develop their fine motor skills.

Color match buckets – Grab a few buckets and balls of varying colors, and have your child pick a ball to throw into the corresponding bucket.  Invite siblings and friends to play for added fun and assign a particular color to each child. Whoever fills their bucket first wins the game. This can be a great opportunity to teach your child about the importance of good sportsmanship and build social skills.

Plant a seed or tree – For another fun and educational activity that will make the most of the summer sunshine, plant a seed or tree in your backyard. Students can use a ruler to monitor how much it grows every week, and in the process also learn about math and science.




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