These ideas for summer fun for kids with special needs are from Abby Brayton-Chung, who blogs at Notes from a Pediatric Occupational Therapist. An OT in Southern California, she's worked in schools and Early Intervention. Her ideas are so genius, kids won't have a clue they're actually doing occupational therapy!
Summer is in full swing and boy, has it been a hot one! Today I’ll share some fun activities for kids that take advantage of all that summer has to offer, including making the most of hot days. Oh, and as an added benefit, these activities are great for promoting sensory and motor development too.
Paint with ice cubes. Now here’s a way to cool off! Mix watercolor paint with water, fill an ice-cube tray, freeze overnight, and voila, ice-cube paints! Create a masterpiece on paper or fabric with your ice cube paints, while developing grasping skills and engaging in sensory exploration.
Play with wet sponges. Set up a bucket of water, have sponges handy and let kids go at it. Squeezing water out of wet sponges helps develop hand strength. Get some big sponges to encourage squeezing with both hands. Want to add a visual motor component to the activity? Try throwing the sponges at a target. Want an even more tactile experience? Place a trail of sponges on the sidewalk and walk barefoot on them. This is a great way to work on balance too!
Toss around pool toys. Water is great for children with special needs, especially those with muscle stiffness, as the buoyancy makes it so much easier for them to move their arms and legs. Use your child’s favorite flotation device (pool noodle, floaties, vest, etc) as you hold or closely watch them, and encourage your child to reach and kick. Throw floating pool toys or balls around the pool to encourage your child to reach out and move even more. If your child is not ready for a big pool, backyard kiddie pools are just are good! Even sitting and splashing in shallow water helps promote movement.
Build a sandcastle. Great for sensory exploration and for developing strength and coordination. And you don’t need anything fancy! Grab some pails or containers, measuring cups and spoons from your kitchen and head to the beach! Let the kids dig in and have fun. Search for seashells and rocks to use to decorate your child’s creation, while promoting fine-motor and grasping skills at the same time. Live too far from the beach? Use a sandbox or (any container that will hold sand) to create castles in your backyard.
Squeeze anything that sprays water. Most kids love to get wet, and pretty much all kids love to get other people wet! Squeeze spray bottles, condiment containers from the dollar store, water droppers, and anything else you have laying around the house that can be used to spray water. This activity helps develop hand strength and coordination, as well as visual motor skills if you aim for a target (or a person!). Get these spray bottles out when you're creating your sandcastles too.