5 Sensory Summer at Home Activities for Kiddos with Autism

Summer days can be sunny and magical, but they can also leave parents wondering how to keep their kids from climbing the walls. 

That’s why having a few go-to warm weather activities can make an otherwise stir crazy stay-at-home afternoon a little more enjoyable. We have found that using daily visual schedules helps ease our kids’ anxiety.

This specific schedule is available here

This type of home schedule can help maintain routine and predictability for your child.

There are endless possibilities for at home activities, but these are some of our household favorites!

1. At Home Obstacle Course

There are endless options when creating your own obstacle course. Consider activities you already have, that your child finds exciting, and add a few new items to keep it entertaining.

Components of an at home course:

Take advantage of any stable trees in your backyard and add a few pieces of 4×4 or wall climbing pieces to make climbing steps along the trunk of it, or attach a rope to a branch that can be used to climb up the base as well!

Easy climbing grips for a wall or tree!
You can make a tree climb as complex or simple as you want! Kiddos will still enjoy conquering a mammoth tree 🙂

Take a portable slide that you might already have and add it to the “course.” Considering it’s summer weather, putting the slide into a kiddie pool makes a fun splash!

Our go-to slide here

Another fun component of an obstacle course would be something to crawl through! A tunnel would be a fun addition.

Consider the toys you already have around the house, write out the sequence of events in the course, and get racing!

2. Sensory Sandbox

Creating a sensory box can be an indoor or outdoor experience! If you are interested in a traditional sandbox outdoors, here are some fun additions to keep it exciting:

Available Here
Melissa & Doug Sand Toys
Sandbox vehicles

If you are interested in a mess-free indoor sensory box, fellow blogger 3 Dinosaurs offers a great water bead alternative!

Add water beads of any colors and toys of your interest!

For instance, add dump truck toys or shovels for scooping!

Consider Playmobile toys and houses as other creative additions to an otherwise typical house-play!

3. Self Made Water Park

If available, corner off a section of your yard and deem it the “Waterpark”! Everything sounds better with an alluring name 😉

Items to consider including:

a slip n slide:

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Available here

a sprinkler of your choosing!

a water table with boats, mermaids, and torpedos!

squirt guns!

a kiddie pool with slide!

4. Chef In Training!

Create a summer recipe book with your child’s favorite meals or baked goods, consisting of at least 5 items that include pictures of the dish and the ingredients!

Have your child brain storm the meals and help with compiling the images into the recipe book/scrap book with you. That way, when you need an interactive activity together, they can pick out their favorite summer snacks/meals and help make them with you!

Fellow blogger Thirty Hand Made Days has some great images and details of ones she has created!

This activity helps teach valuable skills such as following multiple step instructions and team work!

5. Make A Home Garden

The wonders of new life mystify all of us, and it is especially exciting to witness it in the eyes of children!

There are many ways to begin a home garden with your kiddos. Some fun and mostly fool proof items to plant in a garden are herbs and potted plants! Some go-to favorites of ours are the following:

  • Tomato plants- they are exorbitantly fruitful and often produce en masse! So you won’t have to worry about “nothing showing up”! Make it a weekly outing to the garden to pick a basket full for the week’s meals!
  • Basil- A generally easy plant to maintain in the home or outside! The magnificent smell provides a sensory experience your child won’t want to miss! They also produce quicker the more they are plucked, so don’t hesitate to have your child pick a few leaves off each week!
  • Bromelaide Plant- the Bromelaide plant has many varieties, and is a simple indoor plant that can survive even unattended conditions (even though we don’t recommend that! We just know it might be easy to forget them 😉 ). Usually only needing watering about twice per week, this can be a source of beauty, nurturing, and responsibility for your child.

There are limitless options with plants and herbs for your young one to water and nurture, both indoor and outdoor! Learning about nature and adoring its resilience and beauty is fun usually for kids aged pre-school and up! Feel free to comment below with any plants your youngster loves to care for, or other go-to summer activities!

Using Visual Aids for Your Child with ASD

Providing visual supports can be an effective strategy for easing the anxiety that may be caused by daily activities and changes in routine for your loved one with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Children with ASD may not always grasp social expectations or fully comprehend spoken directions. Visual cues give children with ASD a visible calendar of events and a visible action to pair with a direction. Visuals can help parents better communicate and can often minimize frustrations of both the parent and child.

Labels & One Step Directions

The keyring with cards below is a great example of a portable visual that can be used to provide a variety of simple directions or choices. Providing an image that describes an action can help your child better understand the parent’s expectation of them. It also acts as a differentiated method of teaching your child seeing as verbal directions are not always comprehended.

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Posting visuals with adhesive around the home is a great way to label items. It can also be done to assist your child in learning names for items.

A “Stop” sign on the front door and other exit areas can also assist your child with better understanding their parameters. Make sure to always praise your child when they demonstrate that they have listened to these boundaries.

You can also use the “Stop” visual when leaving a playground or ending another activity. This way, once the action is initially taught, it can be applied to other activities and the action will be better understood when transferred to different environments.

First –> Then Visuals

To better help your child understand a sequence of events, for instance, eating lunch before play time, you can create a “First-Then” card. These cards demonstrate at least two visuals with an event that happens first, and then the event that follows.

This is available at: https://amzn.to/2E5A93C

This is a great idea if your child struggles with motivation to complete a specific task, like eating. It also helps your child begin learning multi-step directions. When presenting the visual to your child, provide simple directions of “first you will eat lunch, then we will go to the playground.”

In order for this process and visual to be successful, it is important to provide the more rewarding activity following the first, less desirable task. It is important to also always follow through with the cards, or else your child may not trust that it will happen the next time.

Multi-Step Visuals

This visual provides a sequence of steps when performing an activity. This assists children with understanding the order of events, and reminding them to perform each individual task. We often create these for a multi-step task like potty time.

This potty chart was created by one of our RBTs for a Spectrum Autism Services client.

Items like the one above can be purchased on sites like Amazon, of which we are an affiliate: https://amzn.to/2E9N9Wi

Daily Calendar

Oftentimes children with ASD experience anxiety about what activities are to come during the day. A great way to combat this emotional upheaval is through a visual daily calendar of events.  

In our command center created for a client (showed above), our RBT included a daily schedule, the time at which that activity would begin, screen time reinforcement, a behavior modification tracking system, and cute little holders for additional tools. By generating an organizational system that works for your child, they can feel better prepared to approach their day.

Creating a command center is a great idea, but you can also begin with a smaller task of making a simple daily calendar.

Visuals calendars are a great way to begin implementing routines, rules, and order of events.

We hope you find this helpful! If you have any additional comments or questions, feel free to ask below!