Keeping Your Young Special Needs Child Busy During Coronavirus Times

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Well, it’s official. Most states have closed schools for the rest of the year due to coronavirus. Some of us have child care of some sort, but most of us do not. And most of us haven’t had the chance to be with our child for such a long uninterrupted time (aka 24/7) since our kiddos were teeny tiny. And even if we have been, well, there just aren’t as many places to take your children as there were before. 

So what the heck do we even do with them? How can we fill their day enough to satisfy them, without us going crazy, or having to watch Frozen 1 and 2 on repeat 742,000 times? I’ll start this mini-series by providing activities we can do indoors with our children, since unfortunately, the weather hasn’t been great everywehre. Some of us still have snow, some places it is too cold, or in other places, it is just too rainy (for us, one day it is rainy, the next it is cold, then it just repeats. What does the weather think it is, shampoo?). 

For those of us who have children with special needs, it can be tough to find indoor activities that they are physically or cognitively able to do. Or they may not have the attention span to engage in and/or complete each project. Or, certain projects may be triggering to them. My goal here is to provide an extensive list of activities that children can do. Some activities do require more cognitive or physical abilities. However, there is something (and hopefully more than one something) for every child on this list. So go! Enjoy!

Easy and Not Crazy Messy Art Project

First, there are the typical art projects. Our go-to activities on rainy days:

  • Paint.
  • Play with stickers (our youngest likes to sticker his whole body. Or sticker us. Why not?).
  • Draw/color.
  • Play with play-doh.
  • Build with modeling clay.
  • Finger paint (super easy to clean up with wipes. I promise!).
  • Make macaroni or cheerio necklaces.

Then there are easy and fun art projects that we don’t always think about, such as:

  • Make bath bombs (pretty easy, even without a kit).
    Here’s a basic recipe!
  • Trace your hands and body and using that to color or draw.
  • Color in the bath with bath crayons.
  • Make sock puppets.
  • Make a crown and decorate it.
  • Have you child paint your nails (hey, no one will see it!).
  • Use pipe cleaners to make people and animals.
  • Use a muffin pan to sort objects (ok, not quite art, but isn’t art in the eye of the beholder? Maybe?).
  • Paint using a cotton ball instead of a paint brush.
  • Make musical instruments out of found objects in the home. 

For those active kids, you can:

  • Draw a town on a cardboard box and use it with other toys.
  • Make race tracks on a cardboard box and use them to race cars.

What about acting? That is considered a form of art!

  • Make shadow puppets.
  • Put on a play.
  • Do puppet shows.

Let’s Get Physical

Ok, ok. Art is all nice and good, but we parents can get art-ed out. And a lot of our young kids need to be on the move! But how, when they are cooped up inside? 

  • Obstacle courses! Kids love them! You can easily make them using chairs and pillows and toys or balls, and using masking tape! Super easy and the kids will play with the forever!
  • Pretend the floor is lava. Blow up a balloon and don’t let it touch the floor!
  • Or try to keep multiple balloons up in the air!
  • Play follow the leader (the leader could even convince tiny people to stay quiet or clean up! Yippee!).
  • Dance party! They can even pick the music, which will help keep them invested in the game. 
  • Scavenger hunts in the house (good way to get things cleaned up or find lost toys). 
  • Copy dancing. Each person has to copy the dance move of the leader. 
  • Simon says. 
  • Balloon volleyball!
  • Bean bag toss (you can even make your own with rice or dried beans in a sandwich bag).
  • Freeze dance.
  • Have your child play golf using a fly swatter instead of a club. 
  • Parent horseback riding (only if you are physically well enough to have a rambunctious child on your back…).

Getting Those Sensory Needs Met

What about active and fun sensory activities? Try: 

  • Play with balloons
  • Have balloon fights
  • Make and play with slime (ok, messy, I know. But sometimes, this is necessary)
  • Make oobleck (this stuff is amazing. Even adults love it! Just don’t play with it on the carpet!)
  • Animal races (such as waddling like a duck, slithering like a snake, or hopping like a frog)
  • Tug-of-war.
  • Tickle fights!
  • Tickle chase (chase them around the house while tickling them). 
  • Bowling in the hallways with a ball and empty water bottles.
  • Playing catch with stuffed animals.
  • Building with blocks.
  • Floor race tracks! Use masking tape on the floor to create huge race tracks for the kiddos and have them use their toy vehicles to race. 
  • Play ping-pong with balloons. 

Alright, we just got those kids totally amped up. How can we calm them down a peg, enough to take a nap or go to bed?

  • Use a meditation app such as Calm or Headspace. They actually have meditations for kids under 5, and my 4yo loves them!
  • Yoga (kids loooove yoga!).
  • Popping bubble wrap (sometimes you don’t even have to go buy any, as they come in boxes that may arrive in the mail). 
  • Balloon blow (have them try to blow their balloons across the whole room).
  • Do a scavenger hunt in the dark with flashlights (requires heavy supervision, though). 
  • Make a pom pom drop. Tape up some empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls on the back of a door and give your child different sized pom poms and let them drop the pom poms through the roll and have them land in a bucket placed beneath the rolls.
  • Make and play with sensory bottles (water, glitter, maybe oil, and anything else you want to include). 

Anything Else?

Ok, I have some other goodies for you. If you are just done done done with the homeschooling (because, come on, no young child sits still for their parents and does actual work. If they do, man, you have a unicorn child!)

  • Making silly faces. Cracks the little ones up every time. 
  • Lots of reading!
  • Virtual field trips are amazing!

        Aquarium Field Trips

Google Arts &Culture 360 degrees Videos

Explore LiveCams

Aquarium of the Pacific

Baltimore National Aquarium – Jelly Cam

Georgia Aquarium 

Maui Ocean Center

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Mystic Aquarium

Newport Aquarium Cincinnati

Oregon Coast Aquarium

Ripley’s Aquarium Gatlinburg

Shedd Aquarium Chicago

The Florida Aquarium Tampa

Waikiki Aquarium Hawaii

        Zoo Webcams

Columbus Zoo

Philadelphia Zoo Penguin Cam

San Diego Zoo

Smithsonian National Zoo DC

Tennessee Aquarium – secret reef cam

Africa Cam

Rhenen Netherlands Polar bear cubs

Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium

New England Aquarium First Friday Archive

Friends of Big Bear Valley – bear and eagle cams

Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium – Aspiring Zoo Keepers

        Museums Young Children Might Enjoy

National Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art Seoul

National Museum of the US Air Force Ohio

Smithsonian Air & Space Museum DC

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History DC

Smithsonian National Postal Museum DC

The Louvre Paris

Van Gogh museum Amsterdam


Denali National Park Alaska

Everglade National Park Florida

Yellowstone National Park Wyoming

National Park Air Quality Webcams across US National Parks

National Park Watching Animal Cams – Bear, Ocean & Eagle

The Best National Parks Webcam list

Another Best National Parks List

Great Wall of China 

        Other Awesome Online Resources

NASA Virtual Tours

NASA Classroom

Virtual Field Trips pulled together by Mrs. Fahrney

Science Mom 

Kids Activities Blog

Author Read-a-louds

Broadway musicals and plays

Disney Rides

Hopefully, this is enough to get you started. I know each child who has special needs has different interests and abilities, and hopefully, each child is able to engage in at least some of these. If not, stay tuned for the upcoming articles where we discuss activities we can safely do outside and another article on tons and tons of sensory strategies to hopefully meet every need!

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