Spending Quality Time Outdoors With Your Special Needs Child

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Finally, finally, FINALLY, it is starting to get nicer outside. Well, some days. We have had so, so many storms here, it is ridiculous! It is May! Let’s get those flowers going! But unfortunately, with COVID-19, many places are closed (and rightly so. The safety of our children and ourselves is paramount). Our children both have special needs. Alex (21 mo) had a perinatal stroke and Benji, 4, has autism. They are sick of being cooped up. We have seen an uptick in aggression and hyperactivity because we have been alone and indoors for so long! So if we can’t go places, what the heck can we do outside? Won’t the kids get bored after like 5 minutes? Not with these ideas!

Fun Outdoor Art Activities

Art? Outside? Surely, I only mean painting right? Nope! I mean, of course you CAN paint, but there is so much more to do! Such as:

  • Paint the house. With water. And a brush. This can keep young children busy for ages!
  • Draw on the sidewalk with chalk. There are endless chalk ideas. 
  • Make a leaf scrapbook with leaves you find.
  • Paint rocks.
  • Make your own bird feeder.
  • Create a nature collage with items you find. 
  • Make a fairy house out of items you find outside. 
  • The day before you go outside, mix water and fingerpaint in the shape of a stick or tube. The next day, take the frozen stick out and have them paint with it outside. 

Activities To Tucker Out Those Kiddos

How can we get this cooped up kiddos to tire themselves out so much that they actually sleep through the night? Try:

  • Looking for bugs (kids love this).
  • Looking for mushrooms (look, but don’t touch!).
  • Do a nature scavenger hunt then later go inside and look at everything under a magnifying glass. Or do crayon rubbings of some of the objects that you found. 
  • Pick dandelions.
  • Find cool sticks. 
  • Make a big stick into a walking stick. 
  • Play catch.
  • Play soccer or baseball or any active sport your child likes and is physically able to do. 
  • Make an outdoor obstacle course. 
  • Play follow the leader.
  • Practice riding a bicycle or tricycle, if your child is physically able to do so. Have a driveway or sidewalk toy car race! You can make the track with chalk!
  • Have a paper boat race. You as the parent may need to make the boat. Or, if you don’t desire to do that, find vessels that float and have a floating vessel race. 
  • Have a treasure hunt!
  • Make your own “stepping stones” and have the kids practice stepping on them. 

Activities To Get Those Sensory Needs Met

For those with additional sensory needs, how can we meet those needs while playing outside? 

  • Find and munch on some onion or crab grass (as long as you can safely identify it. If not, skip this one and move on to number 2). 
  • Blow the dandlelions into the air
  • Dig in the mud (messy, I know, but it can be therapeutic). 
  • Feel different leaves and flowers.
  • Water the plants.
  • Run through the sprinkler, if one is available.
  • Play with a water table. Or water bin. Or water bowl. Or any vessel that you can fill with water. 
  • Pick flowers (ideally wild ones, so your neighbors won’t become upset).
  • Find shapes in the clouds.
  • Forage for wild edibles (but again, only if you can confidently identify what they are. Please, don’t make yourself sick!)
  • Paint with fingerpaint. Or have them paint their body with fingerpaint. (Then, of course, throw them right in the tub. The stuff washes right off and shouldn’t stain your tub or shower). 
  • Smell all the pretty flowers! And fresh cut grass!

Everything Else

What else can we do?

  • Have a picnic outside.
  • Read outside.
  • Search for airplanes in the sky. Or the moon. Both activities my toddler is obsessed with. 
  • Outdoor tic-tac-toe. You can use chalk for this if you want. 

I know that a lot of these assume that your child is fully physically able to do each. However, a good amount of these are easily adaptable for all physical abilities and some of them (such as searching for the moon or airplanes, looking at the clouds, or reading outside), don’t require one to be greatly physically able. I hope you are able to pick and choose activities that are a great fit for your child and enjoy, enjoy, ENJOY!

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