7 Indoor Sensory Activities & Strategies for Kids on the Autism Spectrum
It’s no secret that our kids thrive on structure. On routine. On predictability. So, here we are … on Spring Break – which, of course is exactly none of those things. If you’re anything like the parents at the Autism Community Store, you may be trying to brainstorm ways to maintain peace in your home while engaging with your kiddo during this time off.
Enter, this handy list of 7 indoor sensory activities to help your whole family rock Spring Break at home! Below you’ll find a big picture plan and some specifics on how to maximize your time at home this week! This list will focus on 3 main areas: Gross Motor Movements, Sensory Activities and Mindfulness & Calming Strategies.
Gross Motor Movements: Just Move!
Movement should be a big part of each day. This is especially true during a week when routine has gone out the window. Gross motor (total body) activities are a great way to start your day. They help increase focus, shake the sillies out, help with coordination / motor planning, and maximize regulation.
Our favorite gross motor activities make up the first 4 activities of this list:
1. Animal Movements –You can choose a theme like farm animals or safari animals and act out the movements of various animals: Roll in the mud like a pig, waddle like a duck, slither like a snake, and on and on! Get creative! The sillier the better! If you prefer to have some guidance with this, we have several products to help.
2. Spooner Board Activities– We absolutely LOVE our Spooner board! Aside from being so fun, Spooner Boards are great for working on balance, coordination, stability, gross motor skills, leg strength and core strength.
3. Activity Dice - These lightweight dice provide fun challenges such as “hop on your right foot for 30 seconds” and “blow out all your air like a windstorm 5 times…”. Just roll the dice and assign the next fun task to your child. And have them assign some to you! Be ready for some giggles and lots of fun!
4. Hopscotch – This timeless activity just truly never gets old. The movements involved in hopscotch help build body strength, hand-eye coordination and balance. Similar to hopscotch, you can set up these feet in any formation you wish and watch your child follow the course you’ve created.
Sensory Activities! Make Sensory!
5. Sensory Bins - Another way to engage with your child indoors while meeting their sensory needs is to just dive in. That's right - dive in to some sensory activities to provide the input your child may be seeking.
This can be done by filling bins with sand, dirt, flour, rice, water beads or some other sensory product. Playing with water, water beads, sand and playfoam is a favorite for most of our sensory-seeking kids. Here’s an inexpensive sand and water table to keep your kiddo entertained inside for a while!
Mindfulness / Calming
If your child struggles with regulation, it may take a bit of time to calm down after a busy day. As it gets closer to bedtime, it will help to start getting their bodies and minds more peaceful. Some ways to accomplish this are breathing exercises, a calming corner, dim lights, and weighted items.
6. Breathing Exercises - Deep breaths combined with a physical change of direction can be a great way to transition our kids from one activity to another. With our tactile kids, we often use a Figure 8 breath chart like the one below that the child follows with his or her fingers. After 3 or 4 times around the figure 8, there is a noticeable difference in demeanor. Deep breaths in general are so helpful in transitions. If children need a tactile / kinesthetic support with deep breathing, the Hoberman Sphere is a great tool to expand while inhaling and return to its normal size while exhaling.
7. Calming Tent / Sensory Cave - If you have a calming corner, tent, fort you can build, or some other designated area where your child can go to help calm their bodies, having weighted items such as weighted stuffed animals or blankets can be incredibly helpful! We also use soft lights lilke the one on the fiber optic lamp below.
So, remember -- the key to making the most of your spring break time is making sure your child gets as much movement as possible, gets the sensory input they may be craving and are able to settle down after a busy day. Have fun!