How's your summer going? This is usually a time devoted to relaxing, going on family vacations, and just having fun. But summer during a pandemic is different. Many parents are on the hunt for activities to keep their children active both physically and mentally. If you have a child or loved one with special needs, sorting through activities requires careful thought. Quarantined? No problem! I’ve gathered activities that are free and can be done in the comfort of your home – indoors or outdoors – and for the whole family. Below are my 5 current favorite summer activities for families with all ages and abilities.
1. OBSTACLE COURSE: THERE’S A MILLION WAYS TO BUILD IT!
Setting up several gross motor activities to create an obstacle course can be fun for everyone, and it can be done inside or outside. There are a number of things you can do with pillows, blankets, chairs, step stools, tables, even exercise balls! The more exciting you make it for your children, the more they will want to participate. If you have a child with special needs, keeping their unique challenges in mind helps you sort through the possibilities.
Games for special needs children that include tactile and sensory activities can be calming and help with fine motor skills. Try to include different types of skills and activities in the obstacle course. Start by identifying skills that are strengths for your child and areas that may need some additional practice. By combining these two categories, you will ensure that the obstacle course is not too challenging and will maintain your child's interest. Combinations of too many simple or complex items may discourage your child from participating. Examples of skill areas you may want to consider include:
cognitive skills such as sequencing, following directions, or motor planning
gross motor skills such as balance, strength, coordination or specific motor tasks
fine motor skills such as grasp, manipulation, or handwriting
sensory processing skills
Check out these obstacle course ideas from Starts at Eight.
2. ICE CREAM SCIENCE
Cooking activities are great for teaching children how to use measuring tools and gives them a chance to apply math skills like counting, adding and multiplying. Additionally, when you give them a chance to create their own recipe, children will rely on estimation, problem solving and other critical science and math skills. Some children may be lactose intolerant, and as with any cooking activity, be aware of any dietary restrictions that your child might have. Nevertheless, there are different ways to make homemade ice cream. Experiment with flavors and colors; you will be glad you made it. Your children and taste buds will thank you too!
Here's an example from Growing a Jeweled Rose.
3. ERUPTING VOLCANO
I have always turned to the standard baking soda and vinegar when creating at-home volcanoes, but quite a few new experiments have popped up since then. There are other ways to shake things up! Here are four different volcano activities to try with your kids.
As you carry out this experiment, children’s science, math and language skills will develop. Social skills increase as they experiment with family members. Motor skills are strengthened by kneading, pinching and pouring. Children can flex their creativity, problem solve and make predictions through sensory play.
Get the details of this activity from Teach Beside Me.
4. TIE-DYE EVERYTHING!
Tie Dye is on trend right now. Everywhere you look you will see something tie dyed for sale. But no need to spend money when you can do it yourself and have fun at the same time. The exciting thing about tie dye is that you can tie dye various items – shirts, towels, socks, sheets, jeans, shoes, etc. You can pretty much tie dye anything! Make it interesting and the children can make it their own.
Secure all folds, regardless of which method you use
Tie tightly. Material will expand when it is wet, so making sure to tie each fold will secure the dye in place.
Get started with the help of Happiness is Homemade.
5. ICE BLOCK TREASURE HUNT
Who doesn’t like a good shaved iced treat! I know I do! Ice is fun! Whether it's fizzy ice, dry ice or painted ice, the possibilities are endless! I had to share this wonderful ice block treasure hunt activity. I have done treasure hunts before but nothing like this. Summertime can be hot. Both you and your kids will be a little cooler after this hunt.
Freeze various objects in a large bowl of water and then allow the children to work their way through the ice using spray bottles of warm water, paint brushes, spoons or salt. This cool activity helps children with sensory integration and fine motor skills. As children explore sensory materials, they develop their sense of touch, which lays the foundation for learning other skills, such as identifying objects by touch, and using fine-motor powers. The materials children work with have many sensory attributes — they may be warm or cool, wet or dry, rough or smooth, hard or soft, textured or slimy. Discovering and differentiating these characteristics is a first step in categorization or sorting.
Create your treasure hunt with instructions from Macaroni Kid.
Shante is an ESE Teacher in ASC's Early Intervention Preschool. She holds over eight years of experience in special education and recently completed her Master's degree. She's a passionate teacher who enjoys helping her students reach their fullest potential.