Friday, July 12, 2024

Tips for Summer Activities with Special Needs Children

2 girls swimming in a pool with bright blue water. The girls are wearing pink plastic sunglasses and are swimming with pool rings around their waist.
Photo by Juan Salamanca:

Summer is a time for fun, exploration, and relaxation for children and their families. For parents of special needs children, planning activities that cater to their unique needs and abilities can ensure an enjoyable and fulfilling summer break. In this blog post, we will share some valuable tips and ideas for engaging summer activities that promote growth, social interaction, and sensory experiences for special needs children.

Embrace the Great Outdoors:

Spending time in nature can be therapeutic and stimulating for children with special needs. Consider planning outdoor activities such as nature walks, picnics in the park, gardening, or even camping trips. These experiences provide sensory stimulation, encourage physical activity, and offer opportunities for socialization.

Adapt Activities to Individual Needs:

Every child is unique, and it’s essential to adapt activities based on their abilities and interests. For example, if your child enjoys water play but has sensory sensitivities, set up a sensory-friendly water station with gentle sprays, shallow basins, or water tables. Modify games and sports to accommodate different skill levels and provide additional support when needed.

Engage in Sensory Play:

Sensory play is not only enjoyable but also beneficial for children with special needs. Create sensory bins filled with materials like sand, water beads, rice, or kinetic sand for tactile exploration. Set up a sensory corner in your home with calming lights, soft textures, and soothing sounds. These activities can help regulate emotions, improve focus, and enhance sensory integration skills.

Explore Arts and Crafts:

Artistic activities provide an excellent outlet for self-expression and creativity. Engage your child in age-appropriate art and craft projects such as painting, drawing, collage-making, or pottery. Experiment with different materials, textures, and colors to stimulate their senses and encourage fine motor skills development.

Plan Social Outings:

Summer break is an ideal time to facilitate social interactions for your child. Look for local events, inclusive summer camps, or recreational programs specifically designed for children with special needs. These opportunities allow your child to make new friends, practice social skills, and engage in group activities.

A graphic image with a soft yellow background and pink images of a girl standing by her bed, standing up, and standing in front of a bathroom sink. Above the images is the title, "My Daily Routine."
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Maintain a Routine:

While summer brings a break from the school routine, maintaining a consistent schedule can provide structure and stability for children with special needs. Create a visual schedule that outlines daily activities, including meal times, playtime, therapy sessions, and outings. Visual cues and routines help reduce anxiety and create a sense of predictability.

Incorporate Learning Opportunities:

Summer can be a great time to incorporate learning into fun activities. Encourage reading by setting aside dedicated reading time and visiting the local library. Explore science experiments, engage in cooking or baking projects, or go on educational outings to museums, zoos, or aquariums. Learning can be interactive and enjoyable when integrated into exciting experiences.

Remember, the key is to tailor activities to your child’s specific needs and interests while promoting their growth, enjoyment, and social engagement. Embrace the summer season as an opportunity for your child to explore, learn, and create beautiful memories.

With careful planning and a focus on your child’s individual needs, summer activities can be both enriching and enjoyable for special needs children. By incorporating sensory experiences, social outings, artistic endeavors, and maintaining a routine, you can create a memorable and engaging summer break for your child. Embrace the opportunities for growth and fun, and cherish the special moments shared together.

Tonya Wollum


Tonya Wollum is a disability advocate and host of the Water Prairie Chronicles podcast which connects special needs parents with resources to help them navigate parenting a child with a disability. She is the mother of 2 college-age children who have each grown up with a disability. That experience, along with a background in education, led her to create the Water Prairie Chronicles to help share what she has learned with parents of younger children to help them know how to advocate for their children.

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