Winter can be a difficult time for families with autistic children, especially when school is canceled due to snow or other inclement weather. The change in routine and the lack of structure can be overwhelming for children with autism, leading to frustration and challenging behavior. These tips can help you make snow days less stressful and more enjoyable for your autistic child!
Set Up Indoor Play and Games
When it is too cold to go outside, you can set up exciting activities indoors that you and your child can enjoy. One idea includes setting up an indoor playground. Pillows, blankets, and other soft materials are great for building a mini obstacle course or safe play area. Board games and card games are also great options. If you’re looking for exercise, a dance party is often a fun activity for the days where playing outside isn’t a possibility.
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Keep Your Home Warm and Comfortable
Another key aspect of making your autistic child comfortable during snow days is to create a warm and comfortable environment in your home. You can do this by keeping the thermostat at a consistent, comfortable temperature and encouraging your child to pick their favorite cozy clothes. Also, make sure you have energy saving patio doors that keep the warmth in and the cold air out of your home without putting strain on your heating system.
Use Sensory Bins
Sensory activities can help your child be calm and engaged, especially during a long snow day where the only thing to do is stay at home. A great way to do this is to make sensory bins. Some materials you can add include textured materials, small toys, slime, and puzzle pieces. Every sensory bin will be different, because every child is different. Experiment with the things your child loves to interact with the most, and continue changing up your sensory bin until it works.
If your child loves creating art, a snow day is a great time to let them be as creative as they want to be. Provide paints, crayons, markets, and other art supplies, then spend some time making art with your child. You can also use items from around the house, such as pots and pans, to create homemade musical instruments. Making music can be a fun and stress-relieving activity that is perfect for the days when a routine is interrupted.
Consider Cooking and Baking
Cooking and baking can be great winter activities for autistic children because they allow for structure, predictability, and a sense of accomplishment. If it’s your first time teaching your child how to cook or bake, start with something simple and enjoyable, like one of their favorite meals, or cupcakes that you can frost with winter designs. You can experiment with different flavors and textures to make the experience especially exciting, too.
If it isn’t too cold outside, you can enjoy the snowy day with your child in the great outdoors, at least for a few minutes. A nature walk can be a great idea with the proper winter clothing, because it is a great opportunity for your child to practice observations and identification skills when you point out exciting new things such as animal tracks and pine cones. Building a snowman is also a classic activity that can prove to be fun.
If you are heading outside, make sure both you and your child are properly dressed for the cold weather. Check the temperature before leaving your home. Dressing in layers is also a great idea, because then you can determine exactly how many layers you need once you are outside. Don’t forget an insulating coat, a scarf to keep out wind, a hat, and gloves. A warm pair of socks under boots is another essential.
Go On a Virtual Field Trip
If your child enjoys museums or art galleries, staying inside doesn’t mean they can’t experience one! Many museums and other institutions offer virtual tours of their exhibits and galleries. Choose a topic that your child is interested in, and type it into any Internet browser’s search bar. Chances are, you will find something exciting! Most of these programs are free, which is another added bonus.
Practice Educational Skills
Snow days can be a great opportunity to work on education skills with your child. You can practice reading and writing by picking an engaging story on a topic your child already loves. Math skills can be sharpened with many fun math games, such as counting blocks or measuring ingredients for a recipe. The winter season is a great time to learn about season-specific plants and animals, too.
Do Science Experiments
Science experiments can be a fun and educational activity for autistic children, and there are many experiments that you can do at home using winter-themed materials. One of these experiments is making a snowball in a cup. To do this, fill a plastic cup with hot, boiling water and place it outside. Then, watch as the water freezes into snow crystals! You can also throw the water out of the cup and onto the ground for an even cooler effect.
Another great science activity is to make a small model of an igloo. You can use small plastic cups or other containers filled with snow from outside to create the model. This experiment is a great way to learn about insulation and how igloos are able to keep people warm in cold climates, as well as a fun way to give your child something new to play with.
Snow days often pose a challenge for families with autistic children. With an interruption in schedule and freezing temperatures, it can be difficult to find fun and exciting activities to fill the day with. These tips can help you find something that your child will be comfortable with and excited about doing, which can help to ease the stress that a snow day can cause. By utilizing these tips and seeing what works, you can transform snow days from challenging and difficult into fun and exciting for your whole family!
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