Summer break can be an exciting time for children and their families to spend time together and experience new things. It can also be challenging to keep your children with autism on an organized growth path and maintain their sensory skills if there is no structure for them to practice. Luckily, there are several great sensory activities for children to do over summer break that are easy and fun.
In this guide to keeping summer break constructive and enjoyable, we’ll cover:
- What are sensory activities for children?
- Why is sensory learning important for kids with autism?
- 10 sensory activities to do over summer break
- Sensory activities in ABA therapy
Make this the best summer for enjoyable learning and family time that keeps your child with autism on a growth path to maximizing their potential.
What Are Sensory Activities for Children?
Sensory activities or sensory play are when we can create interactive methods of learning for children that encourage growth in sensory areas. Often, these activities focus on:
- Stimulating touch
In addition to these basic senses, sensory activities can combine them and help your child learn complex topics and compound movements while having fun. Most importantly, for children with autism, sensory play can be a great complement or addition to an ABA framework focused on specific behavioral skills or daily life applications.
Why is Sensory Learning Important for Kids with Autism?
Sensory activities and sensory learning benefit all children, but developing specific skills within an ABA framework for autism can be incredibly effective.
These types of targeted developments can include:
- Language development
- Cognitive growth
- Motor skills
- Balance abilities
- Social interaction
- Peer engagement
- Observational skills
- Social interaction
In addition to these complex behavioral troughs, sensory play and associated activities can be great for relieving anxiety, helping with depression, or creating healthy routines for children with autism. Talk to your ABA therapist or clinician about generalizing these activities across environments for the best long-term success.
10 Sensory Activities to Do Over Summer Break
One of the most rewarding parts about sensory activities for children with autism is that they are supposed to be fun, dynamic, and accessible for parents, teachers, and educators alongside the children we care about. During the warm summer months, we can take these activities outdoors and enjoy them across many environments.
Here are ten great summer sensory activities:
- Mud Kitchen: One of our favorite outdoor sensory activities, making a mud kitchen is perfect for creativity and getting messy. Make mud using water, bowls, dirt, or clay, and shape it into ovens, dishes, foods, or any shapes your child pleases.
- Water Beads: Water beads are non-toxic toys that allow children to squish them around in their hands. They can be refrigerated to create temperature contrast, and counting them or making designs is a significant cognitive addition to the activity.
- Finger Painting: Another sensory classic taken outside to eliminate mess indoors, finger painting is an excellent way for your child to express themselves. It also helps teach colors and combines organization with manual dexterity skill-building.
- Homemade Scented Playdough: Taking existing playdough and adding homemade scents such as lemon, cinnamon, vanilla, or any other natural flavoring can be incredibly fun for the whole family. Bonus points if you make the base playdough yourself!
- Pouring Station: A pouring station is a fantastic way to practice fine motor skills and teach special awareness to children with autism. Set up different-sized jugs and containers outdoors and let them pour one into the other to see how they fit, how water moves, and enjoy the sensation and sounds of rushing water.
- Food Play: Many children with autism have issues with the textures, tastes, and color of certain foods, which leads them to be wary of new dishes. Playing and interacting with food can help eliminate these picky eating habits, turning eating time into a fun, interactive experience. We recommend you do this in the yard when the weather is nice for minimal mess.
- Rainbow Sensory Glitter: Glitter is a great sensory activity, but we also know glitter indoors is a recipe for disaster. This is why when the weather is nice, you can put down cardboard and let your child create color-coded glitter sections or draw with glitter to learn about shapes and different textures while having fun in the sun.
- Ice Smash: Freeze marbles, toys, or even food inside of ice cubes and then let your child deconstruct the cubes outside. They can crush them, let them melt, or run water over them – the ways to play are nearly limitless in this temperature and touch-based activity!
- Yoga Flashcards: The outdoors, exercise, and organized learning come together with yoga flashcards. Furthermore, this is an activity that parents and caretakers can join in on and get benefits, making it a win/win for the entire family!
- Freeze Dance Painting: A modern take on freeze tag, this sensory-based skill builder is so much fun! Have your child choose their favorite paint and lay a canvas or cardboard down. Apply the paint to the bottoms of their feet, and create different patterns by dancing until the music stops.
These are just ten of our favorite sensory activities to do over summer break, and there are so many more creative ones that you and your family can develop. That’s part of the joy of sensory learning – once you see the best way your child with autism can connect and grow while playing, it is a joy to add to the experience.
Sensory Activities in ABA Therapy
Sensory play is an incredibly effective and dynamic way for a child with autism to learn new skills and develop existing ones. Even better, sensory activities are a common and integral portion of many ABA frameworks licensed therapists or practitioners provide.
When looking for potential ABA therapy for your child, ask about sensory play and how they integrate it into programming. This will allow you and your child’s therapist to plan for sensory play across multiple environments. You can educate caregivers, teachers, and family members on incorporating sensory play into the time spent with your child.
Learn More About ABA Therapy & Sensory Play at Ally Pediatric Therapy
At Ally Pediatric Therapy, we commit to helping children with autism and their families maximize their potential. By creating unique ABA frameworks that incorporate things like sensory play, our clinic turns learning and growth into enjoyable moments for you and your child.
Please contact us today if you are interested in learning more about how ABA therapy can help your child overcome obstacles and live life to the fullest. It takes a village to raise a child; we’d love to be part of yours.