Activities for autism: List of games for you to have fun!

Did you know that recreational activities with your child with autism don’t have to be an unsatisfactory, chaotic, and unpredictable? One of the biggest challenges for parents with children with autism is getting their children to enjoy their free time, and sometimes it’s quite complicated. Here are different fun activities for autism so you can enjoy as a family.

activities for autism
activities for autism

Being parents and keeping your children active and busy is very difficult these days. They are becoming more and more demanding and bored. If we add to this that our child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, things get complicated.

People with autism do not learn spontaneously to organize their free time: breaks, weekends, holidays, they need an explicit lesson on how to plan and occupy their free time.

It is important as a parent to know how to choose the right activities that are right for your child.

Be aware of your child’s likes and interests, of what activities they can do according to their age and level of development. Finally, find out about all the resources you have both at home and in your neighborhood.

As a parent, you may have noticed that certain activities need to be adapted. You will have to create the materials some of the materials. There are many activities for autism that can be complicated for severe forms of autism. Feel free to adapt them as you see fit, however, take these aspects into account:

  • TIMING: Keep something that indicates the “time” the activity lasts. The activity must have an evident beginning and end.
  • CHOICE: People with autism must learn how to make their choices and not always choose the same thing. Use paper, a blackboard, photos, drawings, pictograms, written words, etc. show your child visually the possibilities that exist and let them choose.
activities for autism
Activities for autism

Once you have taken into account the requirements that here are a series of fun activities for autism to do together with your child and some brief guidelines on how to do them.

1. Activities for Autism: Fun Games

These fun activities for autism can be adapted to any spectrum and they promote communication, social relationships and the development of imagination in your child with autism.

Social-motor games for children with autism

For these type of activities you won’t need any props. They consist in encouraging anticipation and repetition with games such as “Tag” or “Duck, Duck, Goose!” They can be modified to simple games such as spinning around, hopping like a rabbit, etc.

Imitation games for children with autism

They can be movements such as clapping, stomping, as well as, vocal sounds, objects, etc. Imitation games can be a great way to include yourself in your child’s interests.

Functional games for children with autism

Kitchens spatulas, toy tools, miniature food, doll clothes, cars, trains are functional games with objects. Depending on the level of autism, your child will use few materials. My advice is that it may be useful to make game scripts that represent a particular story. The language in this type of game is very important. You have to adapt it and talk in a simple way. Keep in mind you can add keywords or vocabulary to help language development.

Cause and effect game for children with autism

An example of this would be toys in which pressing a button produces a sound or a light appears. You can also use games in which you have to fit pieces together. These type of games allows us to work frustration levels.

Visospatial games for children with autism

Puzzle games and legos are some of the types of games that fall into this category. You will have to show your child where the pieces might fit. Tip: Always reinforce them. It doesn’t matter if they don’t do it right or wrong. The important thing is that they try. Say, “All right,” “It’s okay, let’s try again.”

Exchange games for children with autism

Games such as balls, water balloons, hoops, etc. In case they are not interested in this type of game, which may happen, in principle I would recommend that you start by hiding the ball, put it under a cushion or under something else. You can encourage them to look for it and then make them hide it for you.

Sensory and creative games for children with autism

These games are made with materials that cause pleasant sessions (sand, play dough, watercolors, finger paints, papers with different textures, etc.). This type of games are very popular with children with autism, they love them!

Games with rules for children with autism

Games such as board games (goose, Parcheesi, bingo). You will probably have to adapt the rules of the games, simplifying them, making the rules very explicit and visual.

activities for autism
Activities for Autism

2. Activities for autism: Fun musical activities

Music is a great option since you can dance, jump, move and gesticulate following the rhythm. Listening to music can be an individual activity but if you want it can also be a shared activity. Music therapy is a widely used treatment for Rett-type autism. Here are some ideas for you to do with your child.

  • Dancing, jumping and moving around the room or house to the rhythm of the music. You can hold your child’s hands and guide their movements.
  • Guide songs with gestures. There is a music group for children that interprets the songs with gestures. If you are inspired, invent gestures together with your children for a song that you like.
  • Sit in front of your child with their legs on yours and move your arms as if you were rowing together to the rhythm of the music.
  • Give your child a piggyback ride and move with the music.
  • Put your child’s feet on top of yours and dance.
  • Learn a song and sing it together. This helps lyric comprehension. Use visual aids for the most meaningful words.
  • Music relaxes. You can play quieter music and lie down with your child to listen to it.
  • Make-up songs with rhythms from other familiar songs to describe or relate what you do together.
  • Create your own music using instruments: flutes, drums, rattles, water pipes, etc. Let your child experiment with the different sounds.

3. Activities for autism: Storytelling

To plan the activity you must be aware if your child with autism likes books, their ability to understand, their interests and the type of drawings that make sense to them.

activities for autism
Activities for autism
  • Different materials books: cardboard, fabric, etc. If your child likes to bite or break pages, it’s best to look for a sturdy book.
  • Books with many images are very appropriate for pointing out or naming pictures. Store catalogs (of toys, food, or other) can be used for this purpose.
  • Interactive books, in which your child’s action has an immediate effect, which enhances your child’s interest.
  • Predictable books, with repetitive words and phrases that encourage interaction and has rhythm and rhymes.
  • Books with simple stories, appropriate if your child has a high comprehension capacity. They are books with clearly defined beginning, development, and end, and they deal with topics that are familiar to your child.
  • Personalized books, with photos of the child.

4. Activities for autism: Computers

There are many computer games that are often very fun and interesting for people with an autism spectrum disorder. These computer activities are usually very eye-catching. Many of them are educational games created with the intention that children learn by playing. Some of them, such as CogniFit has been developed by neurologists specialized in this type of disorders and are aimed at improving the cognitive skills of children with learning difficulties. The important thing is for your child to have fun and enjoy themselves. You’ll probably have to help them use the mouse or explain what to do.

  • Paint on the computer with programs such as Paint or Notebook.
  • Write what has been done during the day or afternoon on the computer
  • See photos of your child of his birthday, of vacations, of activities and comment them together.

5. Activities for autism: Arts and Crafts

Handcrafted activities are an excellent option. It is not necessary to use very expensive materials you can use recycled materials, newspapers, toilet paper rolls, plastic jars, straws, chopsticks, magazines, cardboard boxes, etc.

  • Choose activities that are appropriate for your child’s level and make sure you are using non-toxic materials.
  • Put all the materials on the table or floor where you are going to work. Allow your child to touch and explore them.
  • Explain the steps for the activity. They can use a drawn step guide that will always be in front of them so you can point to each task.
  • Exemplify each step by modeling how to do it.
  • Offer verbal help constantly, adapting the language to your child. Always clearly and never in a negative tone. Tip: It may be helpful to speak in infinitive if the level of understanding of your child with autism is not very high.
  • Help your child with the steps that may not be appropriate for them. For example, cutting with scissors or using glue.

For paint activities, make sure your child doesn’t eat the paint. Use crayons, markers, pencils, watercolors, tempera, etc. You can use any type of paper. You can also paint on the floor, on the table or on the wall.

Playdough activities: you can use your hands or with plastic hammers, make shapes with your hands and then play with them.

  • Wrinkle newspaper and make shapes.
  • Make necklaces with painted macaroni.
  • Make a train with cardboard boxes joined with string and play with it.
  • Create potato stamps and use them on paper. They like this kind of activity very much and have fun. Try it!
  • Dye water with crepe paper and make colored bubbles by blowing the water with a straw.
  • Plant lentils in a yogurt cup with cotton and water.
  • Make rattles with empty jars or small bottles of water.
  • Make binoculars from glued toilet paper rolls.
  • Make colored glasses with cardboard and transparent colored paper and play to see the world of many colors.

Translated by Alejandra Salazar