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Is Outdoor Fun Important to Your Autistic Family Member?
Different autistic individuals have different affinities. Some are attached to animals, others fixate on cars. My son is very nature and outdoors focused. He would choose to be outside 24 hours a day, 365 days a year if at all possible. (Good thing we are lucky enough to live in California). If being outside is important to your autistic loved one, then here are some simple ideas for outdoor fun.
Outdoor Fun with Water:
- At home: Of course, a pool is a great option, but if you don’t have access one, then make the most of inflatable pools, sprinklers, lakes, waterslide parks – whatever you can find that will provide this type of sensory input to kids who need it.
- On the go: We live in an area with non-profits that host several supported water days – on the beach or on the lake. Those are also great types of events to look for in your area. But there are plenty of other options for outdoor fun – playgrounds with water spouts and fountains, public pools, lakes, beaches, and even, for some kids, water parks.
Outdoor Fun with Movement:
- At home: We have installed an outdoor swing (and an indoor one, though Mr. Diggy is a bit big for it now!). We also have an outdoor trampoline (and indoor one of those for rainy days as well!). The outdoor one has also been great to promote social interaction with peers on playdates. We recently purchased this hammock and have been pleased with how calming it is- for the whole family. The base required a little assembly, but otherwise, it addressed a fundamental hammock problem- not having two, strong trees the right distance apart. We have also had an assortment of tricycles, bicycles, and our now-discontinued wagon. We are actually in the process of researching our next cycle – it may be a modified tricycle, it may be a larger balance bike.
- On the go: So a lot of these are not exactly outdoor – but they are outside the home AND a lot of fun! Our local YMCA offers a free Dance for All class once a week- the experience was a bit over-stimulating on our first go-around, but we think he can work up to it. You may find your child’s therapists provide recreational options as well. Our son’s occupational therapist regularly offers parents’ days with drop off, supervised activities. The arena where he rides horses also offers a couple of weeks of camp activities. Local speech and occupational therapists also run other sorts of classes and groups.
Outdoor Fun with Toys:
Here are some ideas for outdoor fun that work at home, or at the park, a friend’s house, or as a distraction at a barbecue or other event that may be less otherwise less than an ideal sensory environment. These gross-motor toys can also serve as a great bridge to help connect with neurotypical peers.
- The stomp rocket promotes hand-foot coordination, and the regular one flies exceptionally high. (Choose the junior option if you want a little less height, or have a smaller yard).
- This fun bubble toy requires hand-eye coordination that Mr. Diggy doesn’t quite have yet – but he LOVES bubbles of all shapes and sizes. Plus it promotes, ahem, sibling interaction with some help from brother B.
- This Gigaball is awesome- but it does come with a caveat – if you leave it out in the elements for too long, it will deflate prematurely. Oh- and DEFINITELY use a pump, not your lungs to inflate it. That being said, it is a ton of fun once it’s inflated, and formed the centerpiece of a great birthday party.
- A Zoom Ball is great for a playdate (or sibling play) as it takes two to make it work.
- Our nephews love playing with these dodge tag vests – fun for everyone!
What does outdoor fun look like for your family? Comment below with your thoughts.