According to famous poet Victoria Erickson, “If a year was tucked inside of a clock, then Autumn would be the magic hour!” Fall ushers in a cornucopia of colors and sensory offerings. Who doesn’t look forward to the aromas of apple cider, pumpkin spice and pecan pie, or the changing leaves and the holidays?
With the summer heat dying down, kids enjoy spending more time outdoors and renewing their rapport with nature one last time before winter sets in. While children with special needs may have some difficulty processing the change of seasons and all its elements, some interactive and fun activities can provide immersive sensory and educational experiences to help them enjoy everything fall has to offer. Listed below are our favorites.
- 1. Pumpkin carving
- Carving a jack-o-lantern is a favorite activity for kids with sensory issues. Help your child carve a pumpkin and watch those fine motor skills kick into action. Scooping out the soft pulp and seeds is a satisfying wet tactile activity. Let them play with the mushy goop for a bit, and then work on their pincer grasp by picking the seeds to toast later for a yummy snack!
- 2. Sensory bins
- Sensory bins have long been used by therapists to encourage hands-on experiences for kids. They promote emotional development by letting children play side-by-side, encourage use of practical life skills (dumping, scooping, filling) and facilitate language development by prompting kids to name objects.
You can make fall-themed sensory bins with fall-colored dry food items like rice, dry pasta or beans, or non-food items like buttons, beads, aquarium rocks, birdseed, sand, shredded paper or fallen leaves. Hide familiar objects inside the fillers and see if your child can find and name them. To add a layer of challenge, encourage them to try to find and identify the objects with their eyes closed. Reward them for right answers!
- 3. Arts and crafts
- Art is a top tool for self-expression. Making leaf-impression art using crayons or paints and finger-painting a fall tree are great ways to provide tactile inputs to children and improve motor skills. Have your child use small or broken crayons to facilitate a tripod grasp. Kids with limited hand mobility can hold large pastel chalks that go between fingers or in a clenched fist.
A large group fall project that’s doable for children of all abilities, including kids with physical, perceptual and cognitive challenges, is to create trees together using leaf cutouts (or collected leaves). Participants can explore overlapping techniques and color mixing and practice working as a group. Creating a fall-colored handprint collage can also teach teamwork skills.
Craft ideas include gathering nuts, seeds, corn husks, leaves and more to make a 3D collage. Talking about the different colors and textures as your child works helps promote language skills and improve vocabulary.
- 4. Nature hunt
- Take advantage of crisp fall weather to organize a nature hunt in a local park or woods. Let kids collect pine cones and acorns using tongs and tweezers, improving grip and precision. Meanwhile, work on number skills by having them count the birds, squirrels or other animals they spot on the trails!
Lexington Services offers innovative ideas to engage your child academically and emotionally for holistic growth. Follow our blog for a diverse array of articles about special needs, and contact us if you are a parent looking for dedicated professional services or autism schools for your child with special needs!