Fill ‘er Up!

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Winter is here – in full force – and while ushering the kids out of doors may not be an option, there are still plenty of ways to give your child the sensory stimulus they need to stay regulated.

Some kids are self-starters and can find their own entertainment, but it’s not always the best choice. Hours upon hours of iPad, right? So give them a jump start, using your visual schedule tools. Then there are the sensory seekers. They need their daily doses of movement, auditory, visual or tactile activity just to stay calm and regulated. Ah, but the playground is buried, and the bikes and big wheels are in storage for the winter. And  the never-ending chorus of “What should we do, Mom?” begins. Didn’t they just get deluged with gifts?

Earlier we discussed how to create structure for your child during the long winter break. Now here are some ideas for activities to fill up that daily schedule.

Sometimes the simplest objects can become the most enchanting and the most interactive.

  • Think “Letter B” – Boxes, Balls, and Blankets
    • Large boxes can be turned into trains, or houses or rocket ships by cutting out windows, doors and painting or decorating the outside – a project that will fill up many days.
    • Small boxes stuffed with newspaper can become blocks.
    • Empty boxes are transformed into wagons and sleds. Kids can push one another in them or pull their stuffed animals for relays.
    • Balls can be bounced on, rolled on, batted against walls or kicked.
    • Blankets can be shaken like parachutes, rolled up in, or pulled for blanket rides or used as covers for hideouts or forts. Playmobil sets or Duplos can be constructed underneath
  • Tactile activities are calming for many children
    • Homemade play dough is simple to make and there are a wide variety of homemade versions available.
    • Tape a large piece of paper or newspaper on a wall and make a vacation mural or collage with leftover wrapping paper and ribbons, markers and crayons.
  • And sometimes our visual kids need some “down time”
    • They love video and TV, which can be used thoughtfully at strategic times during the day.
    • Wii offers interactive video options and there are dance and exercise programs as well.
    • Books, puzzles and fidgets (you know those “ooze” tubes and timers) are settling for our kids with visual/spatial strengths.

Doses of activity interspersed with quiet, calming activities throughout the day can work to keep the moodiness at bay. Use your visual schedules and dry erase boards to spell out the choices for the day and only offer ones that you can handle. Help  your child get started or play along,  Don’t feel like you have to change it up every day. The repetition is good, and the kids will probably expand their interactions each day.

Now, go play!

Author: Margie

Margie, MA, OTR, is an occupational therapist through the Minneapolis Public Schools. She is dedicated to engaging children with autism and helping parents achieve that engagement in everyday moments. Read her full bio here.

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