Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) affects how an individual perceives the world and interacts with others. Parents begin to notice signs in the very first three years of their toddlers. It’s a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In this article, you will find the best activities for autistic toddlers!
Art & craft activities and toys that incorporate their senses and improve them. It helps them to communicate through art. Communicative games as simple as introducing themselves can vastly improve their social interaction.
Types of Activities For Autistic Toddlers
1. Social Behavior Enhancing
Children with autism face a lot of problems with communication with people around them–most of the time, with their classmates. Some are even shy to interact with their siblings and relatives. ASD has a whole spectrum about the severity of the problems.
These games will help you determine your child’s stage. Try to communicate with them as much as possible. But don’t overdo it either as it might result in an autistic meltdown. Following are some exercises meant to be practised at home or school. They are easy to follow and effective.
2. Sensory Activities
There are countless sensory activities and guides to follow, which could help children with autism engage and improve focus. Children with autism have varying needs. They display a range of different behaviours. So the activities should be targeting their specific needs. Autistic children use more than one sense at a time to understand and feel better.
These activities use multiple senses simultaneously, like smelling along with feeling different textures in their hands. Using their finger tips and using their mind to create new things from scratch. Arranging things in certain orders and arranging the same things in different orders help them develop their skills. It helps them think differently. We have cited some really helpful activities which are pretty easy to follow.
3. Calming Activities
Having occasional meltdowns when you have a child with autism is quite predictable. Changes in routine can trigger or exacerbate meltdowns. During a meltdown, children with autism have very less control over their behaviour. Every child behaves differently during a meltdown. They have their own needs to calm down. Some need a corner to stay in order to get some isolation and then return back to their normal state. It’s painful to see a child lose control for seemingly no reason when they are going through a meltdown and they have almost no control over themselves.
So, it’s important to learn the signs of meltdown and help them overcome it. Always try your best to keep your special child safe. Keep motivating them and praising them. We have listed some methods of how to help your child when they are going through a meltdown. Again, the methods are easy to follow and effective.
Best Activities For Autistic Toddlers 2021
1. Emotions charade
A very simple, yet really effective, game. Write emotions such as happiness, sadness, nervousness, etc. on small pieces of paper instead of movie titles. Take turns picking the paper slips and ask the child to express the emotion written in the slip. For instance, let’s say the child picks up a slip and it says “nervousness”.
One of the toughest feelings to understand in the beginning, especially for kids, but not that tough to express. An autistic child will learn about feelings, if taught the right way. It will help them learn about not only facial expressions but also the meanings of those emotions. They understand better when they have to use more than senses.
Ask a child to imitate your facial expressions or literally anything you do. Try going for silly faces like sticking out your tongue or opening your eyes wide. Try to jump, run, walk, and all sorts of activities while playing this game. This will make them more comfortable around you and they can learn how to express over time. Touch your nose and let them imitate you. Make them laugh as you do.
Not just simple story telling but improvisational storytelling. To play, you need to have printed pictures of different emotions. Place the pictures upside down and let the players pick up the pictures. They have to narrate a story but they have to incorporate the emotion presented in the picture.
The next player picks up another picture and continues with the same story but they mould it as they wish and according to the emotion presented in the picture. This will encourage group activities and interaction among children, along with improving their narrative skills.
4. Name game
Children with autism can learn one of the most basic social skill ie. introducing themselves with this game. You can begin by telling your name and then asking every child their name. Make them ask each for their names. This activity will teach them how to introduce and listen to others as well. This will increase the interaction among children. Use hand gestures like pointing fingers at each other during the game. Make sure kids do the same. All the gestures are going to help them open up and their body language will develop.
In this game, you can assign each student a task that they will have to bring something that they would like to share with the class. This could be a weekly game to play.
It could be anything from going to the park to a ride in Disneyland. It could be a drawing they make. It could be literally anything. Their confidence, self expressions, and sense to read people will significantly increase. It will also help them in finding what they like.
6. Being a character
Recite a story for kids. They love listening to stories. Use this very moment to ask a question. Ask a question about that would let them relate themselves with the character. A question like this: “What would you have done if you had to kiss the frog to get your prince?” Let them learn about things they would never have thought of. Help them explore the tiny details of Nature that they could not reach on their own. Give them the gift of empathy.
7. Sensory bottle
Take an old transparent plastic bottle and fill it with water. Put in some colours and shake it to mix it well. Add some marbles and glitters to it. With hot glue, seal the lid. An eye-catching toy is ready. This will help your child to get engaged and improve focus.
8. Coin rubbing
This is really easy and fun to play. No need to buy new things for this as all you need is a coin, crayons, and pencils. Place the coin on a table where it can stay and no slip. Place pape on the coin, hold both the paper and coin in place and start rubbing crayon on the paper. A quality print of the coin will be obtained on the paper as it’s hand drawn. Using a pencil gives better results but crayon gives colourful results. Children are going to love this.
9. Edible jewellery
All you would need is candies or cereals with holes in the middle, and thread. Slide the thread through the holes provided in candies or cereal. Keep passing the same thread through candies and then cut the thread. Tie the two ends together and voila! You got a yummy piece of edible jewellery! This boosts a child’s confidence and ability to engage.
10. Sensory collage:
Aluminum foil, colour powder, glitter, crayon shavings, use as many elements as possible as autistic kids love distinct textures. It’s overwhelming for them. Engage your kids in messy activities like making a collage with different textured things. Their hands sense all the textures of different materials and it gives them joy.
11. Ice painting
This activity requires you to keep an eye on the kid. Pour some acrylic colours in an ice tray and place wooden craft sticks or toothpicks in each compartment. Freeze it. Swirl it on a sheet of paper and watch the mesmerizing art drawn on paper. A perfect activity to do on a bright sunny day. You, as a mature person, need to be around as the kid might tend to eat the frozen substance. Acrylic colours are not meant to be consumed.
Put some flowers like lavenders and roses, that are easily available in your lawn. Some coffee beans, candies, and soaps work as well. The plan is to put the enlisted things into a jar one by one. Cover it with a piece of cloth and rubber band, or make holes in the metallic lid if you’re not going to use it in future.
Also, paint the glass jar to hide the element inside. Ask your child to smell the element and predict what it could be. It will enhance their senses and every correct answer is going to be a step on the ladder of happiness.
13. Open the snack bag
Put in different snacks with distinct shapes, colors, sizes, textures, and tastes. Let the kids open their very own snack bags and smile at the sight of all the distinct characteristics. Now, to play the game you can ask them to arrange the snacks in increasing order of their size. You may ask which texture they like the most and why.
Question could also be as to which snack tastes the best in their opinion. You can ask to count how many snacks are there in their bag and what are the different colours. There could be countless questions about this. You need a little bit of brainstorming. We have cited a few here.
14. Buttons in a bag
For this, all you need is a bunch of buttons, a transparent ziplock bag, and markers. It would make the game really interesting if you have buttons of varying sizes and colours. Put the buttons in the ziplock bag and lock it. Draw two distinct circles on the bag with a marker.
Name one circle as orange and the other one as yellow if you’re using buttons with those colours. Ask the kid to arrange the buttons in their respective circle by using their finger to drag the buttons across the bag. This is going to enhance their senses and engagement skills.
You can also play it the other way around. Draw 2 circles, name them “bigger buttons” and the other one as “smaller buttons”. Ask the kid to arrange the buttons according to their sizes irrespective of their colour. They will have to judge which button is bigger and which is smaller as no precise size is mentioned.
15. Vegetable paint stamps
There couldn’t be an easier game than this. All you need is some vegetables, acrylic colors, and a drawing sheet. Cut the vegetables in half. Pour some paint on a plate. Dip the cut vegetable in paint and press it on the drawing sheet. You will obtain beautiful prints without any hard work.
Also, the autistic child will be amazed to see how easy it is to draw such complex patterns. Try to teach them about symmetry, about the benefits of the vegetables, their taste, texture. Try to build a conversation.
Split the large batch of playdough you made into small separate bowls. Add and mix distinct ingredients like ginger, almond essence, vanilla essence, chocolate, maple syrup, and cinnamon. You can try all sorts of ingredients. Just play with it. Let the kids play with it and guess the flavours. It’s going to enhance their senses.
17. Car Wash
Bowls of water, soaps, sponges, brushes, clothes, towels, and some toy cars. Kids will love playing with the cars and also learn to keep their toys clean. Cars could be any from small plastic or metallic cars to medium sized vehicles. This group activity could form bonds among individuals as the autistic kids have been shy earlier.
18. Homemade musical instruments
Making musical instruments at home is as fun as playing them. It’s fairly easy to make them. One of the most easiest being the wind chimes. You can simply tie up bottle tops or spoons together and hand them up. Another could be shakers. All you need is a bottle, rice, and beans. Put rice or beans or both in a bottle and shake it. It produces a nice crispy sound. Easy DIY as it can be.
19. Footprint painting
It’s as fun and easy as it sounds. The required things are a big sheet of drawing paper or chart, water paint colours, plates, and towels. Place the chart on the solid floor. Put the colours in separate plates. Ask the children to step on the plate with colours and then stand on the chart.
Carefully step off the chart. Wipe their feet clean with a wet towel. You and the children will be amazed to see how beautiful the obtained painting is and how easy it is to make it. They can spend time comparing the prints and writing names under their prints.
20. Tasting game
Blindfold the autistic child and put distinct food items one by one for the child to taste it and describe what it tastes like and whether they like it or not. You could give them some food they usually won’t eat but this way they can finally taste it and describe it. Maybe they find the food they used not to eat tasty.
21. Cornflour slime
All you need is cornflour, water, and a deep container. Mix cornflour and water until a slime consistency is obtained. Add some colors or flavours to it. It’s a cross between solid and liquid. If you punch the slime it behaves as solid, but if you scoop it out, it behaves as a liquid. The colorful slime will be a perfect thing to play with if you run out of toys. It’s easy to make and the ingredients are simple and can be easily available in your house.
22. Bubble snakes
Socks, bubble mixture, and plastic bottles are all that you need. Cut the bottom of a plastic bottle. Cover the bottom with a sock and pull it upwards to get a tight fit. Dip the bottom in bubble mixture and blow air from the mouth of the bottle to get long bubbles. You can teach them a lot of things, like the amount of air to be blown in order to obtain the long possible bubble. It is indeed a fun outdoor activity to enjoy in groups.
23. Finger painting
A drawing sheet and water colours are all you need. Ask your little one to dip finger in a color of their choice and doodle onto the sheet. Then dip another finger in another color and again doodle but try to trace the same previously doodled lines. They will see the magic of colours mixing together. Like red and green making brown. This is a messy activity but it’s worth it as their reaction to it will be priceless.
24. Finding toys
Fill a tub with a lot of beans. Hide the kids’ toys in the beans–as many toys as possible. The more the toys, the longer the activity can go and the more the fun. It’s going to be like a treasure hunt for the kids. They will put their hands in the beans and look for the toys and enjoy. You can also use colored water for this game. But, then, be ready with towels to clean up the mess later.
24. Calm down corner
When an autistic kid goes through a meltdown, they need a space that they feel comfortable in. For many, a corner in their bedroom or any anywhere else works. For some it could be the balcony and skygazing. Basically the motive is to let them stay in a place they feel comfortable in.
25. Breathing exercises
When a meltdown takes place all of a sudden, the most preferred way that comes to everyone’s mind to calm down a child is making them take deep breaths. It’s one of the most effective ways out there. Probably the easiest one to follow as well. Inhaling air from the nostrils and exhaling from the mouth. Some children like to blow soap bubbles as well while breathing.
26. Chewy snack
Something soft and chewy to chew on always helps during anxiety and autistic meltdowns. Because oral proprioceptive input calms them down and makes them feel better. Sometimes even crunch snacks help like wafers or biscuits.
27. Fidget toy
Recently, a lot of fidget toys like fidget spinners have claimed to have relieving stress. In some cases it really does. It’s a toy with some ball bearings inside, which help it keep rotating about one fixed point. The longer it rotates, the more satisfying.
28. Noise cancelling headphones
A pair of soft and comfortable over noise cancelling headphones really help if the surrounding noises disturb the child. Just don’t let those noises enter their ears and they shall calm down. Sometimes noises like key scratching on a car door disturbs, so this equipment can be really helpful in such scenarios.
29. Scented hand lotion
Sometimes a bad odor can really irritate kids and then a preferred scented hand lotion can come into play. It’s one of the quickest ways to combat this problem. When you don’t have time or water to handwas–for instance you’re on a trip and you face this problem–a hand lotion can really be of great help.
30. Reinforce positiveness
Try to praise your child on their smallest achievements too. Each and every praise will boost their confidence and allow them to excel. Praises help them climb the ladder of success. Make them feel their actions hold importance. A hug or hi-five is one of the best and easiest ways of cheering them up and avoiding those meltdowns, those outbursts.
31. Chewy pencil/pen
Make sure their backpacks have some pencils or pens with a chewy back. As a child goes through a melt down and is mature enough about that, they can pull out that pen and begin to chew it in order to calm themself down. An easy but effective method. Even adults tend to chew when they are stressed, as we sometimes see children biting on their fingers. Adults do the same
Find The Best Activities for Autistic Toddlers Today!
We have discussed social & sensory activities as well ways to handle a meltdown. As a parent, teacher or a guardian you must know the goal behind the activities for autistic toddlers you’re carrying out. It might take time for the child with autism to make a rose with modelling clay. Petal by petal, leaf by leaf then a stem but eventually that rose will bloom like the child.
Whether it be any activity, if you have a well-defined goal only then there is going to be an improvement. Things might not go as planned but there will be an interaction between you and the child. That’s what matters.