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5 Types of Daily Activities for Autistic Children

5 Types of Daily Activities for Autistic Children

Finding engaging and supportive daily activities for autistic children is key to their development and well-being. 

It’s important for activities to match an autistic child’s unique needs, such as social skills and cognitive development. Create routines that will not only affect their daily lives but encourage independence for their older years.

However, many of us are aware of how challenging it can be to find the right ones. Let’s explore practical and engaging activities that parents, caregivers, and educators can easily fit into their children’s daily routines to help them gain essential life skills.

If you’d like to find more useful activities for your child on the spectrum, you can download your free guide here: 

Calming activities

Calming activities are crucial for helping autistic children manage stressful situations such as anxiety and sensory overload

You should include deep breathing exercises and mindfulness practices. This way, you can create a more relaxed and focused state of mind.

Here are some calming activities for autism you can try:

  • Deep breathing exercises: Teach simple breathing techniques, like breathing in for four counts, holding for four, and exhaling for four. Make this part of the daily routine to build consistency.
  • Mindfulness activities: Guided imagery or simple meditation practices can be very soothing. 
  • Quiet time: Create a dedicated quiet space with soft lighting and calming music where the child can retreat when feeling overwhelmed. This space should be free from distractions and have comfortable seating.

Regular calming activities benefit autistic children by reducing anxiety and lowering overall stress levels. Mindfulness and deep breathing exercises promote relaxation, helping the child feel more centered. Consistent practice of these activities enhances emotional regulation, improving the child’s ability to manage their emotions effectively.

Educational activities

How do you improve an autistic child’s cognitive development? Fun and stimulating educational activities can significantly benefit their cognitive development.

Through others’ and my personal experiences, interactive games, puzzles, and educational applications are excellent ways to encourage learning through play.

Here are some ideas:

  • Interactive games: Games like matching cards or board games not only boost memory and cognitive skills but also teach important concepts such as taking turns and following rules.
  • Puzzles: Picking puzzles with large pieces that are easy to use can help improve problem-solving skills and hand-eye coordination. These activities can also introduce new concepts, such as different shapes, colors, and numbers.
  • Educational apps: Apps that teach letters, numbers, and shapes can be very effective. Look for apps that offer positive reinforcement and clear instructions to keep the child motivated and focused. 
Little girl playing with puzzles https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/daily-activities-autistic-children/

Engaging autistic children in educational activities enhances cognitive skills by improving memory, attention, and reasoning. It also boosts problem-solving abilities through puzzles and interactive games that encourage critical thinking. On top of that, using educational apps and games promotes independent learning, building autonomy and confidence in acquiring new skills.

Social activities

Developing social skills is not just essential for autistic kids. It can help them grow in positive and unexpected ways.

It’s incredibly rewarding to see an autistic child develop to the point of finally getting invited to a birthday party based on a few pointers you gave them. Events like this definitely affected my self-esteem in a good way.

Structured activities such as turn-taking games and group interactions can significantly improve an autistic child’s ability to communicate with others.

Here are more social activities you can implement:

  • Turn-taking games: Simple games like “Simon Says” or “Duck, Duck, Goose” can teach the idea of taking turns and following directions for many children. These games are also great for practicing patience and attention.
  • Group activities: Encourage participation in small group activities such as story time, craft projects, or cooperative games. These activities provide opportunities for social interaction in a controlled environment.
  • Role-playing: Use role-playing games to practice social scenarios and improve conversational skills. Role-playing different social situations can help the child understand appropriate responses and behaviors.

Engaging autistic children in structured social activities enhances social interaction by providing a safe space to practice with peers. Turn-taking and group activities build communication skills, encouraging both verbal and non-verbal expression. Cooperative games and projects promote teamwork, teaching the importance of working together and supporting one another.

Sensory activities

Sensory stimulation and play are vital for autistic children, helping them process and integrate sensory information. When you allow activities that engage various senses, they’re not only therapeutic but enjoyable.

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Little did I know how beneficial these activities were from an autistic adult’s perspective. Here are some effective ones you can try:

  • Sensory bins: Fill a sensory bin with materials like rice, beans, or sand, and include small toys for the child to find and explore. This can be a fun and calming activity that also stimulates the sense of touch.
  • Playdough and slime: These activities can improve fine motor skills and provide a soothing tactile experience. Let the child help with making playdough or slime to engage them in a multi-step process.
  • Water play: Activities like water tables or sprinklers can be refreshing and engaging. Adding toys or objects that float and sink can make water play even more interactive.

Engaging autistic children in sensory activities promotes sensory integration, helping them process and respond to environmental stimuli. Activities like playdough and slime, which use small hand and finger muscles, also enhance fine motor skills. Many sensory toys and activities have a calming effect, providing soothing relief during sensory overload.

Creative activities

Creative activities such as drawing, painting, and crafting allow autistic kids to express themselves and develop fine motor skills. Here are some of them:

  • Art projects: Provide a variety of materials like crayons, markers, and paints, and let the child choose their preferred medium. Encourage free expression without worrying about the final product.
  • Crafting: Simple crafts like making paper plate masks or decorating picture frames can be enjoyable and rewarding. These activities can also be themed around the child’s interests. For example, when I liked certain kids programs at five, my therapists or parents would encourage me to make crafts of the characters.
  • Music and dance: Encourage the child to explore musical instruments or dance to their favorite songs. This can be a fun way to express emotions and energy.
Little girl doing crafts with her mom https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/daily-activities-autistic-children/

Creative activities provide an outlet for self-expression, allowing children to convey their thoughts and feelings. Activities like drawing, painting, and crafting help develop fine motor skills through precise movements. Engaging in these innovative activities boosts creativity and stimulates the imagination, encouraging innovative thinking.

Establishing a routine for daily activities

Establishing routines and enjoyable activities that are consistent is crucial for autistic children. Mix in a variety of educational, calming, social, sensory, and creative activities each day to support their overall growth. 

Keeping regular daily routines helps them know what to expect, which can make things go smoother and improve cooperation and participation. It will be absolutely heartwarming to see your child reach milestones you never fully expected.

FAQs

Q: What are the best daily activities for an autistic child?

A: The best activities for autistic children include a mix of educational, calming, social, sensory, and creative activities tailored to the child’s interests and needs.

Q: What should be the daily routine for an autistic child?

A: A structured routine with a balance of different types of activities, regular breaks, and time for relaxation and free play works best to help these children learn.

Q: What are the best games for autistic children?

A: Games that promote turn-taking, social skills, and cognitive skills, such as matching cards, board games, and role-playing games, are highly beneficial.

Q: What are everyday tasks for autism?

A: Everyday tasks for children with autism can include activities of daily living (ADLs). They include things like dressing, grooming, and eating, as well as engaging in structured play and educational activities.

References

Atherton G, Cross L. The Use of Analog and Digital Games for Autism Interventions. Front Psychol. 2021 Aug 9;12:669734. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.669734. PMID: 34447328; PMCID: PMC8384560.

Autism Parenting Magazine. (2022, Sept. 15). Autism Crafts: Ideas for Getting Creative with Your Child. Autism Parenting Magazine. https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/autism-crafts-idea/ 

Autism Parenting Magazine. (2024, May 24). 8 DIY Sensory Toys You Can Make at Home. Autism Parenting Magazine. https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/diy-sensory-toys/ 

Beth Pfeiffer, Wendy Coster, Gretchen Snethen, Maggie Derstine, Aimee Piller, Carole Tucker; Caregivers’ Perspectives on the Sensory Environment and Participation in Daily Activities of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Am J Occup Ther July/August 2017, Vol. 71(4), 7104220020p1–7104220028p9. doi: https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2017.021360 

Magnon V, Dutheil F, Vallet GT. Benefits from one session of deep and slow breathing on vagal tone and anxiety in young and older adults. Sci Rep. 2021 Sep 29;11(1):19267. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-98736-9. PMID: 34588511; PMCID: PMC8481564.

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