4 Backyard Activities for Kids with Autism

For many children, the natural world is filled with wonder and curiosity — and children on the autism spectrum are no different. Being in nature is calming, inspiring and sparks the imagination. When they explore the great outdoors, children learn how to appreciate the environment, value all life and relate to the world around them. This is especially important with kids with autism.

But perhaps you don’t live near the lush woods or the wilderness — so how can you help your child cultivate a relationship with nature? Look no further than your own backyard. Even a small outdoor space can be a treasure trove for natural exploration and family-friendly activities. With just a few tips and ideas, you can create a safe, accessible, and functional backyard for children on the autism spectrum.

Bird Watching

Get the whole family outside to support your child as she explores the world. Right from your own backyard — or a nearby park — you can see the myriad of bird species that live in your neighborhood. Encourage your child to watch for birds and describe them, either in words or by sketching. You can then work as a family to identify the bird, observe its behaviors and create an appealing habitat for it in your yard.

Backyard Camping

Who says you need to drive off to the nearest wilderness site in order to go camping? Pitch a tent in your backyard and help your child have a safe, secure camping experience. This can be a great way to introduce your little one to the idea of roughing it (while still having a bathroom close by) or a fun way to celebrate a holiday or birthday. You can roast s’mores, find constellations, tell stories around the fire and close out the night hunkered down in a sleeping bag with the whole family together in a tent.

Gardening

Starting a family garden is an exciting way to teach kids about healthy living and having fun. You can get your child on the autism spectrum interested in gardening by giving her tools that no one else will use. Be sure to be mindful of any gross or fine motor skills that may need accomodations. Gardening can help build communication skills, which is especially important for kids on the autism spectrum, by encouraging them to ask questions, talk about the kinds of plants they want to grow and recipes they want to make with vegetables after they harvest.

Exercise

With more than 3 million cases diagnosed each year, childhood obesity is a serious concern for all parents, but especially parents of a child with a disability. Studies show that children with disabilities, like being on the autism spectrum, have an increased risk of obesity and all the health issues that come with it. Getting your family outside together for activities that promote physical health is important to ensure a happy, healthy life for your child. You can go on family bike rides together or play backyard games, like volleyball, tennis, tag or hide-n-seek. Every evening after dinner can be dedicated to a backyard activity.

Making outdoor play in your backyard accessible for a child on the autism spectrum means having a mix of both high and low stimulation. Pay attention to how your child is behaving and choose the right level by paying attention to what your kid needs in that moment. Pick backyard activities that make the child comfortable, but also help to develop skills that can be stifled by autism, like communication, making eye contact, social awareness, playing pretend or call and response.

Photo by Pixabay

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