Sensory Activities for Autism

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What is sensory play?

Sensory play is any activity that stimulates our senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. It helps children interact with and make sense of the world that surrounds them.

Why is sensory play important?

Sensory play plays an important role in a child’s learning and development. Much of our learning comes through our ability to use our senses to retain information.


Sensory play is a lot of fun. It also offers many benefits for child development, including:
  • Helping children understand how their actions affect what’s around them.
  • Supporting brain development, enhancing memory, complex tasks and problem solving.
  • Developing fine motor skills through tactile play (useful when children want to hold a pen or use scissors for example).
  • Supporting language development, communication and social skills.
  • Enhancing memory and observational skills.
  • Encouraging creative and independent thinking.
  • Emotional regulation by providing a calming effect on children’s angry or anxious feelings.

When can you start sensory play?

From birth, children are ready for sensory play. Children are natural explorers – they’re constantly learning and taking in what’s around them.

Sensory activities can be adapted for different ages, needs and abilities.

You can easily adapt a simple sensory activity like blowing bubbles for different children at different stages and abilities, for example:
  • Babies might enjoy feeling the bubbles pop on their skin.
  • Toddlers can chase after bubbles and pop them on themselves, the floor, and surfaces around them.
  • For older children, try a project where they creating their own bubble mixture and blow bubbles using a wand or their hands.

18 Sensory activities for Children with ASD

When you’re fostering a child with autism, it’s important to understand what sensory information triggers them, both indoors and outside. 

You can then trial different activities to see which ones they’re comfortable engaging with. Some games may suit one autistic child but not another, so it’s all about learning what’s right for the autistic children in your care so you can help them thrive.

These sensory play activities for autism are super fun, and if your foster child is okay with it, we say get the whole household involved! Whatever age you are, you’re bound to have fun bonding with your foster child through these sensory play activities for autism.

Sensory activities can be a great way to help children with autism regulate their sensory input and develop their sensory processing skills. 

Here are the best sensory activities that can benefit a child with autism:

1. Finger painting and footprint painting

Things might get messy, but don’t let that put you off as this a great way for kids to express themselves. Just set some paper out on top of newspaper or tarpaulin and let your foster children create paintings using their hands and feet.


2. Make your own slime

Mix together cornflour and water in a bowl and watch as it shifts from solid to liquid as you play with it. Add in food colourings and glitter for a super sensory experience.

3. Scented playdough

Play dough is a great sensory activity for children with autism. The tactile experience of playing with the dough can be calming and provide sensory input. It can also help with fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Add things like lemon juice, vanilla extract, cinnamon, peppermint flavouring etc to separate batches of playdough and get them to guess the scents. Just make sure they don’t eat it!

4. Mud kitchen

For outdoor sensory activities for autism, mud kitchens are a popular choice. It’s an area where children can experiment, improvise and create using mud, water, bowls and various utensils. Some children might pretend to bake cakes or cook dinner, whereas others might just enjoy mashing, scooping and manipulating the mud into different shapes.

5. Make your own musical instruments

Put rice inside a plastic bottle to make a shaker; use wooden spoons and buckets for a homemade drum set; put holes in a straw to fashion your own recorder...the ideas are endless!

6. Create a sensory ocean

Fill a shallow storage container with sand on one side and water on the other, and include things like shells, toy fish and other ocean inspired items. Your autistic foster children will enjoy splashing the water, swirling the sand and playing in their new underwater world.

7. Painting with food

Edible sensory activities for autism are great as there’s no harm if your foster child puts their hands in their mouth. Choose soft and squishy foods like chocolate sauce, blackberries, apple puree and yoghurt and let them create a piece of art that looks, smells and tastes amazing!

8. Water beads

Water beads are non-toxic and feel so satisfying to squidge in your hand. Why not put half in the fridge to create a contrast between cold and warm?

9. Toys in jelly

This is another edible sensory activity that involves hiding toys inside bowls of jelly. Place toys into different jelly moulds, pour the jelly solution in and chill in the fridge. Children need to get the toys out of the soft, wobbly jelly anyway they can.

10. Pouring station

This is something that can be set up in minutes. Pour water into different size bottles, jugs, cups and containers and set them up in a bathtub or on a large tray. Add food colouring to enhance the experience. The idea is to get children to pour water from one jug to another, mixing colours and also learning fine motor skills at the same time.

11. Sensory Bins

Sensory bins are a great way to provide children with autism with a tactile experience. Fill a bin with materials such as rice, beans, or sand, and add small toys or objects for the child to explore. This activity can help with fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

12. Bubble Wrap

Popping bubble wrap can be a fun and satisfying sensory activity for children with autism. The sound and sensation of popping the bubbles can be calming and provide sensory input.

13. Water Play

Water play can be a great sensory activity for children with autism. Fill a basin with water and add toys or objects for the child to play with. This activity can help with hand-eye coordination and can be calming for the child.

14. Sensory Bottles

Sensory bottles are a great way to provide children with autism with visual and tactile stimulation. Fill a plastic bottle with materials such as glitter, beads, or water, and add small toys or objects for the child to explore.

15. Swings

Swings can be a great sensory activity for children with autism. The motion of swinging can be calming and provide sensory input. Swings can also help with balance and coordination.

16. Trampolines

Trampolines can be a fun and stimulating sensory activity for children with autism. The bouncing motion can provide sensory input and help with balance and coordination.

17. Sensory Walks

Sensory walks can be a great way to provide children with autism with sensory input. Create a sensory path using materials such as foam mats, carpet squares, or textured tiles. The child can walk or crawl along the path, which can provide tactile stimulation.

18. Ball Pit

A ball pit is a fun and stimulating sensory activity for children with autism. The sensation of jumping, diving, or simply lying in a pit filled with soft balls can be calming and provide sensory input to the child. Children can also improve their hand-eye coordination by throwing or catching the balls, which can be helpful in other aspects of their life as well.

A ball pit can be set up at home using a small inflatable pool or purchased from a store specifically designed for sensory play. It's important to supervise children during this activity to ensure they do not ingest any of the balls.

Conclusion

To sum up, playing with the senses is really important for kids to learn and grow, especially for those with autism. These activities don't just help with thinking and moving skills but also with making friends and feeling better emotionally. Little kids are always exploring, so these fun activities are a great way for them to learn.

The activities listed for children with autism cover a bunch of different experiences that can be changed to fit what each child likes. Whether it's painting with fingers, playing with water beads, or swinging, these activities are not just about fun – they're also a chance for families to enjoy time together.

Taking care of a child with autism means figuring out what they like and don't like. The suggested activities are a good place to start to find what makes each child happy. 

So, whether it's the cool feeling of water beads or the relaxing motion of a swing, these activities are not only good for the senses but also for bringing families closer and having fun together.

In the world of playing with the senses for kids with autism, it's not just about the activities themselves but also about the journey of trying new things and expressing themselves. By doing these fun and inclusive activities, parents and caregivers can really help kids with autism feel good and grow in a happy and healthy way.


References
  • https://www.thefca.co.uk/fostering-autistic-children/sensory-activities-children-autism/
  • https://www.crossrivertherapy.com/autism/sensory-activities


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