Fun Summer Activities for Children with Special Health Care Needs

No one wants to admit it, but summer can be rough on kids and their parents. Kids get bored and antsy and parents are flustered by all the down time and juggle of activities, work and childcare.
Summer can be especially challenging for children with special health care needs and their families because routines like school and therapy visits often slow down and trips to the park or swimming pool which might be an easy activity for some, are often much harder for children with physical disabilities or special needs.
To help beat the summer doldrums, check out the following list of fun (free) activities to do with your child this summer.
Backyard Water Park. You can quickly create your own water park in the backyard for an afternoon of fun. If your child’s tolerance is low for water play, sit them on your lawn (if they are sensitive to grass, put them on a shower curtain or towel for more comfort) and use your finger and a hose to create a variety of sprays for your child to experience. For more active children, you can have a variety of “water rides” including: small splash pool, garden sprinkler to run through and water table.

Sloppy Sensory. With the nice weather, partake in some “goopy” activities outside that will help your child to integrate their senses. Spray an outside table with shaving cream and let your child smear it around or fill a bin with rice and dig in. Add a few dump trucks, plastic spoons or other favorite toys to give the child additional opportunities for exploration.

Tent Building. Make “the best tent ever” by pulling out all your blankets and chairs and have the tent overtake your living room or backyard. Tent play can occupy your children for hours. It may also be a great resource to soothe a child, providing a hide-out or quiet place. Place a bean bag inside along with books or a flashlight.
Fossil Find. Take a trip to a sandy beach or to your backyard sandbox and bury some “fossils” (a.k.a. painted rocks). Provide your child with a small shovel and bucket to dig up these archeological finds. You and your child can take turns hiding and discovering these wonderful fossils. You can also work on counting and grouping the rocks once you have collected them all.
Firehouse Visit. Call your local fire department and ask if you can stop by with your children for a quick visit to see the fire trucks and meet the firemen. This is a great way to break up your day, learn about fire safety and introduce your child to rescue workers. Firemen are often good with children and will spend time talking to your child about what to do in an emergency. Take pictures of your visit and make it into a social story.

Soothing Swing. If nothing else, find a swing with your child this summer. Swings are beneficial for physical, social and cognitive development, and they offer certain therapeutic benefits. They promote movement and perceptual skills, spatial awareness, general fitness, social interaction, mental representation, and sensory integration, including vestibular development. If your child has trouble with crowds, visit the park in the morning when it’s least busy and a little cooler outside.
A few other summer activities might include a special movie afternoon, where you rent a favorite or new video and set up the living room like a movie theater, a trip to a local farm or produce stand to pick out favorite fruits or veggies or a trolley ride in downtown Yakima.

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