10 Games And Activities For Children With Special Needs

All children benefit from play, but a special needs child may find it difficult to follow the rules and competition in traditional games. Here are 10 games for your child to have fun and learn

By Aarthi Arun

10 Games And Activities For Children With Special Needs

UNICEF says play is the basic right for every child – and, that is no different for a child with special needs. It's through play that your child understands the world around him, learns problem-solving, builds self-esteem and improves his motor and social skills. Not to mention the sheer fun of playing. For a child with special needs, the rigorous standards and the competitive nature of traditional games can be overwhelming. So, here are 10 games and activities for your child to let her hair down and have some serious fun. These games are suitable for all children irrespective of their physical or psychological challenges.

1. Build structures

Age: 3 to 9 years

Benefits: Creativity, problem-solving, social skills

Suitable for: Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Learning Disability

Blocks are a staple in every child's toy caddy, so dump them out and start playing. In a study by the University of Rochester Medical Center, children with ASD were found to use their creativity more after playing with interlocking blocks. Autistic children follow a strict routine and find it difficult to break from their repetitive behaviour. By building different structures, you child can venture into trying new things and develop creativity. You can start by asking your child to copy a structure first. Then, slowly encourage him to build structures on his own.

2. Dance up to a tune

Age: 3 to 9 years

Benefits: Confidence, spatial awareness, motor and social skills

Suitable for: Down Syndrome, ASD, Physical disability, Cerebral Palsy, Learning Disability

Dancing is great for self-expression and for keeping your child's body in shape. And all that tapping, stomping and twirling are so much fun. Even for children who are wheelchair bound, dancing can help in flexibility and improve upper body strength. When you incorporate music into it, your child's brain gets a boost of endorphins, the feel-good hormones, which will relax her. Also, by involving in a dance session with friends and family, your child can hone her social skills.

3. Put on a show

Age: 3 to 5 years

Benefits: Imagination, emotional intelligence and social skills

Suitable for: ASD, Speech, Language Delay

Puppets, soft toys and dolls give an opportunity for your child to understand abstract concepts, involve in imaginative play and practise spontaneity. Play a game where you line up your child's puppets and act out a scene. You can be vivid and expressive and encourage your child to follow suit. This way, your child can learn to identify emotions.

4. Throw a ball

Age: 3 to 9 years

Benefits: Motor, coordination, self-confidence and social skills

Suitable for: ASD, Cerebral Palsy, Learning Disability

Physical play can enhance your child's awareness of his body and build endurance. More than that, participating in a sports activity can do a lot to your child's psyche. Line up some plastic glasses and play a bowling game. According to your child's abilities, you can also consider including rules or involve him in a more formal game.

5. Match the cards

Age: 3 to 5 years

Benefits: Memory, concentration and social skills

Suitable for: Speech and Language Delay, Learning Disability

Memory matching cards are easily available in the market. You can play this simple game by arranging pairs of matching cards face down in random order. You and your child can take turns in flipping the cards. You need to flip twice, and if you get a matching pair, you can take the cards. If not, you continue playing until all the cards are matched.

6. Splash in the water

Age: 3 to 9 years

Benefits: Motor, coordination and social skills

Suitable for: ASD

Water is therapeutic – Playing in water can calm and soothe your child's nerves. For a younger child, add some bath toys to an inflatable pool and let her have fun. Make sure an adult is supervising when the child is in the water. An older child can have fun outdoors with a garden hose or sprinkler.

7. Make some art

Age: 3 to 5 years

Benefits: Motor, coordination, self-confidence and creativity

Suitable for: ASD, Learning Disability, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy

Can there be anything better to boost your child's self-confidence than creating something on his own? Painting with cut vegetables and fruits are easy, and soon, your child will be beaming at the masterpiece she has created.

8. Create a sensory tub

Age: 3 to 5 years

Benefits: Motor, coordination and problem solving

Suitable for: ASD, Speech and Language Delay.

Processing sensory information can be a challenge for children with ASD or other developmental delays. A sensory bin can come in handy to integrate your child's senses and improve his attention. Take a big, shallow tub and add household items like rice, lentils or flour. You can also add food colour to make it interesting. Let your child scoop, pour, measure, etc., and have a blast.

9. Roll a dice

Age: 6 to 9 years

Benefits: Self-confidence and social skills

Suitable for: ASD, Speech and Language Delay

Board games are powerful tools for family bonding and learning social skills like sharing and taking turns. Choose a game of your child's liking and remember to tweak the rules to suit him – the aim is to let him have fun.

10. Go tech

Age: 6 to 9 years

Benefits: Self-confidence, creativity, problem-solving, independence

Suitable for: Visual and Hearing impairment, Speech and Language Delay

Technology activities enable a child with special needs to feel accomplished and empowered. There are many games online and apps for your child to try and learn better about the world around him.

These games and activities not just help engage your kids but also encourage them to be spontaneous and enjoy themselves.

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