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Melanie Barnett
BY Melanie Barnett

Screen-Free + Socially Distant Activities for Kids with Special Needs

Whether we’re in the midst of a pandemic or not, kids with special needs need fun activities to keep busy during the day. While we’ve become reliant on our devices to keep us and our families entertained — participating in screen-free activities allows for better communication, connection and a chance to engage with the world around us.

Unplug with us and check out these screen-free and social distance-friendly activities for kids with special needs.

Family Game Night

Games weren’t always on our phones, they also come in a box! Board games are a great way to engage children by giving them physical things to hold — a board piece or cards — along with things to touch and hear — like a wheel to spin or dice to roll. Check out this list of board games great for children with special needs. 

Go on a Scavenger Hunt

Hide items around your yard, a park or your home and create a list of the items for your child to find. You can add clues or make the hiding spots as difficult or easy as will suit your child’s attention span. Items can include toys, treats or buried treasure! 

Hopscotch Word Games

Put a twist on this classic sidewalk chalk game. First, draw your hopscotch blocks outdoors with chalk or with tape if indoors. Then, but words in the squares with chalk or flashcards if indoors. You can make a sentence with the words, a rhyming poem or a math problem with numbers. Have your child jump between blocks and read the words as they go. 

Obstacle Course

This activity is great for either indoor or outdoor play. If outdoors, combine a variety of activities like hopscotch, bike riding, hula hoops, jump ropes and other fun outdoor items to create a low-prep obstacle course. If indoors, use items like chairs and pillows to create a path for kids to walk on or crawl through. Include challenging activities like tossing a ball or beanbag into a laundry basket from a distance, do the limbo or solve a riddle. 

Yoga at Home

Practicing yoga is a great way to engage a child with special needs by strengthening motor skills and self-awareness while reducing anxiety. You can learn a few standard yoga poses to teach to your child. Incorporate animals into your yoga routine. For example — pick an animal then stretch like the animal does, making animal noises. 

Tips for Social Distancing

Social distancing and following COVID-19 safety precautions can be difficult for individuals with special needs. If your family is participating in activities with others, here are some tips for you to help your child practice social distancing. 

  • Use gym dots, chalk or other markers to show where kids should stand or sit during activities.
  • Use beach towels to help kids spread out and find their own space.
  • Space chairs out to show kids where to sit. 
  • If multiple families are participating, give each family their own table when doing an activity together.