Paint pens, like these Squeeze 'n Brush pens, are brilliant for people who find painting difficult, and make very little mess.
I enjoy taking the disabled and non-disabled children I care for on a treasure hunt in the garden. The other day we collected sticks to make a pretend campfire. Other times the 'treasure' has been stones or daisies. It’s a good, inclusive activity they all enjoy.
Listening Books is a charity that works with people who have an illness or disability which makes it difficult for them to read the printed word. They have a library of over 7,000 audiobooks for people to download, stream or borrow. Also check out Audible Stories which is free to use whilst the UK schools are closed for the coronavirus outbreak.
Poppy has very little fine motor skills and struggles with most art and craft activities. So, I stuck some wrapping paper to the wall, and we made handprints on it. Then we covered in glue and threw glitter at. Messy but great fun!
Knitting is great to exercise handwriting motor skills.
Raid the recycling and make some musical instruments. Fill jars and plastic containers with rice to make shakers, elastic bands over a box can make a great guitar and balloons stretched over tubs for some bangin' drums!
Tropical fish tank
We love watching tropical fish tanks, they are a great way to chill out. Amazon sell DVDs that make your tv look like a fish tank - no cleaning needed!
Make a den
My daughter loves it if we put a sheet over the dining table and make a den. I bring some of her sensory lights in and we all sit underneath. Her NT brothers think it’s great too!
Doing sport differently
Doing sport differently is a resource to download from Disability Rights UK. Features loads of great ideas for getting more physically active and having fun.
Rebounding is a great exercise activity that can be done inside or out. Read about the benefits and more info.
A real catch!
A velcro ball and catch mitt set has been fantastic for my son who is unable to catch a regular ball. Great for fun, cause and effect and coordination. Ours was under £5 from Sensory Education.
For visually impaired people, try adding things likes sand or beads to enable them to feel their artwork. Be consistent and stick to the same textures for colours: sand for yellow, smalls beads are green etc.
Matching pairs game
Use a digital camera to make your own cards for this game. you can photograph your own matching pairs i.e. your dog, your home, family, etc You'll need two of each.
A great free activity ... pick up the Argos catalogue! Harris and I poured over the pictures. Lots of opportunity for conversation, it was a bit like retail therapy except, since Harris doesn't understand the concept of shopping, no money was spent!
Wii Fit can be used to improve coordination and balance as well as providing inclusive fun and entertainment for the family. If you're unable to stand or have poor balance, place a pillow over the Wii Fit board and sit down to do the games/exercises.
Make some thunder!
"Thunder makers" are brilliant. I got mine at Ebay for around £7, you just give it a shake and it sounds like a low rumble of thunder, the harder you shake the louder it gets. (Be warned though they are addictive!)
Electronic instruments are great for people who like making a lot of sound (banging furniture etc). They can make as much noise as they like with the headphones on and no one else has to hear it! You can get drum kits /keyboards etc.
Home-made simple jigsaw puzzle
I found a good cheap way to promote self-occupying for my daughter who likes 'cutting and sticking'. She chooses a picture from a magazine, I cut it up, she reassembles the picture, gluing it onto paper. You can use photos as well. You can make it as simple or complicated as you want. I use simple ones to help calm her down and more complicated ones when she needs a new distraction.
Try threading cheerios with the person you are supporting to make an edible necklace.
We've been using words on the back of paper-clipped paper fish with a magnetic fishing rod to make a game out of reading.
Cotton ball races
Strengthening the muscles in the mouth can increase speech production and decrease drooling. Hold races to see who can blow a cotton ball across a table fastest. Do it first just with the mouth, then with a straw.
DIY sand table
Instead of spending nearly £200 on a wheelchair-accessible sand and water play table for our daughter, we made one ourselves. We cut 2 holes in a folding camping table and put a shallow tray on one side so her legs would fit underneath and a deeper bowl on the other side. She absolutely loves it!
No-mess sand tray
TFH Special Needs Toys sell a no-mess sand tray. Very clever design.
Playing with bricks
Magdalena, who has Down's syndrome, started to get bored of her bricks, so we chose a toy animal & hid it in the bricks then chose another animal to find it.
My son has autism and we play lots of Son-rise games with him which are great for any age, special need or neurotypical child...see on YouTube for ideas...
Smelly socks game
Use up some old small socks. Then scent some cotton wool balls with different smells like tea, or coffee, or lemon, apple or tomato ketchup. Try a variety of smells, taking care not to use anything to which your child may be allergic. When the cotton balls are dry and all the ingredients are placed in the socks, tie the socks up with a ribbon, and play a game of Guess the smell.
For children who love audio feedback, try buying a space blanket (like tin foil but softer). Catches light and crinkles. Used for any age and any ability from newborns that can't move much to over active teenagers.
Sparkly wrapping paper
For visually impaired children or those with a sensory impairment, buy lots of sparkly wrapping paper as it's very good for catching and holding their visual attention. Gold, in particular, or anything with a rainbow/prism effect seems to work well to stimulate those with visual impairment.
Your own sensory album
We made our own sensory scrapbook. We stuck sensory bits and pieces alongside our own photos in an album to make it personal.
Sensory indoor play
We use a plastic box and fill it with different things for sensory play. Sometimes dried beans, sand, shaving foam – we put different smells in like vanilla essence or curry powder to make it more interesting. Sometimes we squeeze toothpaste in which is good fun when you get it all over your hands because it dries quickly. If you have the patience you can even fill it with baked beans!
Sensory play things
Dog/cat toys are great as they are colourful, stretchy, weighty and - above all - strong. They are also often inexpensive, and there seems to be a wide variety of dog toys on the market in all shapes and sizes - some of them are heavily textured as well, which can be attractive. They also have puppy toys which are smaller and softer. We use www.petsathome.com.
Sensory activity pack
www.tacpac.co.uk have a sensory activity pack for using with their touch and communication programme which is a resource particularly for children with sensory needs and complex/multiple disabilities.
Find the alternative
Sal finds it difficult to hold small objects, so I gave her pastry brushes instead of small paint brushes for painting.
Make your own
I made my own 3-D letters, numbers and words in colours that Margy likes best to teach her to read. You can laminate or cover in plastic so they last longer.
Roma Lear has written a range of books full of ideas of activities for people with special needs, look out for her on Amazon.
Substitute something appropriate
Albi loves to play with people’s hair. As an alternative I got him old curtain tassels which work nicely.
Activity frame for wheelchairs
The frame from a small child’s swing makes a great frame to hang stuff from to go over a wheelchair as it is stable and can be folded for easy storage.
Gilly is extremely active and gets frustrated in a buggy/wheelchair. I put together a 'Distraction Bag' of toys that she could play with. The Distraction Bag hangs on the back of the buggy and toys can be swapped and exchanged as needed.
To make a change from using the buggy/wheelchair we often take Pete out on a Tricycle.
Trike work out
Sean’s right arm, hand and leg are weaker than his left. We bought him a trike. The trike is heavy so he was able to build up his leg strength on both sides. Also, the trike gave him a safe opportunity to practice steering, which is not easy when you've got impaired coordination and spatial balance. After a few months he picked up a 2-wheeler without stabilisers and rode it around the garden!
You don’t need to wait for dry weather to play with sand. Moonsand is a soft medium that trickles like normal sand, but moulds like dough. It's easy to make your own and it lasts for a while in the fridge. Great fun!
Lisa likes to play with toys while she is in her wheelchair but is in the habit of dropping them. So, I have put toys you get that clip across a pram, across her wheelchair. This keeps both of us happy.
Use guttering to make a chute to play skittles
Family on film
We had a big family party and found to our delight Eddie loves watching the DVD we made of it. We remade it with his favourite music. He'll sit for ages enjoying watching himself and all the people he knows on T.V.
Make a photo diary
Keeping a photo diary is great for people who have poor memory or limited words to say what they have done. It keeps you in touch with their activities at school/respite/day care etc and you and other family members and friends have something to chat about. We put a cheap digital camera in the bottom of the changing bag and downloaded pictures very regularly (our homework). Chelsea loves looking at photos and videos of herself and her family.
Catalogues/websites for toys
If you put ‘special needs toys’ in your search engine lots of good providers come up but do watch out for prices. We like Sensory Toy Warehouse and Fledglings who take care to make things affordable.
Stick some blank paper on a wall somewhere and turn it into a 'graffiti wall'. You can also paint a wall with blackboard paint or put up a big white board for graffiti fun.
Create life-size portraits. Use either a large piece of card or lining paper (joined together, if necessary). Draw around each other and cut up old clothes and cloths to dress your portraits up.
Make slime. Get a pack of cornflour, mix it with water so it's gloopy but not runny and then add green food colouring.
Turn your house into a cinema. Choose a DVD together (bought or borrowed from the local library) make tickets, posters etc. Invite family and make popcorn, close the curtains and enjoy.
Make your own film
Use your camcorder to make a 'film' of a favourite book. We did The Tiger Who Came to Tea, using a toy stuffed tiger, shots of our table set up for tea, empty food packets, and a homemade cardboard claw peeking round the front door. You can do lots of voiceovers to explain what is happening, or do it documentary-style and interview the Mummy, the child, the cafe owner, Daddy, the Tiger etc.
Put on music and have a dance competition!
Our family bought Janet a trampoline which has been brilliant for her and has also been great for our other kids and their friends.
Written by: The JWeb Team