Five ASD-Friendly Activities for a Rainy Day!

Updated on October 4, 2017
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Christiansen's son, Jackie, is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She is the author of Planet A: A Mother's Memoir of ASD.

Get Them Off of the Computer and Into an Interactive Game!

Being trapped inside doesn't have to lead to a day on computers and iPads.
Being trapped inside doesn't have to lead to a day on computers and iPads.

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Summer is a great time to get outside, enjoy fresh air, and head to the pool, but what about those autumn days when the forecast calls for rain? Rainy days can put a real damper on planned activities, especially for children on the autism spectrum. Disappointment at being cooped up inside can lead to real anxiety. Here are five fun activities that you can keep tucked away for a rainy day. Not only will they provide a fun outlet for your children but may also incorporate a little therapy as well!

1. Craft Day: If your ASD child is anything like mine, crafts are never an interesting option. The sensory issues associated with getting your hands dirty were always too much for my son. Then I discovered a few fun crafts that he could relate to, and we ended up with a little sensory lesson as well. Cornstarch Science is one of our favorites and can be done by simply mixing cornstarch and water to make a dough. Begin with a cup of cornstarch and slowly add water, mixing as you go. You will see the texture change to form a soft dough that can be squeezed in your hand to form a ball. As you release the dough, it becomes soft and turns into an oozing goo. Add food coloring to make it more fun. We mixed it in a plastic zip lock baggie first and then slowly began to explore as my son got comfortable. Even if you have to keep it in the baggie, it’s still pretty cool. Sensory Bottles are also a fun craft that can be played with once they are complete. Find an empty water bottle. Voss bottles are perfect because they are most like a tube, but you can use any bottle even a glass jar. Fill the bottle three-fourth with warm water. Next add an entire bottle of clear Elmer’s glue to the bottle. This will give the water a viscous texture and allow everything that you add to float instead of sink to the bottom. Here’s where the fun begins! Add glitter or beads or even glow in the dark stars and glowing sticks to the bottle. We filled ours with lots glitter and beads and then added several small plastic animals. We played hide and seek, trying to find the animals through the glitter. Don’t be stingy with the filling. You can add food coloring as well. Once the bottle is full, superglue the top on and allow to dry so that nothing leaks out. Not only is this a fun craft but now you have a fun game to play later that is sensory stimulating.

2. Indoor Olympics: If your child likes sports, this is a great option and it’s easy to do. Create several stations around the house, one for each Olympic event. Some events will be actual games to play and others might be sports trivia. A few of our event included; curling (rolling a small ball down a hallway into a target), discus throw (tossing a frisbee into a laundry basket), and archery (using a dartboard to gain a certain number of points). I planned the trivia around topic that I felt my son would know and at the end awarded medals made from foil and ribbon. Not only was it fun for my ASD child but for the entire family and the events can be quick or take time depending on how long that outside rain will last. It may also help your ASD child learn to play in groups or practice transitioning quicker.

3. Board Games (with a twist): Many ASD children have difficulty playing board games. They hate to lose and this can become a problem with other children. Rainy days are a perfect time to work on this issue, but make it fun and goofy at the same time. Pick your favorite board game (ours is Monopoly) and go over the rules together. Then decide which rules to keep and which to ignore. Add new rules too. We decided to collect twice the bonus after passing go as well as getting a free house when buying a property. You can also have goofy rules like every time a player rolls a six everyone must switch seats. Just make sure to write down the new rules before the game begins, even if one of the rules is to make a new rule every ten minutes! The game may last only a half an hour or go on for hours, it’s up to you. You might even make up the rule that the loser of the game is automatically the winner!

4. Charades and a Show: One of the first things we do on a rainy day is turn on the television. That’s okay, but here’s a way to add to it and switch it off for a while to be a little more active. After your child has watched a favorite show, turn it into a game of charades. Write down different scenes from the show on strips of paper and put them in a basket or bowl. Gather up the stuffed animals for the audience and make the popcorn. Have your child choose one of the scenes and act it out while everyone tries to guess what’s happening. You can do this in teams if there are four or more people. You can also turn this game into Pictionary and have your child draw out the scenes. They may decide to spend some time on their drawing beforehand and present them as part of the acting show. Encourage them to use props or even the stuffed animals to help you guess the scene. This is a great way to help your ASD child become more social and expressive in their movements. We play this with no language but you could have your child use descriptive words only to help describe the scene they are trying to portray.

5. Hide and Phone Seek: Here’s a twist on the hide and seek that you know and it’s easy and fun. Take your cell phone and hide it somewhere in the house. Then have your child call your phone and listen for the ring. Allow a limited number of phone calls for the hunt. Once the phone is discovered it’s your turn to seek. I have turned this simple game into a treasure hunt as well. You can do this by having a good old-fashioned treasure hunt. Take pictures of different items around the house and use them as clues leading to several different locations in the house. Try not to make them too obvious. Text the first picture to your child to lead them on the hunt. The first clue might lead to the bedroom with a small treat hidden under a pillow. The next clue may lead to the basement and another small surprise and so on. If you don’t want to give out actual prizes and treats, write little notes of encouragement instead. This is a great game to help your ASD child learn to be more observant and to follow directions.

Being trapped indoors on a rainy day doesn’t have to mean constant television and computer use. With a few things found around the house, you can have a day filled with games and crafty fun that may also teach your ASD child a few therapeutic lessons.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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