Games and Activities for Preschool Children With Autism
You don't have to buy tons of special-needs toys and equipment to engage your preschooler with autism in fun and educational play. As the ideas below demonstrate, you can create many activities at home by using ordinary house stuff and inexpensive supplies.
5 Activity Ideas for Kids With ASD
- The Shoebox Game
- The Alphabet Letter Lacing Game
- Connect 4
- Finger Painting
1. The Shoebox Game
This game helps with speech and works for almost all kids. It might even yield positive results in less than a week, if you do it consistently.
- 1 shoebox
- Flashcards and/or family photos
- Other items to place in the box, like coloured pencils or spoons
You need a shoebox (or any other box). To prepare the box, use the scissors to make a long cut in the lid. If you only want to put cards and photos in the box, then a thin cut is enough. However, if you would like to have your child place coloured pencils, chunky crayons or other large items like spoons in the box, you will need to make a wider cut, like mine shown in the picture above.
How to Play
- Gather the items you want to place in the box.
- Start the game by sitting across from your child with the box on a table between you.
- Bring a flashcard up near your mouth and say the flashcard's name at least 3 times. (With coloured pencils or crayons, say the colour name.) Hand the card to your child when they look at your mouth and watch your lips moving.
- Ask the child to put the card in the box. Reward your child each time they place an item in the box; you can use snacks or anything else they like as a reward.
- As you continue playing, increase the time between rewards: Give the child a reward after every three items instead.
- Celebrate playing this game with your child by giving them a high-five!
2. The Alphabet Letter Lacing Game
This game is good for children who have trouble sitting still and paying attention.
- Alphabet letters with holes in them for lacing
- Shoelace or other string
How to Play
- Sit across from your child and ask them to sit facing you.
- Give your child the letters of the alphabet in order, starting with "A." Alternately, if your child is older, you can give them letters that spell out a word or words—the name of their favourite animal, for example, or the words "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Birthday" if it's near a special day.
- Have your child lace the letter on the string.
- Reward your child in between lacing the letters, or let them play after lacing 1 or 2 letters, then call them again and repeat the activity.
It really depends on your child's mood and behaviour if they want to complete the activity in one go or if they need motivation and reinforcement in between. I am sure you both will enjoy the activity, and it will help build a stronger bond between you and your child.
3. Connect 4
This is a useful store-bought game for teaching your child how to take turns and how to wait for their turn patiently. At the start, it could be little difficult as your child may want to quickly drop in all of their pieces themselves! But, slowly, they will learn to let you take a turn.
I found this to be an interesting and engaging game; I hope you will enjoy it. It's also a great way to spend quality time with your child.
Colouring is great fun for all kids, and it can help children learn the colour names and practice holding a pencil. Buy a few inexpensive colouring books to have on hand any time your child needs to keep occupied.
- Various art materials (colouring pencils, crayons, pens, markers)
- Colouring books
Let your child explore different types of art materials, including pencils, markers, crayons and more. Help them to colour if they have trouble holding a pencil. Believe me, if you do this regularly, they will learn to colour by themselves over time.
5. Finger Painting
Finger painting is good for kids who have sensory issues. Many children with autism are sensory seekers as well.
- Paints (non-toxic and washable)
- Plastic sheet to protect the table
Let your child paint with their fingers. You can also guide them to make their handprint on the paper. Don't forget to put a plastic sheet underneath before starting this messy activity!
Join Your Child in These Activities
Last but not least, always accompany your child while they do these activities. Life is very busy, but our children need our time. To help you plan your day, make a chart and spend at least 15 minutes with your child every 2 hours. Even if they are doing silly things, do those silly things with them! Lay with them and jump on the bed, have pillow fights, make funny faces and do all sorts of activities that your child loves. They will slowly start to feel your presence and enjoy it.
Every child is different, but they all are sensitive and have feelings, even if they struggle to express those feelings. Help them express themselves. There's nothing else they really want—just your time, your smile and your love.
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.