6 Summer Family Activities for Children with Developmental Disabilities.
Summer is the time to slow down and enjoy simple family fun while you have small children, big children, and even children with special needs. The schedule is a little more relaxed and it is okay to take a little off your routine. However, you know our little ones thrive on their routines and do not handle getting too far off course. Sometimes, other family members do not understand our world of “sanity structure”. But I have tested my daughter over the past several years on this theory and sure enough, the structure and routine keeps her sane, which makes mommy sane.
During the summertime we only allow for an extra 30 to 60 minutes here and there and it seems to be okay. If we try this too many days in a row, then yikes! Watch out! Here are some of our fun summer activities which we love to do without tearing the house down… too much.
- Can’t go wrong with some water play. Florida’s hot and humid summers mean you better be cooled off somehow. I have found that anything will do… jumping in the pool, turning on the sprinklers, blowing up water balloons, or even just simply filling up some spray bottles. Of course, the mommy therapist in me uses these activities to help strengthen hand grip and increase shoulder strength. I do this all while laughing and having fun, you can never forget that. Finally, there is never a wrong time to teach pool safety because you never know when you will need it.
- Explore with food and cooking. We all know how difficult children can be with their picky eating. Some children gravitate to salty, sweet, crunchy, or softer foods. There is usually a reason for this like oral motor weakness or sensory aversions, but cooking and playing with food can lead to trying new things. I like to take a flavor my daughter likes and mix it with a new texture. For example, she loves peanuts so we made peanut butter oatmeal pancakes. You take instant oatmeal and mix it with one tablespoon of peanut butter, 2 egg whites, and a dash each of cinnamon, milk, and vanilla. You can mix it up and bake them or you can pan sear them, delicious! Every Friday has become our cooking fun day.
- Bowling during off hours. Bowling alleys are air conditioned and they have sinful snack foods like french fries, popcorn, and pizza. They can also entertain the whole family which is something that I find very important. I have to admit the first time we went to a bowling alley it was super overwhelming for my daughter… the lights, the sounds, the other kids. Now, I learned to go during those off hours in-between camps and bowling leagues like around 4ish or 5ish on weekdays, Sundays are good too. Let your child focus on one thing at a time either bowling, eating, or video games. Try to limit multi-tasking at first, these seemed to work better for us.
- Local Performing Arts Shows. Summer time is great for finding local performing arts shows hosted by cultural camps or little playhouses. They usually have a day for home school kids who are chaperoned by their parents and well behaved compared to some of the other larger organized camp days. You can choose your seat based off how your child is best able to watch the show. I like these days because it helps my child avoid getting overstimulated and having a meltdown. But if my child is having an off day, most people wouldn’t even know and I can slip out if need be. Actually I have never left a show, instead I use a bathroom break as a time to re-focus. Over the past ten years my daughter has enjoyed each show more and more and they get better every time. Her attention span has definitely increased and she has gained an appreciation for the arts.
- Obstacle Courses and Scavenger Hunts. Here comes the mommy therapist in me again. Great gross motor skills, visual attention, and processing are all great skills or attributes my kids learn from activities like these. As a result of this, our summers are full of weekly obstacle courses and scavenger hunts in the house, with air conditioning of course since I am in Florida. This does take some planning, but you can help yourself out by finding shortcuts and simple ways to do things. You can take pictures of household items around your house to place in different spots. These photos lead your child around the house to find what is next. You can also use different furniture, pillows, and stairs as obstacles. A simple household scavenger hunt could start with a picture of a refrigerator. Ask your child to find the refrigerator in order to find the next clue. Inside the fridge is another picture of a TV, and so on. I would suggest making the very last picture their favorite item or treat. The obstacle course example would use Mardi Gras beads, my daughter’s favorite, and place them around various obstacles while stepping up, stepping down, veering to the left and right, and moving all around to collect the beads and play with them in a big bucket. You can get creative and use any of their favorite items.
- Eating out. During school days, we are almost always on a time crunch. It is easier to cook and make pre-planned meals during weekdays, but summer is my break time. I can let my brain rest a little and bring the family out to go grab a bite to eat. We can catch up with friends and family members during the summer. We can try new foods and eat dessert. This has been a family practice of ours for forever now and I have come to realize my daughter enjoys it as much as I do. She is more aware of the restaurants decor, she is socializing with everyone, and she is enjoying new foods too. I even kept her out an hour past her bedtime and she behaves perfectly. One restaurant had live music and she did not get overstimulated. I believe practice does make it easier on her and it always makes it easier and more convenient for everyone. My expectations are always realistic, but sometimes she surprises me.
I wish you and your family a memorable summer. Hopefully you were able to get some new ideas or perhaps you would like to share your favorite summer activity.