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A lot of children on the spectrum are still entitled to summer services, meaning we get to keep working on skills in the summer. That is great, but I also like to make sure my students on the spectrum have fun things to do in the summer. The weather is nice and it’s a great time for some fun and games. The post below may contain affiliate links. It costs you the same but I make a little money off the referral. Rest assured I only recommend things I truly love.
Who doesn’t like to have fun!?! I might be a huge nerd, but even I get tired of working on reading, writing, social-emotional skills, and functional living all the time. As a SEIT my kids need breaks often and seem to be in school, constantly. That’s why it’s so important they have chances to do fun things that still work on relevant skills but don’t feel like work!
Especially in the summer, when most of the other kids are off having a good time! Please enjoy my list of the top 20 fun things to do with kids on the spectrum in the summer!
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What to Do Outside
I don’t want to assume you have outdoor space, because I live in the city. Not everyone does, but if you do there are some great options.
Side note: Only take children outside if it’s safe, meaning they’re not runners. And you have their parents’ support and blessings.
- Hose – When I worked with kids in their backyard we used to have so much fun with a simple hose. We’d work on verbal skills with the hose and identifying different parts of the body. “Spray my belly!”
- Water Balloons – Much like the hose this one was a crowd-pleaser. On top of being fun, filling the water balloons was great for improving hand-eye coordination and body/impulse control. If you jerk away you have to start all over again. Plus the shrieks of laughter were addictive!
- Balloon Relay Races – If your kiddos have siblings or neighborhood friends that are available for some play this one is great! Everyone gets together in pairs. Have a balloon for each pair. Set the start and finish line, and have the kiddos move from start to finish while keeping the balloon between them, without letting it drop or popping it. It’s wonderful for gross motor skills and impulse control.
- Ride a Bike – This one is so complicated for kids with autism, but it makes my fun things to do in the summer with students on the spectrum list because it is fantastic for your gross motor skills, sense of balance, and a general feeling of wonderfulness. Talk to your students’ Occupational Therapists about how to get your students riding a bike this summer!
- Throwable Paint – Goblies are great, but you definitely want permission for this one. I would use them when babysitting, but they’re wonderful for SEIT work if you’re working on gross motor skills, aim, and throwing. I would put up big pieces of paper over garage walls or lie them down in the driveway and let my kids go to town throwing or stomping on them on the ground. They’re so satisfying to break apart!
- Gardening – This one you can do even if you don’t have outdoor space, but just need a pot. Your students can have fun playing with the soil and the dirt and pick what seed to grow. Combine it with a lesson on how plants grow and photosynthesis (if appropriate) and your students will have learned a full-blown science lesson.
Arts and Crafts
Doing arts and crafts in the summer with your students on the spectrum can be so much fun! Even though they can get messy, it’s totally worth it!
- Paper Chain – This one is wonderful to support your students’ cutting goals. You only need construction paper, adaptive scissors, and a stapler or tape. Cut out strips of paper and staple or tape them together into interlocking circles to make a chain. When you’re done they make great decorations!
- Finger Painting – For some reason, I have more success with finger painting when I take big strips of paper and put them up on the walls. My kids have always responded better to having a large canvas. Feel free to play around with the size and placement to get the best results. Also if your kids tend to stick their fingers in their mouths, use baby-friendly finger paints. It’s yogurt, dairy or non-dairy, combined with some food coloring. Totally safe to eat.
- Paint by Stickers – Simple but effective. These are great for fine motor skills and body control. I’ve seen kids make a lot of progress with these, and you can only do one sticker a day if that seems more manageable.
- Melting Wax – I once glued crayons to a canvas and helped kids melt them with a hairdryer. There was so much excitement, staying still was difficult. All you need is a canvas, glue, crayons, and a hairdryer.
Sometimes it can just be too hot to go outside. Or maybe you live in a city and don’t have outdoor space. There is no reason to fear, when you’re a SEIT there are lots of fun things to do inside with your students on the spectrum in the summer. For some of these just make sure to get parent permission if your students have special diets.
- Cooking – This one might not be best during a heatwave, but having your kids help make their favorite cookie or meal can be great. If your students are new to cooking even just making fruit skewers with pre-cut fruit can be a great start.
- Crosswords – I love doing crosswords. Since a lot of my students enjoy math I have a lot of math crosswords which they find soothing. See the link here to purchase!
- Board Games – Teaching board games is the best and I often have the most time to devote to them in the summer, when we don’t have to worry about other schooling. I like to start with custom board games or Trouble, which allow you to make them motivating for your kids and for them to get tactile feedback.
- Connect the Dots – Connect the dots can be a great thing for your kids to work on. If they’re just learning to draw lines then I recommend keeping it simple and custom making them. Otherwise, you can get them pre-made.
- Summer Reading – I know I just said I was just going to talk about fun things. But I love reading. In the summer I like to let my kids pick what they’re going to read, and we work on reading one chapter a day.
- Sudoku – Sudoku might seem complicated, but you can find 4×4 puzzles online. These are great for getting started and it can be easy to move your kids up to 6×6, then 9×9.
- Matching Games – Matching games are great for sequencing, memory, and fine motor skills. I start kids off with four cards or two matching sets and then as they gain confidence and feel successful.
- Puzzle – Puzzles are a wonderful, fun way to pass the time. You can get your kids simple puzzles or even virtual ones if they are brand new to puzzles. The benefit of virtual puzzles is that they don’t have to rotate the pieces and there are clearly outlined places for the pieces to go. I always say start easy, and after they’re comfortable, make it a little more difficult!
- Chores – This one isn’t fun and you’ll need the parent’s approval, but often kids have more chores in the summer. It’s a typical childhood experience. You can teach folding and sweeping and other basic things in the summer with all that extra time when your kids aren’t in school.
The Most Important One
- Ask your Students – Often kids on the spectrum don’t get a say in what they work on or how they spend their time. Give back some power and ask them what they would like to do with their summer. It can be a great way to improve motivation and make students feel empowered this summer.
I love the summer! I love teaching summer school. Click here to find out why.
I encourage you to take advantage of your extra teaching time in the summer and offer your kids lots of fun engaging things to do that might not even feel like work.