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A Fun, Outdoor Play Environment: Creating a Safe Outdoor Space for an Autistic Child



Children with autism process stimuli and interact with the world around them differently than other children. Consequently, it’s often difficult for kids with autism to play with other children in the neighbourhood. A child on the autism spectrum may spend hours engaging in repetitive acts that make no sense to others, or lose interest in games that other kids are enjoying.

But play is no less important to autistic kids, who need the sensory experiences that go with outdoor activities. Outdoor play encourages the imagination, helps in the development of problem-solving abilities, reduces anxiety and gives your child a dose of vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, which provides a host of important health benefits. If you have an autistic child, providing a safe, accessible and functional garden can provide them with enriching experiences that will help him grow and develop. Here are a few outdoor activities to help you get started:

Fun with sand

Sandboxes are a traditional feature of many gardens, particularly among younger children. They also give your autistic child a spot where he can explore and create sand castles, buildings and roads in ways that develop motor skills. A sandbox is a relatively easy thing to build. A few wooden boards, decking screws, some plywood and sand and you’ve got an ideal play area for your child.

Blow some bubbles

Children with autism have a lot of fun playing with bubbles, and it’s an easy way to create hours of outdoor enjoyment. Mix some food colouring, soap, water, cornflour and power, grab a strainer or slotted spatula – anything with holes – and you’ve got a homemade bubble machine that will fascinate your child with countless shapes and colours.

Plant a garden

A flower or vegetable garden can be an excellent way to combine a learning and outdoor activity in your own backyard. Autistic children enjoy digging in the dirt and watering the plants that you put in the ground together. Make sure your child has a plastic spade and water bucket to minimize the risk of injury. Be certain you and your kid have a good, thick set of gloves before getting down to work. Give him the job of watering the garden on a regular basis.

A birdhouse

Kids get a real kick out of helping you build things they can enjoy for years. There are many ways to put together a bird feeder that your child can help with. A bin is one of the simplest ways to build a bird feeder, utilizing a plastic container that can be filled with bird seed and easily refilled. Your child will enjoy feeling the texture of different kinds of bird seed, as well as watching different species of birds drop by for a visit.

Backyard camping

Every child should enjoy a back garden camping trip with their family. Pick a good, clear night so you can enjoy watching the stars together. Pitch a tent together, make sure everyone has a comfortable sleeping bag, bring along some of everyone’s favourite snacks (marshmallows to toast is always a favourite) and you’re ready for a memorable evening out in the elements.

Safe spot

Autistic children sometimes feel overwhelmed when there’s a lot going on around them, or if they’re in unfamiliar situations. Set up a quiet place outside where your child can retreat when things get hectic. It could be a tent or a corner of the patio with a comfortable chair and familiar toys.

Autistic children can have a lot of fun outside and learn from new experiences, with their family and by themselves. Creating a safe and enjoyable outdoor environment will give them a comfortable space for exploring and finding activities they’ll enjoy and want to do again.


About the author

Danny is a dad living in Philadelphia, US. He enjoys DIY projects almost as much as raising his two children. He is the co-creator of FixItDads.com, which offers tips for home improvement projects. www.FixItDads.com

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