Kids with autism spectrum disorder, or who have ADHD or sensory processing disorder (SPD), need coping mechanisms to help them get the amounts of sensory stimulation they need. We’ve discussed in past posts how playing outdoors can help children self-soothe, and in light of that it’s important to consider what kids who rely on outdoor play can do during the winter months, when summer activities become less attractive.
Not only is it important to ensure that kids who need sensory play to function have self soothing techniques and tools available year-round, it can also be very important to maintain a regular routine to help minimize stress as much as possible.
Build an Indoor Swing
Swinging is a very very common way to self-soothe, and being unable to use an outdoor swing because of wet or very cold weather can be stressful. The simple solution to this is to install a swing indoors. An indoor swing ensures that your little one always has access to a swing, regardless of the weather.
It’s also generally a great option all year-round for children who are hypersensitive to sound or light, which can be overwhelming during the summer months. Everyone is different, and as a parent it’s important to evaluate and respond to the needs of your individual child. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should unnecessarily limit a child who doesn’t want to to only play indoors.
Take advantage of seasonal sensory opportunities
While fall and winter might be viewed as generally bad times for outdoor play, they do offer some unique sensory play opportunities that can make outdoor play during the colder months more enjoyable for your kids.
Kids who are very sensitive to light might feel uncomfortable with going outside to play during the bright summer months. During winter, increased cloud cover, shorter days, and the northern hemisphere’s angle to the sun all result in generally lower outdoor light levels, making it much more comfortable for these individuals. Because of this, parents shouldn’t allow colder weather to automatically rule out regular outdoor play.
Who doesn’t love the sound of crunchy leaves underfoot? When summer activities lose their appeal, keep the outdoor play going with special fall activities. Scrunching up dead leaves provides a variety of interesting sensations, from the crackling sound, to the smell of fallen foliage, to the unique tactile sensation.
Just like leaves, falling snow offers unique entertainment opportunities. The dampening effect that snow has on sounds, the sound of it crunching underfoot, and the fuzzy, wet, cold sensation of holding a handful of fresh powder can create interesting and comforting experiences for your little ones.