Outdoor Activities for Children with Special Needs

outdoor activities

It’s finally spring! The sun is starting to shine and it’s a great time to get the children outside. Playing outside gets the children out of the house and a little fresh air is great for the soul. After a while, it may be hard to find things to do outside and you may start finding your children heading back into the house for tv, video games, etc. We understand the problem of running out of outdoor activities so we created a list of options that can keep children going outside over and over again.

Sensory bins hold endless possibilities and most of them can be used outdoors. You can even make your own sensory table for $30 with PVC pipes. Making your own allows you to customize it to the height of your child. If your child is in a wheelchair, you can adjust the table to make it the appropriate height. Sensory bins can also be as simple as a plastic bin on the floor; whatever makes more sense for your child, the ultimate goal is their happiness. Here are a few sensory bins ideas that may work for your child:

  1. Bubble Bath Toy Car Wash. This one is perfect for outdoors because it involves water. Fill a bin with water and soap and throw in some toy cars. If your child is young, watch them closely to ensure that they do not get soap in their eyes or mouth. Your child will love washing the cars and you won’t have to worry about the water spilling since your outside.
  2. Pool Noodle Boats Water Sensory Bin. Here is another water bin that can extend the amount of time playing outdoors. Your child may even be able to help create the pool noodle boats. It is super simple and can be a great option for sensory play. Even if your child isn’t able to help make the boats, they will have a blast playing with them in the water bin.
  3. Bird Seed Sensory Bin. The bird seed sensory bin can be a fun way to get your child’s hands on nature. Your child will love feeling the textures of the seeds. You can add buckets, cups, shovels, etc., to make the sensory bin fun last longer.
  4. Rainbow Soap Foam Bubbles Sensory Play. With soap, food coloring, water, and a hand mixer, you can create this colorful bin. It can be a good learning opportunities for children who have trouble remembering their colors. Also, children will love mixing the colors together and seeing what other colors they can create.

Sensory bins aren’t the only thing you can do to extend play time outdoors. There are plenty of other fun opportunities your child may enjoy. Check out these 7 activities:

  • Swings. Swings can be so much fun for any child. It’s a great relaxing activity that can bring some calmness outdoors. Companies create adaptive swings for children with special needs. You can check some options here. A local park may even have an adaptive swing so definitely check that out as well – and if you’re interested in making your local park adaptive to children with special needs, we have information to help with that as well.
  • Chalk. If your child loves to color, then bring it outdoors with chalk. It may get a little messy so it is a good idea to put your child in some old clothes or lay out a small towel your child can sit on. Chalk can be hard to grasp or break easily, but buying large chalk can solve that problem. Here is an option by Crayola that may work for your child.
  • Nature walks. Nature walks can provide great sensory. Have your child collect rocks, leaves, and flowers that interest them during the walk. Look and listen to the birds, watch the chipmunks and squirrels. You can even pull your child in a wagon or stroller if that makes the walk easier. Just make sure to really talk about the scenery to get the full effect.
  • Bike Rides. Bikes create great opportunities to get outside and get some exercise. They can be challenging at first, but keep encouraging your child. Friendship Circle has a list of different special needs bikes, trikes, and tandems that could be an option. You can read the article here.
  • Sandbox. A sandbox is like a large sensory bin. You can make castles, mud pies, roads for cars, etc. It’s a great place to let the imagination run wild and may be a great way to get outside.
  • Picnics. Have a picnic! Your child can help make and pack the food. Spread a blanket out in the backyard and enjoy the sunshine. It can be a fun way to break out of the normal routine and get some fresh air.
  • Quiet Time. Why does quiet time have to be inside? You can create a little quiet space outside in the shade. Grab a blanket, pillows, and whatever else to get comfy. Bring and read some books. You can also color or do (almost) any other quiet activity your child would normally enjoy inside.

Getting outdoors should not become a game of “what’s next?” There are plenty of activities your child can do to keep entertained. Just as there are lots of options for sensory bins, it is not the only thing available to extend outdoor time. Chalk, swings, and picnics are just a couple other activities that may work for your child. The point is to get outdoors and to have fun. If you have any suggestions of outdoor activities, please submit them through a comment. 

If you have any questions about Cerebral Palsy or outdoor activities, feel free to call us at (800) 692-4453 or fill out our contact form on Facebook or our website.