After the presents are unwrapped and family dinners are devoured, what’s on your calendar? Sleep! Sugar detox! Penny-pinching! And, most importantly, keeping your darling with autism occupied and engaged while school’s out. No need to stress about the what, where and how much – we’ve got that covered. Here are super-fun and almost-free holiday activities that promote learning.
1. Build snowmen: Kids like cool holiday activities, especially building Frosty The Snowman! So bundle up and roll snowballs – it helps strengthen gross motor skills – in your backyard. Be sure to dress up your icy creations. Make a list of the items you need to adorn them, having Abby sound out the words as she writes them down to practice spelling and printing. Put her in charge of collection, so she has the chance to work on following instructions and lists. (With younger kids, you can hunt and gather together and talk about the categories each item belongs to.) Enjoy putting carrot noses, celery arms and tinsel hair onto your snowmen!
2. Get crafty: Overwhelmed with all the scrap and leftover wrapping paper lying around your house? Use it for crafts! Andy can transform it into slippers, a magical hat or an embellished notebook. He can even use wrapping paper as a sail for a little boat. Toot, toot! If he can read, ask Andy to independently follow the instructions to create his paper masterpieces. Otherwise, you can call out each step, encouraging him to cut and paste by himself to hone his fine motor abilities.
3. Go sledding: Your holiday activities should include hitting the slopes at a nearby park. Tobogganing is a thrilling thing that provides opportunities to naturally practice counting and waiting. At the top of the hill, ask Andy to wait on the sled. Set your cell timer for 10 seconds to 1 minute (depending on his tolerance for waiting); if he’s still sitting patiently when it beeps, praise him for “great waiting!” and then give the toboggan a push. Weee! If he gets up and protests, remind him that he has to hang-tight nicely before swooshing down. Reset the timer and try again. Or make numbers the contingency: Tell Andy to quickly count to 10 or 20 before excitedly sending off the sled.
4. Watch a film: Going to the theatre can cost a fortune! So stay in and save. Pop a big bowl of popcorn and cozy up as a family to watch Inside Out. Like Abby, we love the movie, too. What appeals to us is that it brings emotions to life in a way that makes them easier for kiddos with high-functioning autism to understand. After you laugh and cry your way through the film, talk with Abby about joy, sadness, anger and fear. Click here for tips and resources that’ll help you help her to better comprehend emotions.
5. Pick up books: Too cold to play outside? Head to the library! Your local branch might have free holiday activities that appeal to Abby. As well, encourage your sweetie to select some stories that she can read to you. Ask her questions about the tales to target reading comprehension skills. And have her draw a picture – many libraries have crayons and paper available – of her favourite parts to fine-tune her fine motor abilities and channel her creativity. If Abby is a younger learner, then read to her. Throughout the story, stop and ask your precious to point out pictures. For example, if the book features felines, your instructions should include, “Show me the cat” and “Find the animal” and “What says Meow?”
6. Make a date: Invite Andy’s classmate or neighbourhood chum to play at your place. All those new toys need some action! It’s also a perfect opportunity to work on valuable social skills. Before the playdate, write down initiation statements for Andy to review. And, previous to the peer’s arrival, read social stories that focus on the aspects of joint play that can be hard, such as losing, sharing and turn-taking. During the playdate, step in to facilitate and model appropriate behaviour when necessary, dishing out heaps of praise for awesome sharing, following the rules, taking turns and eye-contact.
Enjoy your holiday activities!
Photography from iStock