Every child, regardless of ability, deserves to enjoy a rich, fulfilling and fun life. Numerous safe activities help kids with autism live a normal life as they learn skills, connect with others and discover the world. Provide appropriate supervision as you engage, entertain and teach your child from birth to young adult.

Birth to Three Years

Many children with autism demonstrate signs of their disorder as infants and toddlers. Even before children receive an official diagnosis, though, they can participate with a caregiver in nurturing, educational and fun activities.

1. Tummy Time

Give infants and toddlers time to explore colors, sounds and sights at their own pace when you provide tummy time on a soft mat. Use colorful toys, musical books and cheerful conversation to engage and soothe your child.

2. Imitation

Babies and toddlers with autism may struggle to make eye contact, but you can encourage them to imitate you and others for fun and therapy. Use a mirror or a game like patty cake as you help your child develop social and language skills.

3. Music

The rhythm, repetition and sounds of music can calm infants and toddlers and teach them important language, communication and rhythm skills. Share songs that rhyme, include physical actions or incorporate daily activities like getting dressed or eating food, and provide kids with opportunities to shake maracas, bang pans and play other instruments as they make music.

Preschool and Kindergarten

From four to six years of age, children with autism begin exploring peer relationships and formal education environments, and they may receive targeted therapy. Introduce several fun activities that promote positive emotional expression, self-regulation and social interactions.

1. Pretend Play

While playing with blocks, dolls, puppets or trains, children can create stories that match their interests, expand their imaginations and deal with real life. Pretend play also helps children with autism develop social skills and learn motor and life skills like getting dressed, sharing toys and showing compassion.

2. Playground

Playground visits help kids stay active and calm their emotions and senses. Visit a park and allow children to slide, swing and run as they play alone or with peers.

3. Sensory Table

Fill trays, buckets and bins with sand, water, shaving cream, uncooked rice and clay. Include objects like spoons, funnels and cars, and allow kids to sift, splash and squish as they engage their senses and discover how nature works.

Elementary

Expand social skills, gross motor skills and self-esteem with activities that help children with autism succeed in elementary school.

1. Puzzles

Jigsaw, block and knobbed puzzles prompt children to practice their gross and fine motor skills. Puzzles also calm children and provide hours of entertainment.

2. Scavenger Hunt

At a local park or indoors, plan a scavenger hunt that encourages kids to exercise, work off excess energy and self-regulate. Select a list of objects for the children to find, such as acorns and leaves, or choose activities for them to complete, such as jumping jacks and math problems.

3. Drawing

Drawing helps children with autism develop fine motor skills, work through emotions and experiment with colors, textures and shapes. Provide crayons, paints and pencils, and let them color a pre-drawn picture or create their own design on a blank canvas.

Teens

Equip teens with autism to manage their time, succeed in relationships and handle emotions properly when you encourage them to engage in fun activities alone or with peers.

1. Obstacle Course

With an obstacle course, teens and their friends work in pairs or teams. They must navigate the course and complete objectives such as finding a flag, working through math problems or solving a puzzle.

2. Pet Care

Teens can learn responsibility, time management and empathy when they care for a pet. Adopt a pet at home or visit a farm or animal shelter for pet therapy and fun.

3. Hobbies

Hobbies such as woodworking, sports, computers and writing allow kids to hone their unique talents and skills. These hobbies can also become a career, so provide time, space and resources for teens with autism to engage in hobbies they enjoy.

Young Adults

Give young adults more independence with activities that continue to build social and life skills.

1. Gardening

In a community plot or indoor containers, young adults can grow vegetables, herbs and other vegetation. Horticulture therapy prompts empathy, responsibility and focus, and playing in the dirt can calm emotions, soothe the mind and improve dexterity.

2. Volunteer

Young adults may give back to others when they volunteer in a nursing home, pet shelter or other community organization. Serving others gives young adults a sense of worth, improves their social skills and builds relationships.

3. Camping

Take young adults on a camping excursion that gives them an opportunity to develop social skills, learn new life skills and relax.

Children with autism enjoy a variety of activities based on their abilities, skills and needs. This list suggests several safe options for children of all ages. What other activities do you recommend?

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