When discussing the variety of activities available for toddlers with special needs, the list is somewhat dependent on the type of disability and depth of involvement. Therefore, the following list of activities is designed as a generic set of exercises that are utilized to enhance sensory and motor skills in toddlers with a number of special needs. Pick and choose which ones your child will benefit from, but they are all designed to be fun while enhancing your child’s abilities to their fullest extent.
Sensory skills are often enhanced by associating fun with learning. Of course, the more engaging the activity, the more your child will want to participate. Keeping your child’s interest in the task at hand is paramount to your child’s mastery of that skill. The following activities for your toddler will engage your child and allow you to monitor their progress:
Animal Sound Associations:
Find pictures of various animals (cows, horses, pigs, etc.) and make the sounds those animals make. Have your child make that sound too a few times and then go on to the next one. Later, show a picture of one of the animals you have already gone over and ask your child what sound they make. Don’t worry if they don’t get the sound right the first time and don’t bombard your child with too many animals in one sitting. Reward your child when they do a good job in any way you deem appropriate. This is a fun exercise for both of you that develops cognition and critical thinking!
Nothing fancy here, just maybe a tambourine or a something to drum on. These activities will stimulate hearing and motor skills and associate action with sound. Developing coordination by playing with musical instruments and connecting that play to sound will help the child’s “cause and effect” development.
Whether you use multi colored chalk on the sidewalk or crayons on a sheet of paper, drawing is always a fun and challenging activity for special needs kids. Encouragement is the keyword here. Don’t be frustrated if your child draws a picture of a dog that looks like an unrecognizable blob. It is merely the engagement of their efforts that is the reward itself. Refinement in their artistic abilities can come later. Remember we are not looking for the next Rembrandt, just growth in your child’s development!
Balloons are a surprisingly easy and inexpensive way to engage your toddler with special needs in an activity. Hand/eye coordination is developed and touch sensory also is enhanced as your child reaches out to bounce the balloon. Make funny sounds as you tip the balloon towards your child as they will associate this with entertainment. Buy brightly colored balloons as this will also enhance their ability to differentiate between colors and hues. Balloons are always fun and your child will be engaged for a good deal of time!
These are just a few activities that you can use for your special needs child. Of course, these activities are just a starting point and you will refine and replace them as your child develops their skills. Don’t be afraid to challenge your child to grow in their skill set but at the same time, don’t place expectations beyond their reach. Growth in your special needs child is something experienced by both of you and the rewards you experience is in the journey itself.