Weekend activities for your autistic toddler – children 2-3 years
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Weekend activities for your autistic toddler – children 2-3 years

This is without a shadow of a doubt the right time for parents to adopt the “learn through play” approach at home.  Educating your child through games is the best possible way to promote not just their motor planning skills but also for speech development or social communication delays.

I often hear parent say that their children are bored at home and that they do not know what to do with them over weekends.  Here are a few easy and cheap ideas that will help keep those busy little minds and bodies busy:

  • Building and Stacking Games – this can be anything from stacking wooden blocks to Tupperware dishes.  As long as it is durable (not easy to break), large enough so kiddo does not swallow it and bulky for easy stack-ability purposes.
  • Obstacle Course – another cheap and easy to implement activity – use items that are in your home or garden.  When you think obstacle course – think physical obstacles that the child can climb or crawl through but also think toy-obstacle course.  Getting the child to manoeuvre his truck over rocky terrain, over mountains and under bridges.  During these activities spend time on the floor with your child, make eye contact as often as possible, talk about the activities or obstacles and make appropriate noises. 
  • Counting Games – label items in and around your house.  Run or walk with the child from item to item and count out loud.  “How many spoons can you find or see?”  “How many lids or ear buds.  Get creative with the different type of items and don’t be scared to start labelling the items with sight words.  Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder often have a syndrome called Hyperlexia .   Hyperlexia is characterized by a child’s precocious ability to read at a very young age. 
    • Stacking toys or any other item you can find in the house – can also be a great counting activity;
    • When counting – count verbally and aloud and make sure that you point at each item.  Help the child to also point at the item; 
  • Balls are the best.  Toddles love kicking, throwing and rolling balls.  You can teach by getting the child to sort small plastic balls into colours.  You can use balls and get the child to throw them into a hoop or even a washing basket.  Use a broom and get the child to sweep the balls into one corner of the room – or at a more advanced stage the child can sweep the different coloured balls into different corners of the room.
  • Colour sorting – introducing colours at toddler age will help nurture their love for colour.  Colour sorting is exactly what is says.  You put a variety of colourful items in-front of the toddler and get them to sort them.  Cut up old t-shits, buttons, tiles, pieces of painted wood.  You don’t have to spend money if you are not able to. 
    • Next step will be sorting same colour different shape.  You can also look at introducing different shades of the same colour (this will however depend on the level of the child individualized educational needs).
    • Next step will be to introduce “tweezers” to help with the picking up and sorting of colours.  This is great for fine motor development.

Other usefull tips during play-time:

  • Get low – onto the floor and on the same level as the child
  • Make eye contact during activities
  • Be vocal – even if the child is not speaking as yet
  • Positive re-enforcement is vital – even the child gets it wrong.  Give high-fives and hugs for “trying” as well as succeeding
  • Sing – bring music into play sessions, rhymes and even musical instruments
  • Give clear instruction so the child knows exactly what is expected of them

Most importantly HAVE FUN with your autistic child.  Don’t make the game/play time a chore and don’t do it if you are not in the right headspace.  You don’t want to rush the games and definitely do not want the child to feel like they are “learning”. 

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, ABA, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum. Read more about this Johannesburg Autism School here.

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