In this section you will find ideas for families to try at home and in the community.   Many families have shared photos, videos and ideas of things they have tried at home.  While it may seem intimidating at first to try to figure out how to make space for special equipment or how to try a new approach with your child, we hope that these ideas will help you get started!  Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to share your ideas.

Do What You Can and Start Where You Are! 

You may think that you need to have specialized equipment in order to try using an Active Learning approach.  This is not true!  While there are lots of interesting pieces of equipment and materials that you may want to check out, Active Learning is really an APPROACH and not something you can just buy.  Setting up the environment so that a child can explore independently is one of the first steps.  This may mean hanging interesting items near the child where he or she can easily reach them and interact with them.  The key is for the child to be an active participant in his own learning.

Don't let cost be an obstacle

Again, Active Learning is an approach, and not a specific piece of equipment.  There are many things you can make to use at home, such as the ideas listed in Things You Can Make.  One idea that many families enjoy making is an activity vest, apron, scarf or belt. or belt.  For children with very limited movement, an Activity Vest is a simple idea that can be made by family members, friends, Girl Scout troops, or school groups.

activity vest front



As the photograph on the left shows, you simply sew strips of Velcro onto an old vest, and attach everyday items with interesting properties, such as metal measuring spoons, a wooden brush or toothbrushes.  This allows a child to explore items in their immediate environment.  For a child who may have limited range of movement and have her fists resting on her chest, a vest like this would be a wonderful way to invite active exploration!



Organizing Items in the Environment to Encourage Exploration

tray of balls 1

Try filling bins with items for the child to explore -- all different types of brushes or balls, all different things that are wooden or squishy.  Think about a child's preferences, as well as their skill level (for example, are they able to grasp and release objects?).  Use our Active Learning Planning Sheet to think about what types of materials your child enjoys, and what sensory channels he or she uses best.

This tray of different types of balls (shown on the right) is a good example of a simple way to present the same category of object (balls) that are all a bit different -- ping pong balls, spiky balls, plastic balls, metal balls, squishy balls, golf balls.  This allows the child to compare different items, which is an important way for him or her to develop basic cognitive concepts that are the foundation for learning.  Heavy/light, rough/smooth, big/little, soft/scratchy, wet/dry are all different types of attributes that a child can learn about through this type of activity.

Invite Friends and Families to Contribute

If there is a specific piece of equipment that you think your child would enjoy and benefit from at home, there are a number of different ways you might be able to obtain it.  Talk to your child's therapists and teachers, as well as social workers or assistive technology specialists.  There are sometimes pockets of money to purchase special equipment or there may be some available on loan.

Friends and family members often wonder what a child might like for a birthday or a holiday, such as Christmas or Hanukkah.  Invite them to make a contribution towards a particular item.  This is often helpful to people who aren't sure what to give, and is a great way to be able to afford more expensive items. To learn about the price of various pieces of equipment available from Lilli Works you can download their catalog.  You may also want to visit the Equipment tab on this website to learn which pieces of equipment work on various areas of motor development.  There is also a list of sources of materials, where you can get ideas.

Helping Children to Learn to Entertain Themselves

bed activity wall

You may think that trying some of these ideas will be more work for you, but it will ultimately help you by ensuring that your child is engaged in something interesting and meaningful. It can be difficult for children and youth with significant multiple disabilities to develop recreation and leisure skills, and to find and interact with materials that they find pleasurable.  Setting up the environment so that they can locate and explore interesting materials will benefit the child, as well as the rest of the family. In the photo on the left, a family has set up an Activity Wall next to the child's bed, so that he can be engaged while on his bed.  He had been resistant to staying in bed and had problems sleeping, which had become a challenge for his whole family.  After this Activity Wall (which is a piece of pegboard affixed to a wall, with items suspended from the holes) was installed in his bedroom, he enjoyed staying in bed, and his sleep habits quickly changed.


This Den was created for a teenager to use at home.  It is made of pegboard and PVC pipe, with items suspended from the PVC pipes at the top.  Suspended items include metal pizza pan with magnets, plastic bin with holes, a leather work glove, and a baseball cap.

Older student den

For more ideas about this, see Planning and Supporting a More Active Life at Home.


Cubbies for storage

It can be tricky to create space in many homes for all of the special equipment and materials that many learners with multiple challenges need.  One parent shared with us some cubbies that she has set up at home to store materials, as shown in the photo on the right.




Time for Practice

It takes a very long time for children with multiple disabilities to develop new skills.  When families are invested in providing an opportunity for a child to practice skills, they develop more quickly, as with this child who learned to sit up at home, following months of practice rolling around on the floor.

jack sitting


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