Note: With all activities, safety comes first. These activities need to be supervised by an adult and may need to be modified if you child has a lot of hand and arm strength.
Tired of being stuck inside your house? Most children benefit from a dose of outdoor time whether it is a walk in a stroller or something more engaging. When the weather is nice, or even not so nice such as a snowy day, taking your child outdoors to play helps them to learn many skills including developing concepts about the weather that can’t easily be learned indoors.
Create Active Learning environments in the backyard! Here are just a few ideas to inspire you. Remember, as you create these play spaces and activities, keep in mind the developmental level your child is at and specific skills he/she demonstrates such as banging, batting, sitting unsupported, etc.
Place a shepherds hook so the child could be sitting or lying on the ground or sitting in a chair. Hang a wind chime from it and let the child use hands or feet to activate the chime by batting or kicking it. If no hook available, hang the chime from a tree or other hook.
The child not only can practice using hands and feet with this activity, but if it is a breezy day a connection might be made with the chime and the wind. You might want to place several hooks out with something like a small paper kite or Mylar balloon on the other hook for comparison.
Rocks on table or tray next to/in front of child with various outdoor pots/planters positioned underneath- child can practice pushing/raking/grasping/
Rocks in bird cage with tray with various outdoor pots/planters positioned underneath- can work on getting hand in and out of birdcage and removing rocks
Place small rocks inside a wire whisk and hang or hold near a child’s hand. The child can bat at whisk and let rocks fall into noise making containers (plastic, ceramic, metal and wood pots). Your child can use fingers or hands to retrieve rocks from whisk. Parents or siblings can replace rocks as necessary. Your child will be able to compare sizes and shapes of rocks and contrast the temperature of the rocks with the containers. Use pots or containers that are made from various materials such as plastic, wood, wicker, terra cotta, metal, etc. Try this activity with a tub of water underneath so that the falling rocks make a different sound an perhaps a splash.
Collect various containers of rocks, grass, sand, mud, leaves, or woodchips for child to explore with hands and feet. Practice putting in and taking out of containers or sort into different containers. If your child is able to walk or crawl around, have him help collect the items. If your child can sit unsupported, put the containers and the child into a wagon and go for a ride to collect items to sort into the containers.
Stack various size outdoor pots or other containers. You may want to use the disposable pots that seedlings come in from the nursery or light weight plastic or foam pots. Nest the pots or stack them on top of each other to build towers to knock down. If your child can’t yet stack, you stack and let her knock them over.
Outdoor items can be hung with string from outdoor furniture. Your child can lay under the chair or table and explore with hands or feet depending on stability and size of furniture and items being used. Furniture options could include outdoor patio table or tall chair, hammock, or a swing.
Depending on the size of your child, this might be used to let the child play in prone. Be sure to stay close by so the child does not fall off. The width of the stool should be about the same as the distance from underarms to hips as it is in a Support Bench.
- Child with Cerebral Palsy can lay supine on a patio deck or in the grass, with various outdoor objects (small rocks, grass, wood chips) in a pie pan or light weight tray that is positioned on their chest. A disposable aluminum tray works nicely for this. Your child can use hands, body movement, or his own breath to cause the objects to move or fall off onto noise making surface.
- Hang interesting, easily graspable items from a chain-link fence and position child within reach (sitting, prone, supine). If you child can stand with support or cruise you may want to position items along a short length of the fence to encourage walking. Think about hanging objects of various textures, sizes, shapes, and so forth. Use things that make interesting noises like bells or chimes.
- Collect and explore various size sticks- practice raking, grasping and releasing, learn about length, use 2 hands, practice stirring or stabbing activities.
- Encourage child to reach out to feel a stream of water from hose, watering can or other water toys. If the child can grasp and hold, let the child help with watering using a water hose.
- Rip grass, pull weeds, or break sticks to encourage take apart activities.
- Vocalize into empty outdoor pots or buckets held near mouth to make different sounds.
- Play in a sandbox or a baby pool with various kitchen utensils like cups or sieves, wooden and Styrofoam objects that will float, bottles and measuring cups, straws, spoons, gardening tools, sticks or other interesting objects.
Playing at an Activity Wall
In this video we see a child at Penrickton Center playing with at an Activity Wall while seated in a wheelchair. Attaching things to an outdoor fence or wall of the house gives the child a nice play to play out of doors. This video illustrates the importance of allowing ample response time for the child to process an activity. Notice the boy’s left hand making scratching motions on the paddle drum. We see that when one body part of this boy’s body moves, it causes motion in other parts of his body.
Dean Experimenting with a Metal Gate
Any outdoor setting can be a great place for learning. For example, in this video we see a young man who is exploring a metal gate. Learning about gates, doors, and lids that open and close add to the learner’s knowledge about how things work.