How to Connect with Your Child using Fun Home-Based Activities
There are a variety of fun activities you can do to connect with your child at home. Some involve a lot of time, while others very little time and effort.
Just spending a few minutes a day doing something your child loves is sure-fire way to feel a greater bond.
Get Out of Therapy Rat-Race!
Do you feel like all you get accomplished during the week is shuffling your kids back and forth to a myriad of after-school activities and therapies?
Are the kids begging you to play but the laundry pile is taller than you?
Is “fun mom” taking a backseat to “chauffeur-dishwasher-cook-secretary-therapy mom”?
Besides feeling frustrated trying to keep up with daily life, many parents feel disconnected from their kids if communication and mutual understanding are challenging.
When my kids were young, they had meltdowns because I didn’t understand what they needed. Hence, I felt like I needed to be their therapist or case manager to meet their greatest needs.
Sometimes what they really needed more was my time, attention and love…even if it was just 20 minutes.
Find that Joy at Home
If you want to go beyond figuring out your autistic child’s needs and connect with them in joyful, simple ways, here are some ideas—ranging from minimal effort to greater effort—that you can do everyday.
These activities are designed to foster meaningful interaction between two or more people as well as important life skills. As your child’s first teacher, he or she will be looking to YOU to be a guide in daily behavior and relationships.
It’s time to grow, connect and make memories at home…together!
1. Read together a favorite book.
If they child is moving around or stimming, this is okay. If he or she seems to be listening, read it with flair and even act it out.
2. Be still next to your child.
No phones, no computer…just solitude together. Just having someone nearby without a distraction is connecting.
3. Put on your child’s favorite music while doing chores together.
We put on Disney music on Pandora while we work together. It brings on a lot of laughter and singing while making boring chores more fun.
4. Jump on a trampoline together.
This is guaranteed to make you both smile and build strong muscles. (As long as you don’t pee your pants while you jump!)
5. Sing along to favorite songs while in the car.
This build camaraderie between the two of you as well as language skills for your child.
6. Recite nursery rhymes while taking walks.
We even like to recite movie scripts together. Anything that fosters interaction between two or more people!
7. Swing right alongside your child!
I always had fun being silly while we were swinging side by side. The stimulation of swinging not only provides a great sensory outlet for pent-up energy. I believe it also helps many autistic children learn things and language better while they are in motion (like it did for mine).
8. Draw or color pictures together.
My daughter would make me draw a paused movie or cartoon scene. This began the spark of a lifelong passion for drawing for my daughter. I am very grateful that she asked me to inspire her!
9. Play silly games that your child enjoys and understands.
Our favorite is Disney’s Apples-to-Apples game. My kids end up laughing so hard and the silly associations they come up with.
10. Watch your child’s favorite TV show or movie without any other distractions.
This also means no phone, computer or iPad around.
11. Have your child pick out and make a recipe with you.
Not only does this provide an opportunity to learn self-help skills, but also mutual cooperation, taking instruction, tactile learning, engaging the many senses, and building a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence.
12. Work on a LEGO project together.
Working on a project your child loves says “I value your interests and I want to encourage you to explore them.” Building a LEGO set together teaches mutual cooperation, communication and visual-spatial skills.
13. Take your child to a children’s museum or a zoo.
I have always loved taking my kids to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. While sensory-intense, it allowed me to play alongside them and not be “mom”. A day-trip to the zoo is also fun, although some sensory considerations must be taken in account.
14. If your child likes to draw or create stories, make a comic strip together.
You can help him or her develop some amazing skills in the process. This could be a long-term project you work on together, enabling a strong bond to grow.
15. Create a social story together dealing with something that is hard for your child.
Often it is extremely frustrating for both you and your child to resolve a tough problem. You child may not be able to express his or her thoughts and feelings well. And you may not understand at all. But sometimes visualizing the problem can help. Create or find a social story online that relates to the problem he or she is currently dealing with. It will be empowering for your child to have a hand in creating his/her own social story.
16. Explore nature parks and create journals with plants and animals you discovered.
I love walking in the woods with my kids. Not only is therapeutically relaxing for all of us, but we use that time to teach cool nature facts. If your child is a collector, bring a bag to stash leaves, acorns, and other discoveries. Then you can research what they are and create a nature journal together in the process.
17. Do fun science experiments—video record what happens.
Some science experiments are wacky fun! What happens when you put a Mentos in Diet Coke? How do you make your own homemade lava lamp? These are activities that don’t require a lot of verbal communication to see results. Watching videos of these projects can help when providing instructions. Take pictures of your efforts to make the memories last longer!
18. Download a star-gazing app and learn about the different stars, planets and other things in the night sky.
If your child is naturally inquisitive like mine about the night sky, he or she will really enjoy the time you spend picking out the constellations, stars and planets. What a beautiful way to connect with your child than over the great natural wonders beyond our world!
19. Go camping or enjoy a staycation somewhere local for a night or two.
Camping is a unique experience in that you get out in nature and away from electronic distractions. There is nothing like enjoying quiet moments together at the campfire. Staycations are great for getting your child used to travel and getting acclimated to spending more days away from home. Plus, travel expands the learning mind!
For tips on how to introduce the experience of camping to your autistic child, read my article “Easing Your Child Into Camping”.
20. Start planning a week-long trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World with your child!
It is so much fun to spend time with my kids pouring over the Disney maps and finding our favorite attractions. Then we watch Disney planning videos of the resorts and point-of-view videos of the attractions together. It’s exciting to dream up our vacation plans together!
21. Learn musical instruments together—play songs at Christmas time or whenever you feel like it.
Not only have you develop a love of music together, you have taught your special needs child how to work cooperatively with another person toward a goal. Learning to play music enhances personal growth as well. Music appreciation and knowing how to play an instrument will remain lifelong passions!
22. Take an online course together.
This honestly could be anything (like learning how to draw mandalas). Most likely, however, your child will be steering the interest. You can find a wide variety of course on Udemy or Khan Academy. One really cool course is learning how to be a Disney animator!
23. Join a hobby club together.
If your child loves animals and crafts, then 4H is a wonderful club. If your child likes building with electronics, then many communities have robotics clubs. Check with your child’s school or local library to find out where all the hobby clubs in your area meet. Get involved as a leader and/or helping your child with the projects.
24. Serve as a leader of a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop to which your child belongs.
There are some amazing benefits for kids on the spectrum when they join a Scout troop! Not to mention the wonderful bonding opportunities between you and your child when you get involved as a troop leader. A long-term Scouting experience builds strong character and growth as well as provides opportunities for employment and resume-building.
25. Homeschool your child.
This may take a period of transition if your child is used to public school. But after some initial hard days and refusals—if that applies to your child—the reward of having a deeper relationship with your child will pay off!
I homeschooled my daughter for two years during middle school. I believed those years allowed us to forge a strong, trusting mother-daughter bond that has carried through into her public high school year so far.
Chores Can Wait…Joy Lasts Forever!
It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get caught up on laundry because you bounced on the trampoline with your child.
And you won’t remember making the perfect Pinterest dinner as much as the moment of pride in listening to your child sing a Disney song for the first time while swinging together!
Your child will be overjoyed just to have exclusive time with you. He or she will remember those fun moments for years to come.
Take pictures of those moments! Taking a trip down memory lane together years in the future is another great opportunity to reconnect over pleasant times.
Consider doing one or more of these fun activities you can do at home to connect with your child at least once a week. Let “fun mom” come out to play!
It’s time to connect with your child by making memories of everyday life at home!