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22 Summer Activities For Families With Special Needs

Looking for fresh ideas and activities for this last month of Summer?

By Carissa Garabedian, publisher of Macaroni Kid Richmond, Va. July 27, 2021

Many parents of special needs kids -- and all kids really! -- struggle to find ways to spend summer days that are both educational and fun.

So we've rounded up 22 ideas that offer fun and simple ways to engage special needs kids this summer ... all while having fun! Many of these ideas are great to work on with kids of all ability levels, even those without special needs. There are plenty on this list that I'm planning on working on this summer with my special needs son!

1. Teach your child their address

On family walks, work on teaching your child their home address and something to identify about your home and street.

2. Practice crossing the street

Walks are also a great time to work on important basics like safely crossing the street.

3. Play hide and seek!

This can help teach your child that even though you are out of sight, they are still safe.

4. Cook together

Follow a recipe and cook together. Make sure to use a recipe that your child enjoys so they will eat the end product! 

5. Plant a garden

Is a garden too much? No problem. Even planting a single plant can give your child a sense of responsibility, if they're in charge of watering and caring for it.

6. Make a lemonade stand

Your child can help make the sign and lemonade and sit with you to sell your lemonade! It's a great way to encourage interaction, even if your child only lasts 30 minutes out there!

7. Wash your car

On a sunny, hot day, wash your car together!

8. Make a photo album

Include pictures of your family and friends. Share stories while you put it together. 

9. Play hopscotch

A simple driveway hopscotch board created with chalk can provide a lot of entertainment and help your child work on fine motor skills.

10. Make tie-dye shirts

The whole family can make shirts, and then you can all wear them out together on another adventure.

11. Build an indoor fort

A perfect rainy day activity.

12. Visit the library

Check out books and practice being quiet. 

13. Experiment!

Conduct some simple science experiments at home. Here are some fun ideas!

14. Learn a new chore

Teach your kids how to do a new chore. Depending on your child's ability level, ideas include sorting colors in the laundry, sorting recycling, or putting away silverware.

15. Grocery shop

Go to the supermarket and let your child pay for an item or count the change.

16. Visit a park

Go to a park and use the chance to take turns and see others play.

17. Share stories

Talk to your children about stories from your own childhood, and theirs. How do their memories differ from yours? 

18. Lay in the grass

Look up at the clouds. What shapes do you see?

19. Practice facial expressions

Practice making different facial expressions with your child: happy, sad, afraid, angry, surprised. Take turns.

20. Make a home video

Simple and sweet is fine, no need for edits. Save it and send it to a relative.

21. Play follow the leader

Imitation is another great skill for our special needs kids.

22. Go on a picnic!

Everyone loves a picnic! Don't want to travel? A backyard picnic can be just as special -- and a lot easier on everyone!

Hope these give you plenty of ideas on simple ways to make lasting memories for your special needs kids this summer!

Carissa Garabedian is the publisher of KnowDifferent.net and mother to a special needs child in Richmond, Va. Carissa also publishes Macaroni Kid Richmond, Va.