The winter months are here, and it is already time to start preparing for how to keep our kids with autism active and their minds busy. Summer provides so many opportunities outside, but the cold of winter and the potential wet, dreary weather often rules out outdoor activities for our kids with special needs. We are here to help with ideas for families that can be done at home with affordable materials and fun to be had by everyone in the family.

Homemade Obstacle Course

  • Using simple items such as sheets and bed covers and living room furniture, parents can organize a small course that their child can pass through by jumping, hopping, or crawling through. Purchase hula hoops and fold up tunnels and create obstacles to jump in and crawl through. Use colored paper to cut into shapes and challenge your child to follow a sequence of steps. Even better, set this up at night and allow the child to navigate the course with a flashlight.

Scavenger Hunt

  • Gather your child’s familiar items (or special new items) and hide them around the house. Give your child a fun bag or bucket to collect their finds. Have the child look for the items using a series of pictures, or if your child is reading, provide cool coded instructions and hints. For example: “Go to where we eat dinner and find something blue that loves rainbows and runs fast.” (Rainbow Dash character doll) Once they find an item, the next clue can be nearby such as the next picture or clue. When done collecting the items, have a play time together incorporating all of the items together.

Fun with Paint

  • Don’t be afraid to get messy, with preparation! Use tempura paints which are easy to clean up. Allow your child to experiment with different ways of painting using traditional brushes, but also sponges and cut rags, or even just their fingers using finger paints. Find a baking sheet with an inch of depth and try putting down a large sheet of butcher paper and pour paint in small blobs around the page. Drop in a few marbles and roll them around over the paint. Allow your child to drive small cars and trucks with small tire treads to “drive” through the paint. Be sure to have a line of string and close pins to hang them up to dry over a paint proof surface!

Indoor Play Places

The following are examples of some locations close to the BAYADA Behavior Analysis Pennsauken, but many of these organizations offer similar experiences nationwide.

  • Please Touch Museum (Philly, PA)
    • Offers sensory guides
    • “Quiet kits”- upon request
    • High quality learning experience
    • Learning Skills through creative measures for early STEM and performing arts activities
    • Workshops for arts and music, also story times
  • Sesame Place (Hulmeville, PA)
    • Certified staff with sensory awareness and motor skills
    • Special access passes for safe rides
    • Sensory guides
    • Noise canceling head phones
  • SkyZone (National Locations)
    • Sensory hours- 2 hour jump time
    • Mondays or Fridays (depending on the location)
    • Licensed workers and RBTS can accompany at no charge (trained)
    • Quieter times (rooms)
  • Chuck E. Cheese (National Locations)
    • Open for 2 hours early on Sundays of every month
    • Reduced light and noise
    • Trained staff



About the Author

Crystal Harms M.Ed., BCBA is the Behavior Services Manager for Bayada Home Health Care’s Behavioral Health Services in Pennsauken, New Jersey. Crystal earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis in 1994 from Florida State University, and a Master of Education in 2001 from Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania — a program in which she later taught as an adjunct professor. She became a Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (CABA-fl) in 1997 in Florida, where certification in the field originated. She then became a charter certificant for the BCaBA certification in 2000 and served on the organization’s Board of Directors for 4 years. Crystal sat for her boards in November of 2020 and obtained her full BCBA. Crystal has also serves as an adjunct professor for Rowan University in the Psychology Department (since 2006) and the Center for Behavior Analysis, Research, and Service (since 2021). Throughout her career, Crystal has worked as a behavior analyst, teacher, clinical director and learning consultant in public and private facilities and in homes. She has treated children and adults with developmental disabilities, mental health diagnoses, and other behavioral needs, working in partnership with their caregivers, therapists, and educators. She has had the privilege of providing these services across the United States and in parts of Canada. Crystal is passionate about taking this breadth of experience and using it to support our newest practitioners coming into the field. Crystal lives in Medford, New Jersey with her husband and rescue dog a few miles away from her horse and has two adult children that live in the NJ and PA areas.

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