5 Fun Summer Learning Activities for Your Child With Special Needs

When school is out, the fun begins! Here are some summer learning ideas to keep your child engaged, from the experts at Kaufman Children’s Center.

Summertime opens a world of possibilities for children with disabilities or who are neurodiverse learners, especially for unique and fun skill-building activities. Drawing from the wealth of knowledge at Kaufman Children’s Center, we’ve curated a collection of activities designed to captivate and foster growth in your child throughout these sun-soaked months.

Kaufman Children’s Center stands out as a leading therapy center for kids. Founded by Nancy Kaufman, the center is home to a passionate team of speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and ABA therapists. They help families in Michigan — and around the world — with effective tools and strategies.

Best summer learning activities for your child

From their experience, here are some practical, beneficial tips that can make a real difference for families with special needs children.

1. Have fun playing board games

In a world increasingly dominated by screens, board games emerge as a refreshing “old-school” educational tool that brings families together, offering a rich, tactile experience that digital games cannot replicate.

During summer break, board games provide a unique opportunity for learning and bonding. They demand sustained attention, encourage planning and strategy, and teach valuable life skills like patience, turn-taking and responding to others’ non-verbal cues.

Each game, from Scrabble to Monopoly, offers additional benefits, such as tactile pleasure, listening skills, and lessons in colors, counting and cooperation.

2. Focus on language in the games you play

When you are playing board games, it’s a fantastic opportunity to weave speech and language goals into your child’s playtime, especially through the language of games.

By guiding your child to use phrases like “my turn” and “your turn,” you’re not only teaching them about sharing but also enhancing their communication skills. Adding personalization, such as “Your turn, mommy,” helps in practicing address and recognition. Encourage them to articulate needs with phrases like “I need______,” and “I don’t need_______.”

Questions and answers can be practiced through simple exchanges like “Whose turn is it?” followed by “My turn” or “Your turn.” This makes the learning process interactive by applying language skills in real-time scenarios.

3. Create a seasonal mystery box

Exploring a summer mystery box turns speech and language practice into a delightful adventure. Wrap a box with summer-themed paper, leaving an opening for your child’s hand. Fill it with items that scream summer — like sunglasses, seashells, a miniature beach ball or sunscreen.

As your child explores the box, encourage discussions about each item’s name, use and related summer experiences.

Engage in phrases like “I found a ___” to practice labeling, “What’s in the box?” for questions, and “Take out ___” for requests. This tactile and interactive method not only supports language development but also connects learning with the joyous essence of summer, making it a perfect blend of fun and education.

4. Get physical: ride a bike, pull a wagon, paint with fingers

Engaging in physical activities can significantly enhance children’s sensory input and overall well-being.

Riding a bike is an excellent way to improve balance and bilateral coordination, offering both fun and fitness under the sun. Pulling a wagon, especially loaded with some weight, provides strong proprioceptive feedback, aiding in muscle development and body awareness. Finger painting outdoors, perhaps with summer themes like the sun, beach or ocean creatures, offers tactile stimulation and creativity.

Handwriting Skills Tips for Kids

These activities not only keep children active but also support their sensory integration, crucial for relaxation and focus during more structured times, like the upcoming school year.

5. Practice interpersonal skills in all activities you do together

Encouraging boredom can spark creativity and imagination in children, teaching them to enjoy their own company without digital distractions. Incorporating regular “digital detox” periods and engaging with toys, books and crafts can be both calming and therapeutic.

For active engagement, consider visiting zoos, parks or museums to expand vocabulary and discuss various concepts. Creating a scavenger hunt, cooking together or building a fort can also stimulate learning and conversation.

Participating in summer reading programs or playing classic road trip games like “I Spy” enhances language skills. Additionally, summer offers a valuable opportunity to practice and learn interpersonal skills, emphasizing the importance of eye contact, reading facial expressions and understanding social norms. Enjoy and make the most of summer by creating lasting memories and spending quality time together.

Expertise brought to you by Kaufman Children’s Center. Learn more at kidspeech.com.

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