Spring is in the air. If you’ve been experiencing the unpredictable midwest weather like we have, it may not seem like it, but spring has arrived and it’s time to thaw out and get outside. Many children on the spectrum thrive when they have a routine. One of the hardest parts about the weather change is that our routines tend to change as well.
This spring, we recommend you start shifting your routine early to include more outdoor activities to support your child’s holistic development and health. In this post, we’ll break down a few of the ways you can get your child on the spectrum active outdoors.
There are plenty of resources available to families looking for structured physical activities for their children. As such, we recommend you get your child involved with your local community center. Whether it be the park districts, the YMCA or the JCC, most community-based organizations that have fitness centers will also have plenty of structured teams, classes and other activities designed to get children and families moving and healthy.
Reach out to your local branch or visit their website to get more information and see if any of their offerings would be suitable for your child’s needs. If you’re in the Chicagoland area, we recommend you take advantage of the JCC’s Inclusive camp, which you can learn about here.
Hit the Playground
Call it old-fashioned, but public parks and playgrounds still make for an excellent place to get some play time and exercise in. If you have a park in walking distance, find some time in your schedule to take a trip a few times each week for regular physical activity that’s easy and accessible to the whole family.
The versatility of public parks and playgrounds are their greatest asset. For one, they are openly available to anyone looking to enjoy the outdoors. Additionally, they usually offer plenty of space to either engage with other community members- or keep to yourselves. This can be crucial for our children on the spectrum who may experience sensory overload quicker than their neurotypical peers. Let them play with the other kids, and if they start feeling overwhelmed, they can go to another area of the park to calm down and reset.
This is also a great space to organize some games or sports of your own, by bringing your own equipment for sports like soccer, baseball, basketball and others. All you need is a group and some space in the park to make your own fun. If you’re not quite prepared for a more organized activity, use those open spaces to just walk or sit back and enjoy the fresh air.
Hit the Pool
Slowly but surely, outdoor pools will open up again. Between your local indoor pool and the surplus of outdoor water parks that are bound to open their doors, you can usually start getting a head start on pool season in late spring.
Not only is it virtually guaranteed fun for the whole family, swimming is also incredible, low-impact exercise that can work your whole body with relatively low-risk of any long term injury. It’s also a great way to learn a new skill if you enroll your child in lessons.
Use the yard
Most of our other suggestions require you to travel and potentially disrupt your weekly routines, but not this one. If you have any type of safe, fenced in outdoor area available near your home like a yard, use it. You can make your own obstacle course to challenge your children to problem solve, buy yard games or other relatively affordable sports equipment and take some time to teach your child the best and safest way to play outdoors near your home.
If you’re looking for something less intensive, get some sidewalk chalk to inspire creativity, or simply designate some outdoor reading time. This is a great alternative to any designated screen time you might have scheduled for your child during the winter, when we’re much more inclined to stay inside.
As long as your family is getting some time to enjoy the outdoors and engage in enough physical activity to stay healthy, there’s no wrong way to do it. Spring is a great season to start making better habits for exercise and activity in preparation for summer. It’s generally more mild temperatures make for a safer environment as the days get longer and things start to open and bloom for the year.
If you have any ideas of your own, don’t hesitate to share them with us. For more autism-related tips and news, be sure to keep up with us on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and feel free to reach out via our contact page to learn more about our services.