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Marissa Sandler is the CEO and co-founder of Careseekers. Previously a social justice lawyer and researcher for over 15 years, Marissa is passionate about helping people live with dignity and finding innovative solutions to problems.

The summer holidays are here and that means more quality time with the grandkids! If you are the grandparent or carer of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) you may be looking for some tips on great activities to do with pre-schoolers with autism.

We have come up with some activities you can do in the home. They are activities that will be especially appealing to your with ASD. They have minimal mess and can be done with things you probably already have in the home.

Sensory play

ASD children may or may not like the feeling of different textures but it is a good idea to experiment with different textures and reduce sensory sensitivity.

  • Surprises in a box of beans – Fill a large bowl with dried beans and then place small toys throughout. Let your child run his hands through the ball and dig out the toys.
  • Finger painting – An oldie but a goodie. Kids love the messiness of finger painting and it’s an activity that will appeal to older kids too!  For older kids, you can add shaving cream, beads or marbles to the paint for impressive effects.

Dance party

You would be surprised how easily you can convert your living room into a disco! Play music straight from your phone and make sure to join in the fun. You can even make a theme and get the kids to arrive at the disco dressed up.

Older kids can be the DJ and choose the music from your music library or a music streaming app like Pandora or Spotify.

Structured play

Children with ASD benefit from structured play with an adult. It allows them to learn play skills and interact with others.  You can pick any activity, for example doing puzzles, playing with building blocks. Make sure you show your grandchild the beginning and end of the game and keep doing it with them until they can do it by themselves with little intervention.

Fun with counting – potatoes and toothpicks

Counting games are fun for pre-schoolers and even older children with ASD. Here’s a fun way to count and recognise numbers with stuff from the kitchen.

  • Make a grid on a piece of paper and label 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
  • Get 3 potatoes and cut them in half and place them next to each number
  • Get a bunch of toothpicks and ask your children to place the corresponding number of toothpicks into the potatoes.

Older children may also enjoy doing adding and subtracting with the potatoes.

Have fun and enjoy the school holidays!

Related links:

The best way to involve children in the care of a grandparent

Helping children cope with grief

3 most important things in youth and old age