Play ideas for young children with autism

Exploration through play is really important for children, we all know this there are even groups you can join where you go, get your kids messy and then take them home for a bath…no thanks. This sort of ‘play’ or exploration can be nigh on impossible for many children on the autistic spectrum as i know well. To be honest many ‘typical’ activities are a struggle, my daughter for instance will not colour a picture, it has no purpose to her but left to her own devices she will happily colour in the walls or the carpet and usually ends by sucking the ink from the pen gaining some sensory pleasure from it. *sigh*IMG_2372

I have come up with 10 great exploration ideas to do with your autistic child, they are in three categories, wet, dry and edible. These are great ways to try to interact with your child and most are quick and pain-free so after 3 minutes when they’ve lost focus it’s not such an arduous task to clean away.

Wet Play:
We like to do wet play in the bath as it contains the mess somewhat and you won’t have to manoeuvre said child into the bathroom afterwards. Otherwise a washing up bowl and some towels are pretty much all you need.

    1) Paint

– Quite self-explanatory but if like my daughter your child doesn’t see the point of painting a picture, then maybe painting the bath (and themselves) might appeal and then hey presto you can wash it all off.bathpaint1

    2) Corn flour and water

– this stuff is great, empty a packet of cornflour into a bowl add a drop of food colouring to a glass of water then slowly add it to the flour until it forms a gloopy, almost liquid consistency. The biggest plus for parents is that it simply dries and wipes off. Hooray!

PicMonkey Collage blue

    3) Shaving Foam

– a can of shaving foam and one drop of food colouring, hide toys and figures in the foam to add purpose to the activity. IMG_3909

    4) Bubble water

– obviously a bubble bath isn’t ground breaking but some of the baths I’ve prepared have been pretty epic. Compliment the bath bubbles with a bubble machine or the old-fashioned kind.

PicMonkey Collage

Dry Play:
Many children do not like eat play, it’s messy, feels funny and can be a real negative experience. If that’s the case go dry! We have a little sand table and will swap the sand out for other textures but again a washing up bowl (and possibly a vacuum) will do the job

    5) Pasta shapes

– with so many types of pasta on the market, including Thomas the Tank Engine and other characters to explore the shapes.

    6) Sand

– Recreate those beach days of our youth minus the sunburn. Moonsand is great as its colourful and acts like wet sand without actually being wet.


    7) Rice

– both rice and sand can be used in the same way as water, pour it from container to container or listen to it rattle in a bottle.

    8) Paper

shredding – if like me, you are bombarded with flyers and free newspapers then this is an activity you could do daily…twice daily even.

Paper Collage

If your child is anything like mine they will eat all of the above without hesitation so I like to come up with fun ways to explore without worrying what’s being eaten…in fact I encourage her to try out all of these.

    9) Whipped cream

– a cheap can of squirty cream, sprinkles, cherries etc. We made smiley faces and decorated whipped cream ‘cakes’ ….and then we licked the table clean!

whipped collage

    10) Cooked pasta

– it’s slippery and slimy and not for everyone but for some running wet spaghetti through their fingers is a sensory winner. And if they eat it…bonus!

Do you have any ideas to add to the list? Comment below

Share/Ideas/Praise welcome 😉


2 thoughts on “Play ideas for young children with autism

  1. This is a wonderful post! I really love your ideas and how you have organised them. Thank you so much for sharing through Messy Play with Matilda Mae x

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