Activities to aid the learning of autistic children over half-term

Stephen McHugh
This post was last updated on
May 27, 2023

Half-terms are short school holidays where children can rest and relax, and spend more time with family and friends. They may even be more engaged with their hobbies and playing with their favourite toys.  However, one shouldn’t neglect their learning and educational development. I’ve never been a parent myself.

If one is diligent and creative, they may be able to find ways in which hobbies and toys can be used to help with their learning and development.

I had and still do, have a keen interest in science-related topics, and used to like exploring and investigating. I was seen to be very inquisitive. Below are the sorts of things that interested me, and may interest others. But interests may differ between all of us.

Science Activities

Sizes

1. Fill a clear cup with water.

2. Put a thinnish object like a straw into the water.

3. Notice how the object should look wider in the water than the part above the water.

 

Electrostatics

1. Blow up a balloon.

2. Rub it on something like your pullover.

3. Place it against a wall and it should stick there.

 

Testing gravity

1. Find two objects of different weights (not too heavy in case they may cause damage).

2. Drop them from the same height.

3. See which one falls to the ground first.

Why not try and repeat experiments with the objects flat and screwed up if using paper.

I used to like building my own towers out of objects like books and small wooden toy blocks, sometimes using objects of different sizes.

I liked to see how high I could build tower blocks before they fell. This can give one an insight into balancing.

 

Create your own rainbow(this experience should be done in a darkened room)

1. Find a sheet of white paper and lay it on a flat surface.

2. Fill up a glass of water, place it on the white paper and shine a light source into this.

3. Adjust the angle and distance of the light source accordingly.

4. The colours of the rainbow should appear on the paper.

On a sunny day, you could use a prism in between the light source(sun) and a sheet of white paper laid against a wall or something like that.

You can also create a mini rainbow on a CD-ROM by simply shining a light source on the shiny side.

 

Night and day

For this experience, you will need a light source(representing the sun) and a round object(representing the Earth). 

You simply need to shine the light source on the object whilst spinning it.

Notice how the object you spin goes from dark to light and light to dark all over.

 

Freezing and melting

Here, you will need an ice cube holder.

Fill this with water, and place it in the freezer compartment of your fridge.

Checking it every now and then until you’re satisfied you can see the water has changed into blocks of ice.

And if you wish, apply some heat to the ice and, after some time, you should see the ice blocks melt back into the water. Get somebody to help you if you feel you need it. Be careful not to burn yourself.

 

Floating and sinking

Fill a sink or other suitable container until it's about half full.

If you have two empty plastic bottles, leave one of them empty and fill the other one.

Place them on the water in the sink or other container used.

The empty bottle is lighter and so should float, whereas the full bottle is heavier, and should sink.

Colours

I was and still am fascinated by colour. If you have a flashlight like a torch, and access to coloured filters, one thing to do here is to use different coloured filters together to see what other colours you can come up with.

Helping the environment

If you’re in winter, and your house is cold, try wearing a woolly jumper. Wool is an ideal fabric for helping one to remain warm. This may give you an opportunity to turn down your heating, use less energy, and more importantly reduce your impact on climate change.

5 fun science experiments you can do at home | (earlyyearsresources.co.uk)

Maths ActivitiesPin

Measure the height of your house

1. Measure the height of the brick and layer of cement together.

2. Count the number of times this repeats between the ground and where it meets the roof of the house.

3. Multiply this by the value in step 1.

Work out the area of your patio

1. If your patio is built of paving slabs, measure the length and width of one of them. If the paving slabs were from the same company, their dimensions should be the same for all of them.

2. Multiply the length and width of the paving slab.

3. Count the number of flagstones for both the length and width of your patio and multiply these to figures.

4. Multiply the results from steps 2 and 3

Weights

Weight is another thing I have been fascinated with, especially weighing scales. In the kitchen, I enjoyed pressing down on the scales and watching the pointer go around the measurement scale. It gave me an insight into the comparison of pounds, ounces, grams, and kilograms.

Such an approach here, I think, like this might get a child interested in cooking, particularly with measuring out amounts of the required ingredients for particular recipes.

Further ideas for maths activities

25 Fun Maths Games For Kids To Do At Home | Free Maths Activities (thirdspacelearning.com)

Arts and crafts

With things like paints, pencils, coloured pencils, the possibilities for one to express themselves seem endless, and only limited by their imagination. 

I once managed to design my own garden using coloured pieces of card and paper. I used green for the lawn, blue for a pond, and a mixture of other colours for flowers. 

For a task like this, besides coloured pieces of card and paper, one would need scissors to cut out desired shapes.

Glue could be used to stick down the coloured pieces of card for the lawn, pond, and flowers.

Other things like plasticine and Blu-Tack are both flexible and can be made into many different shapes. That's what I liked about these two items.

Arts and Crafts for Kids - Ideas & Inspiration - Arty Crafty Kids

Teach Art Easily By Using These Free Art Placemats (ourcrazyadventuresinautismland.com)

Make A Lorax Paper Bag Puppet | Our Crazy Adventures In Autismland

Reading and writing

Find some pictures/illustrations and get a child to try and describe what is going on in them in their own words. Over time, this approach helped me to write more descriptively and logically, with less in the way of repetition. 

And why not have a task where one reads, visualises, and draws.

Toys can be useful here. I used to like building tall houses with Lego bricks with long gardens. I imagined living in a house like that with all my favourite things and going on adventures with Lego friends outside. 

The Aerobie ring became another favourite toy of mine, as it could potentially fly over 1,000 feet in length before landing. My mum made up a story for me where I got an Aerobie ring back after thinking it was lost forever. In the story, I was probably too keen to test and see its capabilities.

Helping an autistic child with learning to read and write.

Telling them a story involving their favourite toy. 

Out and aboutPin

As well as getting fresh air and exercise, it is also an opportunity to go to quiet places, and listen to nature, and watch nature in action. Don't underestimate the role of nature in one's learning and education.

You may get ideas about sounds, sights and settings to describe in any creative task, such as story writing. If there are any museums near you related to any of your children’s particular interests, why not try those out.

Further reading

3 Fun + educational activities to keep kids entertained during half-term 

(cassiefairy.com)The Many Benefits of Arts and Crafts for Children (kent-teach.com)

Autism and the benefits of toys, fun, and games

If you’re a parent of any autistic children, what activities have you been doing, and/or are planning to do with your children during half-term to aid their learning and education? Let me know in the comments section below.


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