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10 creative activities for children with special needs

A child playing with a toy at a table

One of our key beliefs at Hospice in the Weald for Children is that children should be children, not just patients – no matter what illnesses or special needs they may have. This is something we emphasise and encourage in all our children’s services (and will serve as the foundation of our upcoming Children’s Centre)!

For parents, carers, siblings and friends of children with special needs and/or children who are utilising hospice services for long-term treatment, here are just a few ideas for accessible and creative activities to try at home, out in your community, or with us at our Children’s Hospice in the Weald.

1. Draw using chalk or giant markers

Large drawing implements are easier to grip for children with motor disabilities – and those who have trouble with precision can use jumbo paint markers for dots. You can draw outside using chalk if it’s warm enough, or use giant sketch pads or whiteboards to draw inside. Also be sure to check out our group art activities at Living Well, where we offer watercolour painting, creative fabrics activities, and more!

2. Make collages using pre-cut shapes/photos and sticky boards

This is another great activity for children with motor impairment – although children who want to practise or improve their motor skills can always cut and glue their own pictures. Consider giving your child a fun theme to work from, or getting a sticker or photo book of their favourite book, TV or film to make it extra engaging.

3. Make your own Play-Doh and shape it together

Playing with Play-Doh is a wonderful collaborative activity for adults and children alike! Teach your child a bit of science while making the Play-Doh out of special ingredients, then enjoy the sensory fun of squishing and shaping it around.

4. Try a water tray or floating toys in the bath

Another great sensory activity is playing with a water tray, or toys in the bath. Look for large plastic and rubber toys that aren’t too sharp or difficult to handle. Again, if you can find some of your child’s favourite characters, all the better. Also note that this particular activity should only be done with a parent or qualified carer present, as water can otherwise be dangerous for a disabled child.

5. Put on a show with their stuffed animals

You can also use stuffed animals or plush toys that the child already has (or get them a new one as a surprise!) to play together or put on a show. If your child loves this kind of imaginative play, you might invest in finger puppets or hand puppets as well.

6. Enjoy an outing in the local area

Consider getting a few of your child’s friends together and going somewhere local like a disability-friendly café or park. Note that we frequently organise these kinds of local outings for children at HITW, as well as more general HITW events for entertainment and fundraising – feel free to enquire on that page.

7. Attend an accessible showing of a film

There are also plenty of cinemas which accommodate wheelchairs and even have family days and dedicated showings where children can make noise in the cinema. For blind and deaf children, look into films being shown with captions and audio descriptions of the film.

8. Play children’s instruments, or make your own

Most children love music, so if your child is able, why not try playing together on large child-friendly instruments? Or improvise your own with pots and pans, rubber band guitars, paper plate tambourines, etc. We also offer music therapy as part of our Living Well services, which can be a lovely way to enjoy music with your child while also getting therapeutic benefits.

9. Participate in accessible sports

For those looking to really get involved with a super-active yet accessible activity, look into wheelchair and powerchair sports leagues in and around your area – or start one of your own!

10. Read (and make) picture books

Finally, a simple yet classic activity to do with children is to read their favourite stories to them or with them. You can get larger picture books which are easier to hold, as well as books with sensory elements (lift-the-flap, fabrics to touch, etc.) for an even more interactive experience.

If your child loves art and you’re feeling ambitious, you could even make some of your very own picture books. Just staple together some construction paper and you’ve got your own blank canvas! You might have your child create the pictures and dictate the narrative to you, or write down the story yourself and then ask them to draw what’s happening – it’s completely up to you.

Boy laughing in children's centre

Looking for even more fun child-friendly activities? You’ve come to the right place!

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