Today, as part of a year-long series about the Functional Skills of Childhood, we’re talking about calming games and activities for community outings!
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Last month, we took a look at another aspect of child development – cutting with scissors. Be sure to check out what our awesome group of therapy bloggers had to say about how kids learn how to use scissors. This month, we’re excited to be addressing community skills from all different angles.
Whether they’re riding in the car, waiting at the doctor’s office, eating at a restaurant, or on a trip to the grocery store, when kids are out in the community, they’re met with countless challenges and opportunities that can promote every developmental skill you can think of. But it’s not always easy! Sometimes community outings can be overwhelming and frustrating, especially when they involve transitions and waiting!
Bringing some tried and true items, strategies, and ideas when you’re out on the town can help keep everyone calm, entertained, and engaged. These are a few calming games and activities we love for keeping everyone calm, cool, and collected while also making the time fly by:
1 || Transition Strategies – Does your child get anxious when you head out in public? Maybe the thought of walking into a doctor’s office is just plain overwhelming or maybe transitions trigger a meltdown every single time. Try a few of these transition strategies (aka magic tricks) that therapists, teachers, and caregivers often use to prevent meltdowns and tantrums.
2 || Calming Phrases – Once in the door, if your child’s anxiety escalates, you may find yourself desperately trying to find the right thing to say. These 13 phrases from Lemon Lime Adventures are great ways to keep the situation calm.
3 || Simple Waiting Game – Need a quick and easy game at a restaurant with items that are probably on the table? Try this simple waiting game that challenges visual motor skills and memory. Or, start a game of 20 Questions, Would You Rather, thumb wrestling, or rock/paper/scissors.
4 || Blowing Bubbles – While you may not think of blowing bubbles as an activity that’s conducive to an indoor environment, we would argue that ideas #6 and #10 in this list of 10 Creative Ways to Play with Bubbles would be perfect!
5 || Cards – Playing cards are easy to pack and have endless options for play. We love these 40 card games for kids that you can play with a regular deck of cards. Kids also love the game of UNO! If your child has been waiting patiently and is starting to fidget, maybe a little movement will help. Try the Yoga Deck that will get her moving, bending, stretching and breathing!
6 || Cooperative Games – Have a few kids along that just can’t sit still? Try some hand clapping games! Bilateral coordination, memory, cognitive skills, and cooperative play are all packed into these fun songs and games – and you’ll get to take a little stroll down memory lane too! A game of Mirror, Mirror is a great quiet waiting game that encourages movement and can be as simple or as complicated as you want!
7 || I Spy! – Whether you’re in the car, in a waiting room, or even at the grocery store, I Spy is always a hit. There are always lots of opportunities and options for things to spot! Try a printable I Spy game or throw a couple of I Spy Bottles in your bag! We also love this fun game of I Spy With a Twist!
8 || Scavenger Hunts – These are great for down time during transitions. This sensory motor scavenger hunt and this rainbow gross motor scavenger hunt are great for getting everyone moving too!
9 || Paper and Pencil Games – Bring along some paper or a notepad and try a few of these games to promote fine and visual motor skills:
-Try this partner drawing activity using crayons, markers, pens, or pencils.
-Play a game of Pictionary, challenging your child to draw a picture to represent a word she is thinking of.
-When in doubt, simple games like tic-tac-toe, connect the dots, or hangman are always easy and fun!
-Print out this cute little rhyme and see how proud your child will be to draw a clown face independently.
10 || Calming Sensory Strategies – Some of these calming sensory strategies for school could definitely be repurposed and used during community outings and transitions.
11 || Community Outing Survival Kit – Why not put together a survival kit of calming games and activities to pull out of your purse or car whenever you need them? Here are some things to include:
-Gum or Mints can be great for providing oral sensory input.
–Squeeze balls are great for calming an anxious child or for tossing up and catching or passing back and forth Hot Potato style.
–Headphones just in case your child is overwhelmed by the noise in the community environment and needs some music or white noise to block it out.
12 || Screen time – And, finally, sometimes a great option for keeping kids quiet, busy, and relaxed is with a little screen time. Pull out your phone or iPad and try a few of our favorite apps that promote fine and visual motor development.
What are your best ideas for keeping kids calm, entertained, and engaged during community outings? We’d love to hear! Leave us a comment below!
Developmental Progression of Community Skills | Your Therapy Source
How to Support Your Child’s Core Strength Development Every Day | Miss Jaime, O.T.
Calming Games and Activities for Outings | The Inspired Treehouse
Why Every Community Needs an Adventure Playground | Kids Play Space
Modifications for Kids with Special Needs in the Community | Growing Hands-On Kids
Working on following Directions When Out | Therapy Fun Zone