When the cold temperatures hit, it’s easy to take cover indoors and forget how important physical activity is for all of our children. Although it certainly can be more challenging to fit into busy schedules, exercise can make a big difference in your child’s ability to self-regulate and can either directly, or indirectly affect your own ability to remain calm. Many children with specials needs do not particularly care for physical activity; however, you can promote other activities that involve movement and have the same results.
Go for a Walk Around the Neighborhood or Local Reservation
Fresh air does wonders for many of us and walking around the neighborhood is a great way for your child to become accustomed to his/her environment. Repetition can decrease anxiety as your child’s comfort increases. Hiking may be another option, especially if your child prefers quiet. Bring a small backpack with a drink and snack. You may be surprised by how much your child enjoys nature and the visual stimulation it provides.
Go on an Adventure
Search for rocks, leaves, flowers, shells, etc. as you walk around. By incorporating something fun into your walk, you can increase your child’s motivation and disguise that they are exercising.
Dust Off the Treadmill
Many of our students enjoy using treadmills and/or exercise bikes. Supervision will be needed for safety and encouragement; however, the payoff is worthwhile. Consult with your child’s Physical or Occupational Therapist for recommendations regarding speed/duration. Many of our students enjoy using the Wii with Wii Fit while walking on the treadmill. By making an ordinary treadmill interactive; you can increase your child’s level of motivation!
Turn Video Game Systems into a Fitness Tool
Purchase video games that target strength, endurance, gross motor development, balance, coordination, body awareness, hand-eye coordination, timing of movements, following sequences, etc. Choose the game that fits your child’s ability or start with a game that your child will enjoy playing. Wii Sports, Wii Fit, and Just Dance are games that will get your child moving. X-Box Kinect games provide a great opportunity for movement without the need for fine motor manipulation necessary for remote controls. Your child’s movement registers on the sensor which also records action shots that are displayed at the end of the game. Just Dance is also popular among Kinect fans.
Yoga is a great form of exercise that does not require much space or equipment. Using a yoga mat helps create a natural boundary for your child. Dimming the lights and creating a quiet setting during a yoga video may help your child to attend to the yoga poses. Many of our students require repeated exposure to such movement before they will try it themselves, so be patient and give it time.
Utilize the Local Mall
Walk around the nearest indoor mall. Going early before the shops open for business is a good idea. Many walking clubs do this regularly, so perhaps you can join them or find a different route, according to your child’s needs.
Interact With a Pet
Walking a dog or playing fetch in the backyard are great ways to exercise and get away from sedentary indoor activities. Small motor skills can be encouraged by allowing children to scoop food and pour water into dishes, and by helping to groom them. Depending on the child’s age, parental supervision is recommended for both the child’s and the pet’s safety.
Dancing is a fantastic and fun exercise. Children get a thrill out of moving their body to music. In addition, they can get an aerobic workout from any fast-paced dance, or stretch and maintain muscle tone.
National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability
Children with Special Needs: Benefits of Physical Activities and Adaptive Sports
Butterfly Stretch: Autistic Boy Finds Comfort in the Calm of Yoga