School holidays have always been something I’ve greeted with a mixture of joy and trepidation. If we were going away as a family I knew the school holiday would be a good one and it would feel like a break. A stay-at-home holiday has never been easy for me. As BJ gets up early (a sleep in at our house is 5am) the days can drag out to be very long and tiring.
Over time I developed some strategies for the stay-at-home holiday. Going on day trips is BJ’s favourite thing to do but with a sibling who likes home days we had to find a compromise.
I thought I’d share a few stay-at-home activities which will hopefully provide entertainment and some hand function and therapy skills. I’ve also tried to choose activities which can be made with things you may have at home or are cheap to buy.
Inclusion is also a theme throughout these activities. If friends come over with able bodied children it is often hard for a child with mobility difficulties to keep up. You can’t exactly ask mobile children to stay in one place but you can organise activities which will encourage it. I’ve chosen activities which can be done around a large outdoor table on a sunny day or on a large dining room table on a cold day. If your child has a wheelchair tray most of the activities can be accommodated or modified to be done on their tray.
AJ has had a wonderful time revisiting all these crafts and it proved to me that you are never too old for some of them as BJ and I enjoyed playing them with her.
STAY-AT-HOME FUN – ACCESSIBLE ACTIVITIES
BUBBLE WRAP FUN
BJ and AJ loved this game when we played it the other night. I lay two lines of bubble wrap on the floor in the lounge room and the aim of the game was for them to keep their wheelchairs on the bubble wrap. When they kept their wheels on the bubble wrap they were rewarded with the most fantastic popping sound. It was like mini firecrackers were going off in the lounge room. This game can be played indoors or outdoors.
WHAT YOU NEED
Either buy or reuse bubble wrap you have at home. We had enough for one line and I purchased another 4.8m roll from a dollar store for just under $4.
We didn’t tape down our bubble wrap but I think this would make it easier as the bubble wrap shifts and needs parent intervention to readjust it. Just make sure the tape won’t damage your floor.
Once the kids get the hang of it try something other than a straight line. Make an obstacle course they need to try to stick to.
This would work well with bikes or scooters as well and would assist with inclusion. The popping sound is the attractive element so a group of kids could line up and take turns. You could also line up several strips in a row and have races down the length of the bubble wrap.
Most children like water play in any form but we thought we would add a different element which would be refreshing on a warm summer’s day or could be played in a warm bath in winter.
WHAT YOU NEED
A muffin tray (silicone is easier but not necessary)
A mixture of small toys (you can buy small party favours at dollar stores or craft stores)
Water (Add food colouring if you like)
Add a toy to each hole and freeze for a few hours and when frozen turn out the ice rounds
If you don’t have a silicone tray you may have to add a little warm water to the underside of the tin to loosen up for turning out.
We had a few games with this. I made some pink and some blue and each child had to chase their colour around the water trough and try and defrost their toys first. We’ve also water blasted them with a water gun which is an activity for children with better fine motor control as it takes accuracy. BJ also experimented with dropping them on the ground and found this was a good way of chipping out the toys.
VARIATION ON FROZEN GAME
For a variation and longer lasting game you can make a larger frozen game by using a cake tin. Simply place toys in the base, add water and freeze overnight. This can be great fun in a paddle pool or on a cool day run a big bubble bath, launch the frozen ring in the bath and let the kids have fun finding all the animals hiding in their bath.
PING PONG BALL WATER PLAY FUN
When BJ was younger I would use ping pong balls for a variety of games in water. We used to have some in the bath with letters marked on them and the aim of the game was to make up his basic spelling words. He then had to put them into a container with a hole in the top that was just the right size for the ping pong ball which required organisation of his movement and accuracy.
If you buy a packet with two colours you can split the kids up into two teams and first one to get all their ping pong balls into a container wins. To even up the playing field I gave AJ a large spoon and tongs to collect hers which added a degree of difficulty and BJ used his hands. She also had to line hers up.
DINOSAUR OR FAIRY GARDEN
Making a dinosaur or fairy garden is something that can be done on a table top or wheelchair tray and lets your child use their imagination. We made ours on plastic disposable plates and a pot plant base. Choose the size of the dinosaurs, characters, rocks and greenery depending on your child’s hand function ability.
WHAT YOU NEED
Plastic plate or container
Dinosaurs, fairies and other characters
Sand, soil or you could use play doh
Glass pebbles available from craft stores or dollar stores
A small plastic mirror works well as a pond or watering hole
and anything else that inspires imaginative play.
Fairy garden on disposable plate
There is very little that I can write about Play doh that hasn’t been written before. It is one of those favourites that is revisited with each generation. What I can give you is an easy no cook recipe to make it which is cheap and quick.
WHAT YOU NEED
large mixing bowl
4 cups of plain flour
2 cups of salt
2 tablespoons of cream of tartar
Food colouring of choice
4 cups of boiling water
4 tablespoons of oil
Mix all ingredients (except the food colouring) together with a wooden spoon and then knead the dough until it is a good consistency and all dry ingredients are combined. Be careful kneading the dough as it retains the heat of the boiling water for quite some time. We split the plain dough into four lots and added different colours to each. Using gloves or a plastic zip lock plastic bag for kneading will ensure you don’t end up with coloured hands for days after.
If you are visiting friends in the holidays why not take some home made playdoh rather than cupcakes and cookies. If you want it to look even more presentable pop it into a container and add some play toys to it.
When BJ was younger we used to play games with his Occupational Therapist to encourage him to be less tactile defensive. Shaving cream on a large mirror was one of the games we would play. It was messy but he would always enjoy the fun of watching the shaving cream being sprayed on his reflection and then seeing himself “disappear” when the shaving cream was smeared all over it.
When we gave this a go recently we tried a few different variations including colouring some of the shaving cream with food colouring. We used paint stampers to make patterns and tried pushing a car through the shaving cream.
Kids love messy fun and this can be done indoors or outdoors. You could tape aluminum foil to a child’s wheelchair tray or across a dining room or outdoor table to encourage children to play together on a larger surface. This could be a combined work of art.
AJ had a rainbow birthday party a few years ago and I made rainbow rice for the kids to play with in our trough. It was a huge hit and easy to make. This would be messy on a table top but it could be played in a large container instead
What you need
Zip lock plastic bags
Plain long grain rice
Adding a little vanilla essence or lavender oil will tame the vinegar smell
Dry rice on a tray covered in baking paper. Once it has dried keep in a sealed container.
Ideas for coloured rice play
- Add coloured rice to a clean water bottle filling to about the 3/4 mark to make a great shaker (add tape or seal the lid if your child is likely to try to open and put rice in their mouth or spread it around the house!)
- Take a clean empty soft drink bottle and poke various size holes in the side of the bottle. Scoop the rice into a funnel and then watch it flow out the holes. Play with it over a container.
No mess finger painting
Not every child likes the feel of paint or shaving cream on their hands and not every parent is ready for the mess either. For a no mess option buy various size zip lock plastic bags. Add a couple of squirts of paint or shaving cream to the bag. Seal it and then use tape to stick it either on your child’s wheelchair tray, table top or even on a glass window. Encourage your child to explore the different patterns they can make with their hand or fingers.
SIDE WALK CHALK/JUMBO CHALK
Chunky chalk makes drawing with chalk much easier and it can be used on brickwork or even on a chalk board on a wheelchair tray.
BJ has always loved cooking. He can’t do all of the tasks but he just enjoys being a part of the process. As you can see by the picture above (on top right) his shell landed in the cake mix but that just brought laughter. If you have other children or children visiting give everyone a task they can complete. BJ helped up until the decorating of these cakes and then was more than happy to join in the eating process.
Cupcakes are always fun but if you want something a little different why not make some ice cream cupcakes. Fill ice cream cones to just under 3/4’s full and cook as you normally would for cupcakes. Ours overflowed a little but I think it just looks like a dripping ice cream.
My tip is to not undertake anything too elaborate to start. I find BJ is just as happy with a shake and make pancake mix or packet cake. He likes fast results. It is all about the fun.
BJ has never been able to play games with a racket and ball unless we were involved but he loves ball games. This balloon game used to be fantastic fun for him. Now he thinks it is hysterical to pop the balloon (I guess that shows a certain amount of hand function in itself!)
WHAT YOU NEED
A jumbo fly swat
A small amount of string
If you have a child who still puts things into their mouth you could substitute some of the things above with Jelly ie shaving cream, finger painting. If you are looking for a good game make a large ‘pond’ in a silicone cake container or low bowl. Once the jelly is set or partially set add some chocolate frogs and M&M’s to the jelly. Depending on where your child is up to with their hand function either encourage them to use a spoon to rescue the frogs or try and encourage a pincer grip. The best bit is they are rewarded immediately with something tasty.
DRY ICE FUN
An esky full of dry ice can provide a wonderful afternoon of stay-at-home fun. You do need to plan your experiments ahead because dry ice only lasts a short while.
You can read all about our dry ice experiments here.
ADD IN COMMUNICATION
If your child has a communication book or iPad with a communication program, don’t forget to try and incorporate this into the games. BJ was always much more motivated to use it when the others playing the game used it too. Other kids often find it fascinating and will happily use it too.
Non-Slip mat help
I find non-slip matting can help BJ have greater success with tasks. This is available at supermarkets and dollar stores.
Please note all of these games should be played under strict supervision and use caution if your child puts things into their mouth.
I would love to hear of other stay-at-home games or ideas. Leave a comment below.