6 Adaptive Water Play Activities
With the end of the school year here my job has gotten even more fun! I love getting to help my kiddos enjoy field day and water day! Watching the excitement on their faces when they throw a ball or run a race is the most humbling experience. They don’t focus on winning or being the best, they are simply loving the fact that they are participating and having a blast. Seeing that always makes me look at things in a different light and want to live life with the joy they have.
Some of the activities the schools did were not appropriate for my therapy kids. Luckily I work for a system that works with us and allows us to add our own fun to things! One of my schools hosted a water day with huge inflatable slides and water games. My kiddos couldn’t climb the slide or play the games but we were given the “ok” to do whatever we wanted to make our own water day happen. The stations we set up would be perfect for an at-home water day and incorporate goals we work on in therapy!
6 easy ideas for water play at-home
1. Shaving Cream Station
We took a water table and filled it with shaving cream and small toys. Most of these kiddos have positioning goals, sensory goals, and grasping. This was PERFECT! Standing at the table with assistance working on weight-bearing tolerance, the shaving cream provides sensory input, and locating the toys and putting them into a container works on visual scanning, functional grasp, and following simple directions. If you have a kid who is oral sensory seeking i would suggest using cool whip instead of shaving cream.
2. water beads
I made a huge bucket of water beads the night before, and we’re talking thousands of beads! We filled a kiddie pool with them and sat kids in them one at a time, SIMPLE! The beads are wet and give that input of an unfamiliar texture but they are usually tolerated more than a pool with water if your child is very defensive towards textures.. If your child is non-ambulatory, lower them into the pool and sit behind them for support. Again with this watch out for the oral input seeking, they may try to put these in their mouth.
3. splash pad
This was a HIT! Sprinklers are great for kids who are able to run through them but in my particular case with this school, l my kiddos are mainly non-ambulatory. The splash pad gives the same sensory input as a sprinkler without movement. It was a great way to work on sitting balance, and it was amazing to watch how they would interact, Either splashing with their hands or turning their head to locate the water that was spraying. One of my boys would turn his head with his mouth open to let the water spray into his mouth, HOW SMART!
4. water balloons
We had specific kiddo in mind with this activity. Throwing things is his favorite! This activity could be used to work on catch and release skills, visually finding a target to throw at, sitting balance if non-ambulatory or standing balance when catching and throwing. You could catch and throw with one another, have them throw at a target, or throw at each other allowing the balloons to break and splash them.
5. water toys
A kiddie pool of water with moving water toys was an easy way to incorporate water as a sensory input while working on visual tracking and cause and effect. The fish toys would wind up and swim in the water. When you pick them up they stop, this would challenge the kids to show understanding of cause and effect, picking the fish up and putting them back in to make them swim. The toys also served as a distraction to kiddos that were defensive towards the water.
6. bubble machine
In this particular class activating switches is a big part of their day to access the classroom materials they need. Hooking a bubble machine to a switch gave them a fun way to work on that task. I wrote a previous blog explaining how to make a toy switch adaptive with links to what you would need! Following simple directions to press, and understanding the cause and effect of activating the machine.
You don’t have to have a huge pool to have some fun in the water and having a child with special needs can make water activities seem overwhelming. Our kiddos had the best water day and it was so EASY!
I hope these ideas bring some joy to your family and make water play a little less overwhelming.
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