A lot of what we’ve talked about in past posts has been about children’s academic and behavioral progress. These are vital for children’s development, but oftentimes, people miss one other important aspect in children’s lives: leisure time. Many children on the Autism spectrum don’t play with toys other children their age would play with. Or, while they do have those toys, they may not play with them properly, such as a board game. In today’s post, we are going to talk about some appropriate leisure time activities for different age groups.
Children in elementary school have a wide range of toys to play with based on any interest they may have. One toy that has stood the test of time is Legos. Lego constantly comes up with new masterpieces for children to build based on TV shows or movies. Legos are great for children because they can promote teamwork to build something big and help with their fine motor skills. We incorporate Legos into therapy in several different ways. We teach taking turns by building one piece at a time; sequencing by giving them a pattern to match; and imitation by stacking a Lego and having them do the same. Leisure time for Legos can be building something with a friend or independently.
When kids transition into middle school, their interests often change. Some kids stick with Legos to build bigger towers and buildings from their favorite shows, but for the most part, they move into an interest in video games. One popular video game right now is Fortnite, attracting kids of all ages. Video games are good for kids because they can be played both independently and with other people. Many kids play games online with others or with their friends in different locations. They are great for developing pretend play because they usually follow story lines.
In high school, kids often keep their video game interests and expand their socialization into going out with their friends. High school is typically the time kids get their driver’s licenses and first cars, so they spend a lot of their time driving each other to different places. Depending on where you live, the hangout spots may be different. Many states have drive-in restaurants kids go to for dinner and just to hang out. The access to driving also helps kids participate more fully in their communities. Most cities offer events and festivals during the warmer seasons. Lots of young people go to those events and become more aware of their communities. These are great ways to both spend time with friends and get out into the community.
All of these activities can be incorporated into therapy in one way or another. Some therapy for older kids includes going out in the community and playing some video games on break times. These leisure activities are very important for people as they move through structured activities of school and work. Having something to do outside of these times is crucial for development of the whole person.