Keeping Your Backyard Safe and Functional for Children with Autism

by - May 16, 2018

Article written by Danny Knight 

Children can enhance their education, fitness, and coordination through outdoor play. A world of discovery and activity is just beyond our back doors. Children on the autism spectrum often respond well to the type of experiential learning that being outdoors offers. Rather than learning through a lecture or reading, kids can learn by doing. Science, art, and other subjects become easier to understand when placed in front of children to touch and experience. 

Here are some exciting backyard learning activities that are beneficial for children with autism, and some tips on how to ensure safe backyard fun:

  1. Learning through nature. Set up a discovery pit for your child that will incorporate tactile learning. All this requires is setting aside an area that can be used for scientific discovery and learning about leaves, plants, insects, and rocks.
  2. Movement. The outdoors allows you to expand your child’s ability to run, play, and have fun. It may be easier to develop coordination in an outdoor environment.
  3. Changing up regular lessons. Try taking a normal learning activity, such as reading or doing any lesson that would usually be classroom based, and bring it outside.
  4. Relaxed observation. Spread out a big blanket, lie on your backs, and observe the sky. Watch for airplanes and birds and test creative thinking by making pictures out of the clouds.
  5. Treasure hunt. Make a list of natural things in your backyard, such as flowers, tree bark, dirt, grass, and leaves. Send your child off on a scavenger hunt within some defined borders. This activity will develop identification and memory skills while also teaching about limits, boundaries, and rules.
  6. Traditional games. Take playtime to the driveway and use chalk to make a hopscotch board. Have a sidewalk chalk art show. Back in the yard, encourage a safe game of hide-and-seek.
  7. Follow the leader. This game develops motor and social skills by encouraging interaction and mimicking play. Appoint someone to be the leader of the group, who then can do random activities in the backyard. Be sure to set some ground rules first, such as not having an older child lead a younger child to do unsafe physical movements.

Backyard safety in general

Although children can learn much from their interactions outdoors, parents should be cautious of potential hazards that pose risks to children. Tools, chemicals, and other outdoor hazards should be off-limits, and play areas should be kept slip free and free from accident-causing clutter. While securing potentially dangerous areas is important, so too is creating safety plans and instructing your children about barriers and appropriate outdoor behavior.

Backyard pool safety

Since some children on the autism spectrum can wander if not closely monitored, backyard pool safety is especially important. Besides ensuring that your child has basic swimming skills, there are other safety precautions to take. For example, parents can secure a pool gate and only allow access to the pool area when an adult is present. Other safety measures include using a pool alarm, which triggers an audible sound when the surface of the pool water is disturbed. Similar alarms are available for the gate to the pool, and it’s recommended that parents install both to add extra layers of protection.

Through interacting with nature in the backyard, children on the autism spectrum can develop skills and enhance their learning. In addition to gaining knowledge about plants and animal life, they will develop coordination and social skills, too. The outdoors also offers an opportunity to learn and practice new rules, which can prepare your child for school and other activities outside of the home.



About the Author: Danny Knight

Danny is a dad living in Philadelphia. He enjoys DIY projects almost as much as raising his two children. He is the co-creator of FixItDads.com, which offers tips for home improvement projects.


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