Spring is finally here! The sun is starting to shower its golden rays again, and it’s time to get the little ones outside. Spending time outside offers immense mental health benefits for children, especially kids with special needs. If you have a child with special needs, you’re not alone. According to the stats, about 6.2% of children ages 5 to 15, or 2.8 million kids, have disabilities and require special attention.
Spending quality time outdoors with them is a proven way of improving mental health. And with spring knocking on the doors and the nice warm weather creeping in, there’s no better time to start planning fun outdoor activities with your child. Understandably, picking the right activity you and your kids will enjoy can be tricky. So, if you’re thinking about how to enjoy quality outdoor time with your little ones in the warmer months, here are some ideas you may want to consider.
Grow a vegetable garden together
Home gardening is a wonderfully relaxing hobby, especially for children with special needs. Known as horticultural therapy, tending a garden helps improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, language skills, and socialization. It also gives them the chance to spend quality time outside without exerting too much physical energy. While you can choose to grow any plant you want, you should grow a vegetable garden filled with the foodstuff you need at home. This way, you will be enjoying a relaxing hobby, and you’ll also be saving money on your grocery shopping. You can grow foods like tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, pumpkins, and some of your favorite herbs. The pride in seeing their hard work pay off would help encourage more excitement and build their confidence.
Go for walks
Exercise is essential for growing children. Going on walks is a great and safe way of ensuring that your child gets enough exercise. Depending on your child’s special needs, you can help them spend quality time walking outside with the help of special devices. Walking isn’t only beneficial to your child’s physical health and gives them a dose of fitness; it also improves their mental and emotional health. Going for slow-paced walks in the park, at the beach, or anywhere near nature will immensely benefit you and your little one’s mental health. Studies have revealed a strong link between nature and mental health— whether you’re watching the sunset, listening to birds sing, or enjoying the feel of the beach. You can also choose to stroll through your favorite supermarkets and do some window shopping just to relax.
Take a dive
Like walking, swimming has immense health benefits to the body and mind. It helps build core strength, improving equilibrium and coordination. But even if your child’s special need makes it impossible for them to swim, just being in the water alone (of course, with constant supervision) can be very soothing for them. Alternatively, you can look for a swim school near you, with lessons designed especially for special-needs kids, and you’re good to go. There is no need to do something too rigorous; just slashing in the water can be a lot of fun. Or you can relax near the pool instead.
Go for a picnic
Picnicking, in general, is enjoyable for many kids, regardless of their special needs. Add their favorite meals to the occasion, surrounded by their loved ones, some comfy teddy bears, and you’ll be giving them smiles to wear for days. But don’t limit the picnic to food only; try other outdoor activities. For example, you can pick a picnic location that allows you to enjoy bird watching also— it’s like killing two birds with one stone! Or, you can choose a picnic location near a pond or lake. This way, you can all enjoy quality time fishing together. However, be sure to make the picnic time extra comfortable for your little one by bringing along your child’s favorite things like toys or books.
Depending on your child’s needs, it may be best not to go too far away from familiar surroundings. If going farther from home is a problem, you can just spread a blanket in your backyard or garden and enjoy the sunshine. The most important thing is that your little one gets good company, is supervised, and has fun.