For many kids, snow days are the ultimate gift because they get to stay home from school and play in the wintery weather. But for others, such as those with disabilities or special needs, snow days may present some challenges.

Oftentimes, snow days mean breaking everyday routines, which may be overwhelming for some children, such as those with autism. If your child does better when schedules stay the same, be sure to keep their routine as consistent as possible. If wake-up time is always at 6:30 and lunch is always at 11:30 at school, try to maintain the same times despite the snow day. Even using a timer to help you stay on track can ease anxieties. You may also want to warn your child ahead of time that a snow day might be possible if bad weather is on the horizon.

Additionally, many traditional snow day activities may make those with physical disabilities feel left out, as it may be harder for them to fully participate. If your child uses a wheelchair, consider adding snow tires when snow is in the forecast so they can still feel safe and comfortable if they want to get outside and explore.

Whether you’re heading out into the cold (be sure to bundle up!), or staying warm indoors, there are plenty of wintery activities that anyone can participate in.

Outdoor Activities

Getting outside is a great way to spend a winter day, especially when there’s snow on the ground! Not only will this provide exercise for the kids, but they also spend time with others and soak up some much-needed vitamin D. Here are some accessible outdoor winter activities:
  • Make snowballs: Snowball fights can become too physical, competitive, and aggressive for some children. Instead, make snowballs to throw at various objects outdoors, such as trees, rocks, or walls. Your child will still get a wintery, fun sensory experience without the potential stress of a play fight. Plus, it’s easy to do this without having to move in the snow too much, should physical challenges make that difficult.
  • Paint the snow: A fun and creative alternative to playing in the snow is to paint it. Simply fill some squirt bottles with water and food coloring (make sure you use a lot!), then turn the snow into your canvas.
  • Go sledding: Sledding is a great activity for kids because it gets them moving and interacting with others, as local popular sledding spots usually draw crowds on snow days. If your child has a physical disability, try using a sled with a rope attached so you can pull them through the snow. You could even invest in a sled designed for those with special needs. If you prefer to stay closer to home, try creating your own “hills” by piling up snow in your yard. You can make them big or small based on ability levels. No matter what, it’s important that your child wears a helmet while sledding to avoid injuring his or her head. Finally, be sure to always watch your children, sit in the sled with them if they are younger, and advise them to clear the sledding area once their sled comes to a stop to avoid collisions with others.
  • Indoor Activities

    You don’t need to spend hours outside in order to make the most of your winter day. Kids with disabilities may prefer staying indoors due to physical or sensory obstacles (such as aversion to coldness or too many clothing layers). If your child doesn’t want to go out into the snow, or if you don’t feel like dealing with snow-soaked socks, there are plenty of cozy, inclusive activities kids can do indoors.
    • Build a snowman:”Do you want to build a snowman?” The answer is yes — everyone wants to build a snowman! A simple 2:1 combination of corn starch and shaving cream will yield a magical mixture of shapeable, snow-like material. Your child can mold the mix into balls to create a snowman, then outfit him however he or she sees fit. This activity gives children a sensory experience using their hands without the hassle of going outside.
    • Get snowed in in your fort: Who doesn’t remember building a fort in their living room as a child? Help your kids construct their own fort using pillows, blankets, and other items around the house. Once they’re inside, drop cotton balls or mini marshmallows outside the fort’s “windows” to make it feel like it’s snowing. Make some hot cocoa to enjoy inside the fort to up the coziness factor even more!
    • Bake snowflakes: You don’t have to go outside to catch snowflakes in your mouth. Make your own from the comfort of your kitchen and indulge your child’s crafty side. Warm up some flour tortillas in the microwave, fold them into fourths, and then cut out patterns to make snowflakes the same way you would with paper. To make your snowflakes tastier, brush them lightly with melted butter, sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar, and bake them for a few minutes until they crisp up. You can even add blue sprinkles to resemble icy snow.
    • No matter what your wintery day looks like, every kid (and parent) should get to enjoy the season. Happy snow days!

      Some ideas from:

      • https://bethebestsport.org/top-ten-winter-weekend-activities-for-adults-and-children-with-special-needs/
      • https://www.autismkey.com/snow-day-strategies-for-children-with-autism/

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