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GUEST BLOG POST- by Laura Pearson

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Summertime Adventures Every Child Can Enjoy

For children, there are few seasons more exciting than summer. School has ended for the year, the sun shines brightly, and activities abound. Even if your child has disabilities, you can help them have the best summer ever. Here are some ways to make your child’s summer one to remember.

Experience Nature and Watch Birds

Accessibility can be a major hurdle when you’re trying to find activities for your child with disabilities. However, there are plenty of things to do. If you live near or have access to a park with wide, gentle hiking trails, consider spending some time in nature. Frequent nature walks have been tied to greater emotional well-being, heightened concentration and creativity, and reduced stress in children, as well as adults.

One great activity that can help provide the benefits of being in nature while educating your child and fostering the development of curiosity is bird watching. Children love being able to demonstrate what they’ve learned, and by learning the names, appearance, and songs of local birds, they will become even more confident. Plus, the immediate real-world application is alluring to children, who will yearn to do it every day. You can get by with just your eyes and ears, but a pair of child-sized binoculars and a local guide to ornithology will make your children feel truly invested in this rewarding activity.

However, if your child prefers larger animals, a trip to the local animal sanctuary or petting zoo will let your child interact with them on their own level. Teach your child the sounds each animal makes beforehand and watch their eyes fill with wonder when they hear the animals themselves.

Create a Treasure Hunt

If you have the time to prepare, try creating a treasure hunt for your children. There are infinite ways you could go about this -- make a map or set of instructions for them to follow (aging it with lemon juice and burning the edges can add to the atmospheric effect), or give them a scavenger-style list of objectives. You could even combine this with their bird-watching adventures and give them five types of birds to “collect.” If you’re trying to encourage your child to eat a healthy diet, have a low-key scavenger hunt at the local farmers market. Ask your child to find the most colorful vegetables available, which you’ll then incorporate into a tasty recipe.

Make Time for Unstructured Play

The outdoors also offers a perfect opportunity for children to engage in unstructured play. While it is tempting these days to fill your child’s schedule full of regulated activities and group hobbies, scientists say that free, open playtime outdoors is critical for your child’s well-being and overall development. It offers time to use their creativity and imagination, as well as helps develop their social skills when making up games with other children. Any of these ideas can be combined and made into a party involving your child’s friends. Whether your party is bird- or treasure-themed, due to their mostly independent nature, you can set the children free to run around and explore. You can even combine it all by hosting a summer party at an animal sanctuary and creating a scavenger hunt to collect photographs of ten different animals! There are infinite possibilities.

A-maze-ing Indoor Activities

For hot days when you’d like to stay in, there are many activities you can come up with at home. Mazes are particularly fun for children who like drawing and puzzles -- as an extra challenge, let them come up with their own mazes and have you try to solve them. This can help children with disabilities expand their critical thinking abilities while practicing fine motor skills.

There are as many things to do during the summer as there are children in the world. Additionally, many summer activities are disability-friendly and can positively benefit your child’s cognitive development. Take some time to explore your options and see what gets your child truly excited.

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

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