Published on: January 28, 2015
Ahhhh, the unexpected snow day. While some see this as an unannounced blessing, a chance to stay at home in your sweatpants and binge-watch your favorite shows, others cringe at the thought of checking their email at 5am and reading the line “All county schools are closed due to inclement weather.” If you or your children fall into the “NO SNOW” category, we have some helpful tips to get you through the day.
First, let’s think of why your child is averse to a snow day. There are many factors here that can have a huge impact on a child with autism spectrum disorders. How will they be affected by a schedule change? Do they need structured activities at home? Do they hate the cold and other sensory aspects of the snow? Let’s be honest, going from an expected school day to a free for all at home is a huge change. While some may love to get a break from school, others may still need that structure to get them through the day.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Prepare your child and/or yourself. If you know that there is a strong possibility that schools may be delayed or cancelled, explain to your child what that means. Keep the conversation positive by highlighting fun activities that can be done at home. Some kids will benefit from visuals, so head over to Google, find a fun, weather-related website, and get a good look at the snow before it even falls! If schools have not announced a closing and your child would be anxious or frustrated by not knowing if school was actually going to close, then you don’t need to tell them. As a parent you might want to get prepared yourself by creating a schedule for your child.
2. Create a schedule for the day. Pre-planned activities and breaks can limit your child’s anxieties about “what’s next?” and avoid any lulls during the day. A pre-made schedule can serve as a visual aide to help guide the day’s activities. Remember, even the simplest schedule can help you and your child create some structure. There are many more types of schedules. Keep it simple and manageable. You don’t have to fill every minute but want to incorporate enough so that your child feels like their day has structure.
3. Stock up on art supplies. Arts and crafts are a great go-to activity. These are time consuming projects which can promote creativity, enhance fine motor skills, and are a great life skill that can lead to many different hobbies! Next time you’re walking by the dollar bin at Target or you see some holiday crafts that are 3 months old and 75% off, pick them up and tuck them away for a snow day. There’s no shame in decorating turkeys in February! Trust us, we’ve done it.
4. Hide away a few holiday extras. Chances are your child got a LOT of toys, games, and projects around the holidays. Grab a few during the gift opening frenzy and tuck them away in a secret spot to be pulled out during those long snow days. New toys are always more fun (and therefore more likely to hold your child’s attention longer), and having them on hand keeps you from having to run to the store in terrible weather. If you’ve already given out all of the toys, try to challenge your child to combine existing toys to create new games that you can play together.
5. Get out and play. Was your child’s OT session cancelled today? No need to fear, you have endless possibilities waiting for you in the frozen tundra that is your backyard! Fill a sled with snow and pull it around, roll giant snow balls to form a snow man, play a game of catch with snowballs, and make snow angels! These activities are nothing new, but I bet you never thought about how many functional skills can be learned from them. Get siblings or neighbors involved for an opportunity to practice social skills. Get creative with some learning-based snow activities! Here are some of our favorites: Use food coloring to draw shapes or letters in the snow. See what happens when bubbles are exposed to the cold. Fill up water balloons with colored water and let them freeze outside to make colored ice globes.
6. Bake the day away. Baking is the perfect snow day activity because you can stock up on all the supplies ahead of time, and your child can be as involved as you choose. Have a kiddo who is more interested in eating the frosting than measuring the ingredients? Put them on decoration duty! Make it easy for yourself by buying some break and bake cookies. Then, cover the kitchen table in newspaper and put out different frosting and sprinkle options. Have fun watching your child create all sorts of delicious cookies!
7. Bring the snow inside. Taking a trip out in the cold can be tough for a lot for some children. Whether it is that they can’t stand the 30 layers of clothing or the elements are too much for them, you can always bring some snow inside as an alternative. Fill a container up with snow and hide some toys inside for a fun sensory activity. Some craft stores even sell a “fake snow” that you can make and play with indoors.
We hope these tips come in handy for what looks to be an “eventful” winter. Don’t hesitate to use your imagination to create a fun, stress-free day for you and your children. To further prove that a snow day can be a productive experience, this article was in fact written on…A SNOW DAY!
By Mark Butler, Lara Hayes & Caroline Watson