Many children with autism struggle with fine and gross motor development, and games can be an excellent way to improve skills while also having a fun time together.
The popular playground game kickball is a great example. The act of kicking a ball requires the child to balance on one foot, and running between bases offers even more gross motor involvement. Since this game requires less hand-eye coordination than baseball or softball, it's a good option for children working on their motor skills. The set rules also make it ideal for children on the autism spectrum.
Family Dance Party
When you have a family dance party, you can get the whole family involved in the fun while working on your child's motor skills. Children with autism often love music, and dancing is a natural extension of this interest. To turn your dance party into a game, set a rule that everyone has to freeze the instant the music is turned off. Those who don't freeze are out, and the last person still dancing at the end of the game is the winner. Choose music you know your child likes so you can help him stay engaged.
Playground Obstacle Course
You can turn a simple trip to the park or indoor play area into a great gross motor game when you create an obstacle course for your child with autism. The playground equipment offers the obstacles. All you have to do is set up a few goals for your child to find. If your child has a special interest, choose objects that relate to it. This will help her stay engaged. Place the objects throughout the play equipment, set a stopwatch, and tell her to find all the objects as quickly as she can.
You can work on social skills, as well as gross motor skills, using a game like musical chairs. Since the game has established rules and involves music, children with autism may find it especially fun. If you find that your child's motor skills lead to him always being the one left out when he plays with peers, you can tweak the game to include children in a range of ages.
Magnetic Fishing Game
A great way to work on both fine and gross motor skills is to play a magnetic fishing game. Gather up several fish-shaped toys, and glue magnets to them. Then glue a magnet to a toy fishing rod, making sure the poles are reversed so the magnets will stick together. Have the child with autism take turns "catching" fish with a partner. Angling the rod over the fish pond will require gross motor abilities, and precisely lining up the magnets to catch a fish will work on fine motor skills.
Connect the Dots with Sidewalk Chalk
Larger and chunkier than regular chalk, sidewalk chalk is easier to handle for children who struggle with fine motor skills. To help your child work on applying pressure with her hands, make a giant connect-the-dots picture with sidewalk chalk. All you have to do is set up the dots and number them. Then she can work her way through the design. The goal of this game is to finish the picture, and this offers a fun reward for all her hard work. Consider relating the picture to a special interest to help her stay engaged.
Bead Stringing Race
Stringing beads is an excellent way to work on fine motor skills, since kids have to pick up the bead, orient it properly, and place it on the string. To turn this activity into a game, all you have to do is make it a race. Your child can work to beat his own best time, or he can challenge a similarly skilled opponent. Be sure the child with autism wins some of the time to keep him from feeling discouraged.
Table soccer or football, also known as "foosball," is a great fine and gross motor game. If you have access to a table, either at home or at an arcade, you and your child can both play. This game helps improve hand-eye coordination as well.
In addition to foosball, there are many other great toys for children with autism. Incorporating these toys into your playtime and therapy can improve everything from motor skills to social interaction.