It’s the most special time of the year: Christmas! The holiday spirit is upon us, and winter is here. You decorate your classrooms and houses with bright and colourful lights; the Christmas tree looks lovely in your assembly hall, the Christmas carols enchant your ear—your school and home are cosy and filled with cheer. However, The holiday season is tough on children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While other children play cheerfully and engage in age-appropriate activities (anxiously waiting for Santa to bring them presents like stuffed animals), children with ASD may be really struggling with the concept of Christmas and all the sensory additions that come with this time of the year. Here are 10 sensory-friendly Christmas activities that children with ASD can get involved with today!
Felt Christmas Trees
Having a real or artificial Christmas tree can be a lot to cope with sensory wise - the smell of pine, the needles, the scratchy branches, the baubles, the lights...A great alternative is a felt Christmas tree, that children can decorate without needing to worry about different sensations. It is also a great activity for developing hand-eye coordination.
Christmas Playdough or Slime
Slime and playdough are classroom favourites for both adults and children! Adding essential oils add to the sensory wonder, and at Christmas you can get super creative and get your classroom smelling delightful. Some great scents include peppermint, cinnamon, all spice, or pumpkin spice. Here are my easy, go-to recipes for playdough and slime
Christmas Colouring Book
This is a lovely, wholesome indoor activity for children when it's either time for a calm activity or they don't want to go outside in the cold. Colouring books help improve focus, concentration, fine motor skills as well as much more...and using Christmas imagery really gets you in the festive spirit!
Make Christmas Cards
Suitable for any age group from EYFS to KS4, you can use a variety of craft materials and paint to create gorgeous Christmas cards for the whole family. You can use hands, feet, fingers and toes to create reindeer, wreaths, trees or snowmen and then decorate them with glitter, felt, paper or pipe cleaners.
Christmas Baking and Cooking
Most children with autism are picky eaters and have food aversions. Baking cookies or cooking alongside a child might desensitize them towards certain foods. It's a great bonding activity, and you can create your visual recipe to help a child understand the instructions better. To make things festive, you can use these cookie cutters to create whimsical shapes and characters.
Christmas Sensory Bottles
Sensory bottles are a great tool to help children regulate their emotions when they are overwhelmed or to provide sensory input when they need to focus on something. They can be totally customised and filled with any craft items children want depending on their sensory profile. Why not make these bottles festive with green glitter, jingle bells, beads and decorating the outside of the bottle to resemble Santa, reindeer or an elf?
Create Fake Snow
Sometimes we are treated toa white Christmas, but other times we will just have to make our own! In the very simplest way, you can use child-friendly shaving foam or you can use baking soda and water. Pour 1 cup of baking soda into a bowl, and add water one tablespoon at a time. Use a fork or a whisk to stir the two ingredients together, adding more water as you go. When it's light and powdery, it's ready to play with!
Sing Christmas Songs
A great class activity for those who are not sensitive to sound. You could create a playlist with the help of your students and host a mini karaoke session with all of your favourite Christmas songs.
Christmas Light Suncatchers
Suncatcher craft is great for a variety of ages, works on fine motor skills, and looks so beautiful hanging in the windows. Make a string of Christmas light suncatchers to adorn your classroom and create a beautiful stream of coloured natural light on your walls. Trust me, the pictures just don't do this craft justice! Find the full method here.
Washi Tape Ornaments
Washi tape is so pretty and easy to use, especially since you don't need any scissors, and it comes in literally any design you can think of. Simply grab some acrylic baubles and allow children to cover the outside with various washi tape strips to create a unique bauble.