The Importance of Playtime
for Children with Autism

Playtime gives all children the space to have fun, let loose, build relationships, and more, but is also proven to be uniquely important for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Studies throughout the years have shown that structured play can benefit the physical, cognitive, and social function of children with autism!

Strengthens motor skills

Strengthens Motor Skills

Kids with autism often struggle to command parts of their body to move efficiently, hindering their ability to perform tasks and get around with ease, but this can be improved through play. During playtime, the manipulation of toys that involve movements such as turning, twisting, and shifting objects can help build up a child’s fine motor skills. More physical activities, like jumping jacks or outdoor games, allow for full-body motions, which can help a child’s overall coordination.

Provides sensory stimulation

Provides Sensory Stimulation

Leisure time is critical for children with ASD because it stimulates all their senses and acts as an outlet for them. Playing helps them release tension, anxiety, and other built-up energy that they might otherwise exhibit through repetitive “stimming” behaviors, like making noises or head banging. Some great activities that are fun and provide stimulation are: finger painting, making scented slime or playdough, sorting shapes, and creating macaroni jewelry.

Increase memory and attention span

Increases Memory and Attention Span

Having difficulty focusing is common for children with autism, but this can get better through play. Constructive activities that require more attention and memory — like using instructions to craft things from blocks — engage children with ASD by allowing them to work toward a goal. Additionally, talking to a child while they play and asking questions about what they’re doing makes them consider their actions, further drawing their attention to the task.

Improve social and cognitive development

Improves Social and Cognitive Development

The presence of other children during playtime is extremely beneficial to a child with ASD’s social development and understanding of language, even if they’re nonverbal or minimally verbal. Creating designated spaces for a child to act silly, explore, and observe others boosts their awareness and interaction with the world around them. Perfect platforms for peer engagement and sharing are pretend play and activities that invite collaboration, like jigsaw puzzles.

Strengthens motor skills

Strengthens Motor Skills

Kids with autism often struggle to command parts of their body to move efficiently, hindering their ability to perform tasks and get around with ease, but this can be improved through play. During playtime, the manipulation of toys that involve movements such as turning, twisting, and shifting objects can help build up a child’s fine motor skills. More physical activities, like jumping jacks or outdoor games, allow for full-body motions, which can help a child’s overall coordination.

Provides sensory stimulation

Provides Sensory Stimulation

Leisure time is critical for children with ASD because it stimulates all their senses and acts as an outlet for them. Playing helps them release tension, anxiety, and other built-up energy that they might otherwise exhibit through repetitive “stimming” behaviors, like making noises or head banging. Some great activities that are fun and provide stimulation are: finger painting, making scented slime or playdough, sorting shapes, and creating macaroni jewelry.

Increase memory and attention span

Increases Memory and Attention Span

Having difficulty focusing is common for children with autism, but this can get better through play. Constructive activities that require more attention and memory — like using instructions to craft things from blocks — engage children with ASD by allowing them to work toward a goal. Additionally, talking to a child while they play and asking questions about what they’re doing makes them consider their actions, further drawing their attention to the task.

Improve social and cognitive development

Improves Social and Cognitive Development

The presence of other children during playtime is extremely beneficial to a child with ASD’s social development and understanding of language, even if they’re nonverbal or minimally verbal. Creating designated spaces for a child to act silly, explore, and observe others boosts their awareness and interaction with the world around them. Perfect platforms for peer engagement and sharing are pretend play and activities that invite collaboration, like jigsaw puzzles.

Help your child grow through play

Help Your Child Grow Through Play

At Cardinal Center for Behavioral Analysis, we offer programs to harness the power of structured play in different forms. Our Academic Classroom has fun activities to help kids with ASD learn, and our group therapy puts special emphasis on peer playtime. During this group program, we’ll provide toys, games, and activities, and our Registered Behavioral Technicians (RBTs) will monitor how your child interacts with others and builds on their abilities. Get in touch with us today to get your child involved!

Help your child grow through play

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