Fun Indoor Sensory Activities for Autistic Children

By sandra.caplesc…, 13 May, 2022
Kids playing outside.

COVID-19 changed the way we live our lives. We had to change our schedules to keep our families safe and a steady routine. However, it's hard to come up with new indoor activities, especially when you are raising an autistic child who thrives on routine.

Moreover, finding ways to have fun with your child while simultaneously developing social, communication, language, self-regulation, and gross motor skills can challenge any parent. Learning delays and explosive meltdowns can make daily situations overwhelming. That's why finding suitable activities can be difficult.

How can you keep your child occupied then? Don’t worry—we’ve created this list of indoor activities to help you keep your child entertained when at home.

Benefits of Sensory Play

Sensory play engages one of the five senses: smell, sound, touch, taste, and sight. As a result, exercises that stimulate these senses improve an autistic child's concentration, coordination, and cognition. In addition, children will discover and explore the world more, which helps them develop language skills, motor skills, and even learn self-control.

The benefits are:

  • Language skills: Children engaging in fun activities will increase their vocabulary.
  • Social skills: Children build on their imagination by sharing, planning, and negotiating.
  • Fine motor skills: Children with autism build hand-eye coordination and strengthen the wrist and hand muscles by manipulating small objects.
  • Gross motor skills: Children develop gross motor skills by squatting, jumping, or running around.
  • Self-control: Children will enhance their self-control and self-regulation as they learn to respect the activity rules.

The most important benefit is that sensory activities have a calming effect on the child, especially those who are agitated or struggle with anxiety. It will be even better if you include it in the child's daily routine.

Fun Indoor Activity Ideas

Here you will find activities that teach social skills, sensory activities, and task boxes for autism.


Many people like cooking, right? Well, it might be something your autistic child will like. It's ideal for autistic people of all ages and abilities because of its set recipes and rules. Cooking gives you the opportunity for contained creativity, and children with sensory sensitivities will find it soothing.

Here are some items you might need: 

Sensory Bins

Sensory bins will develop a child's fine motor skills and engage him. Essentially, sensory bins are valuable tools for individual play as children learn best when they touch and feel something. It improves focus in children with autism and calms them.

You can fill sensory bins with objects of different colors, shapes, sizes, and textures. The child's goal is to discover and play with these objects and get acquainted with all kinds of unique feelings and experiences.

Visual Schedules

A change in the autistic child's schedule will upset your little one. Visual schedules are critical in every home, and many children with autism depend on them. It's proven that autistic children are visual learners, so a picture schedule that outlines the daily task is always helpful. You can easily integrate any play activity into the child's program.

Sensory Bottle

Sensory bottles are a suitable replacement for sensory bins if you don't like the mess. Sensory bottles are clear bottles or jars filled with liquid and contain small objects that sink or float. When shaken, it creates various sensations and stimulates the child's senses. Bottles may contain confetti, glitter, small things, or food coloring.

Read: How to Make DIY Sensory Bottles.

Virtual Tours

It's a reality that children with autism don't do well in crowds, and going to the supermarket can trigger a meltdown. Going on a virtual tour avoids overstimulated senses due to harsh lights or strong smells, and you will not have to wait in line or deal with judgment. You will find plenty of options on the Internet that will distract your child, such as:

  • NASA
  • The Louvre
  • Smithsonian
  • Legoland Hotel
  • The Vatican
  • The National Aquarium in Baltimore

Build Origami

Folding origami will help your autistic child develop fine motor, visual imitation, and roleplay skills. The children will be excited to choose their sheets of paper from different color options, patterns, and shapes. While it's not the easiest way to build fine motor skills, it's an excellent option for kids who already have been working on their skills and are interested in new activities.

Garden Indoors

When you stay inside for whatever reason, you can work on your child's gardening skills. You can easily create a window garden while building fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and teaching instructions. All you need is a place to grow plants; try to find a place with natural light.

Make an Obstacle Course

It’s easy to make an obstacle course because you can use anything: hula hoops, taped lines as “pretend” balance beams, bean bags, jump ropes. Creativity is the only limit. To build gross motor skills, all you have to do is walk like an animal:

  • Walk like a crab
  • Crawl like a puppy
  • Gallop like a horse
  • Slither like a snake
  • Hop like a frog

Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt usually involves creating a list of items that the child needs to search for around the house. Depending on your child's age and abilities, it can be tons of fun, and you can make it easy or hard. Through a scavenger hunt, a child builds receptive and expressive language skills and is a great team activity.

Watch a Movie

It's recommended to watch movies or TV shows in moderation. TV provides a great escape from the real world, and you shouldn't overlook it while staying at home. Many streaming platforms offer family-friendly shows or movies, so it's the ideal time to cuddle up under a blanket with some popcorn and watch family classics.

Indoor Exercise

Yoga has many benefits, such as increased body strength, balance, and better coordination and flexibility. Furthermore, your child will experience increased social-emotional skills, body awareness, and increased focus. Your little one will learn how to de-stress themselves through deep breathing. Your whole family relaxes, and your child can follow or lead the exercise.

One other exercise you can try is Simon says. This exercise teaches kids with autism listening skills and gross motor skills.

Another idea is to visit an indoor playground. You can find an indoor playground for indoor activities in New York, Seattle, Cincinnati, and Minneapolis. They also offer a mini golf course if your child is interested in this activity. An indoor playground is not expensive, and kids with autism can play together on swings, trampolines, and climbing equipment.

Ice Painting

There are two ways to go with this: shaving creams and ice painting. Shaving cream helps develop fine motor skills since the child uses his fingers to draw letters and shapes. Your child can also work on his social skills by playing games. You can add extra fun by adding watercolor paint.

A less-messy activity is ice painting. You need to fill an ice tray with acrylic paint, place some popsicle sticks in the cubes, and place them in the freezer. When ready, take them out and let your little one make new art.

Related: Art Therapy & Autism.

Read a Book

It seems only fitting to start reading while at home. If your child on the spectrum likes to read or is interested in books, check this list of the best picture books for children with autism. Books are a fantastic tool for learning or revealing something about ourselves, so reading will help the child better understand his emotions and make the child feel that he belongs in this world.

Pool Noodles

If you are looking for a cheap and versatile piece of equipment, then pool noodles are perfect. They can be used in so many ways; you'd be surprised. Here are some ways you can use them:

  • Make swords out of them
  • Cut them into pieces and build them like blocks
  • Create boats
  • Create bugs with straws, pipe cleaners, and googly eyes
  • Make obstacle courses
  • Make pathways for water play

Cookie Dough

Yes. Cookie dough can be calming. This activity will provide your child with calming deep pressure and proprioceptive input by "rolling" the ball. It helps lower stress levels, facilitates dopamine release, and reassures the body of its position in space. This exercise is ideal for transitioning from high-energy activities to calmer activities.

Daily Tasks

Maybe doing chores doesn't sound fun, but your autistic child is still a child. Children love to participate in your activities and gain parental approval. When done together, even the most mundane task can seem fun. You can create the grocery list together by looking into the pantry. Ask your child what he prefers and let him choose the items. This way, he'll feel more involved and will give him confidence. It's never too late to start building independence in children on the spectrum.

Continue Your Read: Tips for Promoting Independence in Children with Autism.