At-home learning activities for children with disabilities

Keeping children busy is a full-time job and finding fun options for those with disabilities can be even harder.

Small child using a walking aid
UNICEF Jamaica/2019/Hunter
24 April 2020

During this time, when we all must stay home, it's important to have activities that we can do with our children. Keeping children busy is a full-time job and finding fun options for those with disabilities can be even harder. The best way to teach and learn is through play. Regardless of age or disability, when we play, have fun and we also learn.

The list below has some ideas about activities to do with your child. A good way to get started is to find activities your child is interested in and build on those.

Depending on your child's abilities and personality, different activities may or may not be ideal. Sometimes simpler ideas work best.

Try some of these ideas, be creative and add yours to this list!

  • Use different types of objects or toys to stimulate your child. Place a variety of toys on a tray or flat surface to play.. Try sensory toys or toys with suction cups that will stick on flat surfaces (they can also use sponges, cups or plastic cups, etc.).
  • Watch their favorite TV shows or movies. Some suggestions are children's programmes with lots of sound and/or color or game programmes. Emotion and sound effects attract their attention.
  • Make a video of the things you have recorded your child doing and play it for them. They might decide that their favorite show is about them. You can also do this with just an audio recorder to play back their singing or laughing, for instance.
  • Engage children in the kitchen to help prepare food or other activities. Depending on what you're doing and how interested your child is, you can let them help you or just give them their own plastic bowl and spatula to mimic your actions.
  • Explore their artistic talents and let them colour or draw. There are crayons that have big easy-to-grab shapes so that children who have little mobility can easily grab them. Or look for a wide paint brush, some watercolors and paper, and then let them paint. Finger paintings are also great.
  • Read books together in a comfortable position sitting or standing (depending on disability). There are plenty of great storybooks. Or you can show them photo albums of familiar faces (a sure bet that this will bring a smile). Finding a correct position, such as an angled tray on a table (with a pillow you can make it higher and with a correct angle), reading while both you and your child are looking at the book is more comfortable and encourages them to keep their heads up.
  • Play with different textures. Get a tray/cube of water or sand for your child to play with. You can also add bubble bath or sand/water toys in the bucket. Pretend you're on the beach, in a sandpit or a bathtub.
  • Play with dough (using clay or homemade dough). Use molds and have fun cutting and assembling shapes (using cookie cutters or large cups with large handles and a large kitchen roller--they're easier to grasp).
  • Spend some quiet time playing with simple puzzles or making shape/color/word/number cards. Using a flat, smooth surface (a table or tray) will make the activity easier.
  • Sing, dance, and make noise with your child. They can even use any cooking pot and homemade instruments to keep up rhythm.
  • Listen to various types of music with different rhythms, so they will learn to appreciate  and discover their favorite rhythm  (if your child has a hearing disability, play to the beat--with steps and jumps; the sign language is full of rhythm, and they can learn new words, phrases and even invent rhythmic stories in sign language).
  • Make up games with movement and a ball. You will decide what is the best way to play with hands and feet, depending on the mobility of your children. A good idea is to use a rag ball that you can prepare together.
  • Make a puppet or puppet theatre (they can be made with socks or gloves). They'll want to put on the puppets too. You could even set up a stage using a large cardboard box to make the show a real success.
  • Give them a camera (your phone for example) and let them take funny photos of you, family pet or other favorite things. They'll be fun to watch later.  If mobility does not allow, then take the photos and look at them together.
  • Make different crafts like cut and paste or make hand or footprints with paint. Use some household items or foods as well, such as macaroni, thread or buttons.
  • Blow bubbles. You can make your own bubbles with water and soap.
  • After each activity it would be good to practice the rehabilitation routines you have learned – stretching, massage, breathing techniques. This is very important as it will help you relax together.  

More resources

Below, you can find links with ideas and materials to do at home:

Do2learn provides thousands of free pages with social skills and behavioral regulation activities and guidance, learning songs and games, communication cards, academic material, and transition guides for employment and life skills. In addition, we offer premier products including View2do, JobTIPS, and books.

Sensory Books - Create Your Own
Michelle Turner, Movement Expert, shows you how to create great sensory books for your child.

Sign language books:

Each country has its own sign language, it is important that they access history or stories through educational pages such as the following:

Repository of resources on disability inclusion and COVID-19:

UNICEF Jamaica