7 physical activity ideas for kids with special needs

Children feel better and grow stronger when they feel the joy of movement. This is especially important for children who have physical limitations. Here are some fun ideas to help you begin your day of physical play. Adjust each activity to meet your child’s needs.


Create a hide-and-seek dressing game. Pin an exercise to several pieces of your children’s clothing, such as flap your arms like a bird 20 times, climb up and down the stairs two times or dance across the room for five minutes. Hide the clothing around the room and have your child find them, do the activities and get dressed in the process.

Morning stretching

Get out a sturdy rope or rolled up beach towel or sheet and have your children play tug of war. Draw a line with tape and put pillows around for kids to fall on. Start with traditional tugging, but then mix it up a bit and have them tug to the left, tug to the right, tug up high over their head and down low towards the ground.

Morning play activity

Make an inside obstacle course. Here are some fun examples: In one corner of the course have your child roll dice to determine how many seated or standing jumping jacks to complete, in another corner have them draw a playing card to determine how many times they have to touch their toes and in another have them roll like a log while singing, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Other ideas: crawl through tunnels (you can use boxes), walk like a wheelbarrow (you hold their legs up off the ground, and they walk on their hands) and teach them to do the crab walk (legs and arms bent with hands and feet on the ground, tummy up towards the ceiling). Part of the course can include a large ball to bounce, roll, throw or spin around with. 

Afternoon play time

Start a pickup game. Bring some sports equipment like baseballs and bats to the park and find other children to join in a winter baseball game. Start with the bases close together and gradually move them farther apart to encourage walking/running longer distances. 

Time to refuel

With your focus on being physical, use lunch to reinforce healthy nutrition. Plan a lunch with protein, fresh fruits, nuts (if your child can tolerate them) and don’t forget to sneak in those vegetables.

Late afternoon playtime

Get ready for an Olympic skating competition. Gather up some old shoe boxes and have children step into their “racing skates” and glide across the floor in a skating motion. Encourage them to swing their arms to get that full bilateral body motion.


When it is time to wind down, talk about the day and have your child set goals for the next physical day of play. Learn what they liked and disliked to hone in on activities that reward them physically and emotionally.

This article originally appeared in Chicago Special Parent. 

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