9 Quiet, Non-Electronic Activities That My Son With Autism Enjoys

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Nathan doing cut and glues

Through the years we have had to entertain Nathan with many different things to get through church, concerts, performances, sporting events, etc.

Nathan’s favorite diversion will probably always be his iPad, but we cannot give it to him constantly and so have had to make and find things that will help him stay entertained. So this is a list of non-electronic items that our son enjoys.

Our son has low-functioning autism. Each child with autism or any other disability is going to be different and will enjoy various things. So, first find some quiet things that might entertain your child.

Here are some of the things we have used to entertain him through the years:

1.Cut and Glues

We make Nathan’s cut and glues out of old magazines. First we tear the pages out of a magazine and use a ruler and sharpie marker to draw a grid on them. Then we photocopy the pages. Nathan cuts out each square and pastes it on the photocopy. Yes, it is busy work, but he enjoys it and it has kept him quietly busy for many years now through many church meetings. We have even had some other youth help us make these for an activity to help Nathan.

Nathan doing cut and glues

Example of Cut and Glue

2. Copied Stickers

If there is any kind of sale on stickers, I buy them. The reason is because we have used the same concept as the cut and glues with stickers to keep Nathan quiet. I simply photocopy sticker pages and Nathan will remove stickers and stick them on the photocopy. Quiet, simple, and he loves it.

Example of Nathan's Stickers

3. Word Cut and Glues

This same idea can be applied to words, verses, phrases, or song lyrics that your child might know. Here is a simple example of how we have used a simple children’s song, Once There Was a Snowman, to keep Nathan busy. He cuts out each letter, below which I have written a number, and then pastes it on the other sheet on the corresponding number. If the words are song lyrics, we will often find him singing along.

words cut and glue

4. Word Search Puzzle Books

Nathan is a whiz at word search books. He can go through an entire book, front to back in a day if he tries. And, he always circles each word in the order in which they are listed. I usually buy several volumes at once at our local dollar store and keep them handy for a time when we need to keep Nathan busy in a waiting room or something like that.

Of course, you can also design your own word search puzzles for free and print them out if you want to find out if your child enjoys this type of thing. There are also word search apps, but since we are listing things to keep him busy that don’t involve the use of electronics, I won’t go into specifics here.

5. Connect the Dot Books

These are available from simple to complex. We started with very simple dot to dot puzzle books, and now Nathan can do ones that are much more complicated. He is 2o years old now. These aren’t his favorite, but he will do a page per day if we set it out in the summertime.

6. Sticker Puzzles

Doing sticker puzzles is one of Nathan’s favorite things. He loves puzzles to begin with, but transporting those without losing a piece can sometimes be challenging. Nathan has done sticker puzzles at church for years. He began with simple ones and has now transitioned to more complex puzzles. I like how small and portable these smaller sticker puzzles are. They can fit in my purse and are easy to pull out in an office waiting room or a restaurant without being too cumbersome.

Here are some links to some of the sticker puzzles we have used through the years. He began with very simple sticker puzzles like these:

Now he has graduated to these sticker puzzles, and he happily does one of these each week during church. Depending upon the image he is creating it can take him anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes to complete each one.

7. Color by Number

Nathan has also enjoyed color by number books through the years, although these too are not his favorite and he is not the most tidy colorer. Basic children’s color by number books are easy to find and test to see if your child enjoys them. I usually set the crayon colors aside that he needs to use per page and highlight each word with the crayon color he is supposed to use. This is especially important if he is doing a more complex color by number that has different hues of blue, for example.


8. Puzzles

Nathan LOVES puzzles. He can crank out a 500 piece puzzle on a Saturday morning in about 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours. I have now moved him onto 750 and 1000 piece puzzles–but I have to be careful because he won’t stop until he is done!

When he was younger I would pack several simple puzzles that had a cardboard or wooden frame and take them to church with us. To ensure we didn’t lose any pieces, I taped a large ziplock bag to the back with packing tape. The pieces stayed in the bag until we used them. Doing simple puzzles as a child enabled Nathan to be able to do much more complex puzzles as an adult and it is something he quietly enjoys.

9. Fidget and Sensory Toys

Nathan also loves sensory toys. The only problem when he has one, is that my other kids want to take it from him and play with it too. They are pretty cool (and I have been known to swipe one of the stress balls when I needed to decompress).

Nathan loves to sits and writes words and letters on his sequin pillow, but it is not as portable as other items I have described. Here are some of Nathan’s favorites that he have packed around through the years:

Conclusion

So there is my short list of items we have made or used to keep our son with autism happy in a variety of settings where we had to sit for a period of time. These things have kept both him and us happy and entertained.

About the author, Tamara

Tamara K. Anderson is a speaker, author, podcaster, and is a professional in HOPE. She has four children who struggle with autism, ADHD, anxiety, visions issues, and all bring her great joy.

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