Winter Break Activities for Students with Disabilities

Activities to Engage Students of All Ages

Winter break is here leaving students with nothing but free time. In a day or two parents will be singing the tune ‘Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again….’ Having kids home for the holidays is a lot of fun, but can also be challenging, especially when your child thrives on the routine of school. With some planning, you can have a fun and engaging winter break.

Activities for Adults & Older Children

Keep winter break engaging with these activities.

Practice Social Skills: What better way to practice social skills and interactions than in the comfort of your own home?

Role-play situations like interviews, birthday parties, dates, or even just interactions with friends to teach your son or daughter proper everyday social behavior. Humorous curriculum with VideoModeling, like the LifeSmart Curriculum, is a great way to teach life skills over break in a fun, entertaining way!

Decorate a tree: An honored tradition with lots of room for creativity. Why not get your child their own mini tree? They can decorate it however they want, or even make their own decorations. You can evenmake ornaments out of simple household items like apple sauce containers, cotton balls, glue, and printed pictures. Plain plastic ornaments from craft stores can be used as mini canvases to add some creative flair to your tree.

Make a snack: Find some recipes with directions that have plenty of wiggle room and aren’t too strict about proportions. Try ‘Muddie Buddies’ (also known as puppy chow,) caramel corn, or other ‘dump and mix’ type recipes. If you have a party and need to bring along a treat, your kids will be so proud that they were to contribute a delicious treat.

Board games: Board games are an ideal way for kids to spend their time over the break and have some family fun. Simple games such as memory or ‘trouble’ are fun for all ages but still easy enough that most kids can participate independently. To spur some creativity, have kids use parts from a board game to come up with a new one of their creation.

How to Keep Younger Kids Occupied

Hands-on Sensory activities: Finger painting is always fun. You can spread out some shaving cream on a table or counter for kids to ‘paint’ in or write on. This is an excellent way for young children or children who struggle with holding a pencil to practice writing and letters. Playdough is a great outlet for children, especially those who are sensory seeking.

Play in the snow: A no-brainer, right? Everyone loves to play in the snow over winter break. Traditional outdoor play is fun, but doesn’t work well for all kids. You can bring snow inside in a large plastic container (or even the bathtub) for kids to play with. Sand toys work well for indoor snow play.

Indoor fort and reading: Make an indoor fort the traditional way with some extra blankets or follow this tutorial for a DIY fort kit. Join them in the fort, bring some snacks, and read the afternoon away. For those who prefer screentime, grab the iPad, open up the Circles Social Skills Utility™ and teach your kids about social boundaries!

Drive-in movie: After Christmas, most families have plenty of boxes left over. Kids can decorate their own ‘car’ and then sit in it with a bowl of popcorn to watch their favorite movie. Check out this tutorial and more ideas for a drive-in family night here.

Activities for All Ages

Decorate cookies: Whether cookies are homemade or store-bought, we love to decorate them. Give your son or daughter the reins to adorn their cookies however they like. Let them choose the color of frosting and pick out some fun sprinkles. Quick tip – keep sprinkles in shakers with small holes to keep from having a pile of sprinkles on a cookie.
Most importantly, don’t worry about the outcome or how they look, just have fun!

Homemade gifts: Help your kids make some simple handmade gifts for friends and family. Good gift ideas included such a beaded necklaces, paintings, homemade treats (chocolate covered pretzels and crispy rice treats are easy for kids to help with), or any other craft your son or daughter has an interest in. Don’t forget, you can give your kids the gift of giving and find ways to volunteer in the community.

Get some fresh air: Even if all you can manage is a walk around the block, a change of scenery helps battle cabin fever. Unless it is too snowy or frigid, kids can still walk, ride, and play outside with the right gear. Many winter activities, like sledding, are not only fun for all ages, but can be adapted to accommodate those with disabilities.

Leave Home: Check your local library to see what activities they have planned for the winter break (bonus, they’re usually free.) Other great places to check out include the local swimming pool, trampoline park, or skating rink. Places like ski resorts and ice rinks have accommodations to ensure that those with disabilities can also fully experience the sport.

Remember to be Flexible

Most of all try to relax and enjoy the season. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress and craziness of this time of year and to want everything to be perfect, but remember that with kids, especially those with special needs, most things won’t go as planned. Be flexible and enjoy the time with your family!


Amy Curletto has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.

Categories: Developmental Disabilities , Parenting
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