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Activities Home | Index of Activities

Activity Ideas for Children with Developmental Disability

SIMPLE ACTIVITIES/MODIFIED ACTIVITIES for Developmentally Disabled Children

1) Blanket Ride- sit or lay one participant on a blanket and pull the blanket around the room.... wheeeee!

2) Balance Beam- set a two by four on the floor and have participants walk on the 2x4

3) Do What I Say- play music with catchy, rhythmic tunes, start with very simple everyday movements.... walking, running, stretching, twisting, bending, etc. First, just do the movements and have participants follow; later on say, "do what I say" and don't move at all... the participants must listen to your directions. So if you say, "jump up and down," everyone must jump up and down. (just like Simon Says).

4) Clapping to Music- play music, participants and leader claps hand in rhythm to the music... add toe tapping, etc.

5) Freeze- play a catchy tune. Participants walk around the room. When the music stops, the participants freezes and hold that position until the leader releases them. No one is out of this game. Play for fun. Continue the music and play more Freeze!

6) Circle Dancing- play a tape, place the group in a circle and instruct the group to move to the right around in a circle. Them move to the left. Move movement and instructions can be added later.

7) Imitate a picture- show a picture of a tree. Ask the participants to stand like a tree. Show other objects and have participants imitate that picture.

8) Rock painting- find rocks outdoors (yep, this can be an activity in it self). Return indoors or to a picnic table and paint the rock.

9) Body Trace- tape several pieces of large blank paper (or newspaper) and tape it to the wall. Have participants stand sideways or with their backs to the paper on the wall. Place arms and legs in various positions. Outline the body with a marker and cut it out. Tape the cut-outs on the wall. Everyone can draw their cut-out or leave it blank. Guess who the cut-out are?

10) Litter Bug Collage- give participants a variety of materials like cloth scraps, felt, rug samples, yarn, string, buttons, computer disks, etc. Give them glue and wrapping paper and make a collage of his/her choice.

11) Wish Poems- in groups or individually have the participants say or write a poem. Wish poems generally begin with "I wish" in each line.

12) Color Poems- Ask the group to state what their favorite color is. Begin the poem with a favorite color. (Ex., Red is the sun setting at night or Red is the color of love). If writing as a group, have each member suggest a line.

13) Poems Written to Music- play an instrumental piece and ask the participants to close their eyes and listen carefully to the music. Ask the group what the music makes him or her think of. What colors do you see? What kind of place? A city? Mountain? Ocean? What time of year is it? The poem can begin with "I hear music. I see ______. I feel ______. I reminds me of _______.' Have each member complete the blanks.

14) Collecting Things- collecting hobbies are fun. They encourage participants to independently work on their hobby. Begin the group by talking about collecting things and what they may want to collect for a hobby. Suggestions include bottle caps, stones, leaves, flowers, milk caps, baseball cards, stamps, autographs, etc. Groups can collect similar objects and spend group time on hunts and on showing what they have collected from the previous week.

15) Tin Can Alley- set up some empty cans or plastic bottles of various sizes in horizontal row. First place them 5 feet away, then 10 and at increasing distances. You can mark point values on them. Put higher points on smaller objects. Give participants a ball and have them throw or roll the ball toward the cans. The cans do not have to fall over to count. Each turn consists of two tries.

16) Walks- on a walk, always mix fun, challenges, excitement and movement. Play games as you go (follow the leader, don't step on cracks, freeze every time the leader says "freeze"). Tell stories. And sing!

17) Back to Nature walks-

  • a- Listen! How many sounds can you hear? Can you tell what's making the sound.
  • b- Feel! How does the pine needle feel? Feel the brick. Feel the dirt. Does this leaf feel the same as that one?
  • c- Sniff! What do you smell? Where is the smell coming from? Smell this flower.
  • d- Look! Take a magnifying glass with you. Look at leaves, pine needles, flowers, bugs. Take along pictures of things to look for.
  • e- Sssh! Take a silent walk. Be as quiet as you can and you may see some shy animals

18) Scavenger Hunt- take a list of things to find in nature and see if group members can find it

19) Campfire Sing-a-long- build a small fire outdoors and cook marshmallows. Sing campfire songs. If meeting indoors, build a simulated fire with logs and a red light underneath it.

20) Thumbfoolery- press a thumb on a stamp pad and then press the thumb on a sheet of paper. Draw a tail, ears, eyes on the thumb print to make an animal. Make another with eyes, nose, antlers, etc.

21) Frisbee golf- play a 9 hole or an 18 hole course indoors or outdoors. Targets can be simple to difficult depending on ability of participants. Participants can choose the targets or the leader can pre-set a course. Start the game by having each participant tossing a Frisbee at a target. Count the number of times each player tosses the Frisbee to hit the target. Lowest count wins that "hole." Play as a team, play individually. Set up a tournament. Play for fun.

22) Director Draw- choose a "director" and give others a pencil and a paper. The director's job is to think of something for the others to draw. The only restriction is that the director can't tell them exactly what they are drawing. Simple circles, squares, etc. are suggested. He must give clear instructions verbally or physically on how to draw the object he is thinking of. Show each other the finished drawings.

23) Pass it on- sit or stand in a circle. Leader starts a word, a phrase, a handshake, a funny face, etc. and passes it to the person on his right. That person then passes the word or motion to the next person. This continues until all have received and passed on the original action. Examples: "Hello","You're great","Sh-h-h",smile,yawn, hug. As a variation, when passing words, ask each person to use a different inflection or voice quality.

24) Information Please- sit in a circle. Leader says, "My name is... what is yours?" Leader looks directly at the person questioned and throws a bean bag or ball to that person. The 2nd person repeats, "MY name is.... what's yours?" and throws the bean bag to a 3rd person. Additional questions may include: "My hobby is... what's yours?" "I'm feeling..... how are you feeling?"

25) Conduct the music- play a record on the record player. Close eyes to begin with and have each participant conduct the music. Open eyes and conduct the music. As a variation, give each participant a part in the "band" by giving them an imaginary drum, guitar, piano & other instruments that one can hear in the music. Have a conductor lead the participants in playing their instruments.

26) Balloon or beachball volleyball- play volleyball with regular rules or with modifications to meet the needs of the clients. (additional taps may be allowed by the serving team to get the balloon over the net; any number of hits may be allowed to get the balloon over the net; same player may hit the ball several times in succession, etc.)

27) Marching to music- play a march music or any music with a strong beat. March to the music. March together. March in different directions with everyone going their separate ways.

28) Creative movement to music- play a record that participants like. Participants may start with simple movements. Leader may have others follow his movement. Encourage each to be creative and move freely to the music. Encourage large sweeping movements.

29) Guided movement- play music. Guide the participants to the following movements:make yourself small like a seed and slowly stretch yourself as if you were growing into a sunflower.

  • Grow leaves and stretch in all directions.
  • imagine a leaf falling slowly to the ground. Settle down with a sigh.
  • be silly and grin, then giggle, and finally laugh uncontrollably
  • make other movements.

30) Laugh a Olympics- what makes you laugh? Do silly things to make each other laugh. Do group laughs. Laugh different ways. Who's the best laugher? Who's the funniest laugher? Who has the most contagious laugh? Do a stare contest.

31) Parachute Play- numerous games and activities can be played with a parachute. Make up your own games.

32) Red-Handed- form a circle with one person in the center. While the center person closes his eyes, those in the circle pass a small item around the circle. When the center person opens his eyes, he tries to guess who hods the object. While the person is guessing, those in the circle continues to pass the object. Others in the circle should be pretending to pass the item in order ton confuse and mislead the guesser.

33) Wear it!- play music. Pass a box around the circle. In the box are various items of clothing, masks, hats, etc. When music stops, whoever has the box must pull one item out of the box and must WEAR IT! If group cannot pass a box, pass a bean bag instead.

34) Circular art- give each person a sheet of paper and pencil, crayon or paint brush. Each person must listen to specific instructions of the leader.

  1. put your name on back of the paper
  2. draw an outline of a face. Pass the sheet to your right.
  3. draw the right eye. Pass the sheet to your right
  4. draw the left eye. Pass continue with other parts of the face until the picture is completed
  5. Return the picture to the original artist.

35) Circular art without specific instructions- play music. Invite participants to begin drawing anything. After a brief period of time, instruct everyone to pass the picture to their right (or left) and add to the picture. Continue the activity until the picture returns to the original artist.

36) Rhyming game- one person says a word and the group tries to see how many words they can think of the rhyme with the original word. Simple poems can be written using the rhymes.

37) Do you remember?- discussion group... do you remember the first time you went out a played in the snow... tell us about it. Ask other questions that stimulates discussion.

38) Name that tune- play competitively or for fun. Play a segment of a song and participants must guess the song title.

39) Twine Printing- wrap a block of wood or a tin can with string or twine. Fasten the ends of the twine with glue to keep it from unraveling. Saturate the twine with tempura paint. On a surface cushioned with a stack of newspaper, press the printer (the block or can with twine around it) slowly and evenly onto a white sheet of paper.

40) Charades/Animal Antics- charades can be modified and simplified; utilize simple charades such as brushing hair, driving a car, playing baseball. In Animal Antics, participants mimic animals for others to guess.

41) Fish Net Link- using fish nets, groups can link together in a chain or in circles and move creatively together... move together like a wave, like a caterpillar, etc.

42) Kite Flying- with a good kite and a good wind, kite flying can be exciting and enjoyable for the participants and those just viewing.

43) Rope Whipping- with a strand of rope 10-15ft long, pair up partners and give them plenty of space. Each partner can whip the rope (each holding one end) and make waves and other movements. Play music and invite partners to move the rope in rhythm.

44) Fan making- on a hot summer day, cut out some wall paper samples. Let participants choose their own patter. Fold the paper in half and then fold it accordion style. Tape the ends together and you have a fan to keep you cool!

45) Table beachball- sit around a table and bat the beach ball across the table. Try not to let the ball hit the ground. For competition, teams are composed of alternate seating of participants on a rectangular table. Leave the ends open.... that's the goal. Ball going through a goal is worth a point. With larger groups, add two or three table length wise.

These are just a few of activity ideas that I've used successfully with children with developmental and MR disabilities. Do you have other ideas that worked for you. Send them in and have it posted here for others to use.


Submit activity ideas or protocols & have it posted here for others to use in their programs.

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