When it comes to special education, teachers and parents often struggle to engage students in meaningful learning activities during afternoon hours.
After a long morning focused on academics, the afternoons can be especially challenging for children with special needs. That’s why hands-on activities are such a great way to break up the day and help students relax while still learning.
They offer students an engaging way to explore new concepts in a calming environment that encourages creativity. Here are some calming hands-on activities you can use in your classroom for an afternoon of learning!
Soothing hands-on afternoon activities
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Using dough as a soothing hands-on activity is a great way to engage special education students in learning. Playdough allows them to explore their creativity while building tactile motor skills.
The wonderful thing about playdough is that it can be used for so many different activities, from sculpting, counting and learning shapes and colors to encouraging imaginative play.
Additionally, the texture of the dough provides sensory input for babies who respond well to tactile stimulation. This makes it an excellent choice for winding down and focusing on more structured activities during the afternoon hours (or you can turn it into an afternoon of quiet games!).
Kinetic sand can be a calming hands-on activity for special education students at any time of day. Stimulates tactile motor skills and supports creativity. It also offers sensory input to babies who respond well to tactile stimulation.
Kinetic sand provides an engaging way for students to explore new concepts in a calming environment. Best of all, it can be used for activities like sculpting, counting, teaching shapes and colors, and more.
Shaving cream on the table
Writing and drawing with shaving cream on the desk is a great way to engage special education students in a calming hands-on activity. Not only does it provide tactile stimulation, it also offers a creative outlet for students to express themselves through art.
Writing and drawing with shaving cream encourages imaginative play while teaching fine motor skills to help hold a pen or pencil correctly and form letters and shapes. It provides visual and tactile stimulation that can help children focus more deeply on tasks. Plus, it’s easy to clean after use – just wipe off the shaving cream with a damp cloth and leave no mess behind!
Task boxes and work compartments
Task boxes and work bins are another great way to engage special education students in calming hands-on activities in the afternoon. Task boxes provide a structured environment that encourages exploration and learning.
They usually include items such as sorting objects and mats, counting items, or matching shapes and colors. Work bins are similar to task boxes, but can also contain manipulation items such as scraps of fabric or thread for weaving, puzzles to fold, or measuring tools.
These kinds of activities give students a way to explore their creativity while building foundational skills like problem solving and fine motor control. Working with manipulatives also helps children focus more deeply on tasks by providing visual, auditory and tactile stimulation.
One of the best parts is that these activities can be tailored to each child’s individual needs and interests, which makes them even more exciting!
Individual puzzles can be a great calming hands-on activity for special education students. Puzzles provide visual stimulation and encourage problem-solving skills and help children focus.
They can also provide tactile stimulation as well as auditory feedback as children click pieces together or talk about the things they are building.
Puzzles come in a variety of sizes and difficulty levels, making them an ideal activity for individuals with a variety of needs. For example, simple puzzles are great for younger children, while more complex puzzles are perfect for older students.
Puzzles offer students a fun way to learn shapes and colors, practice problem solving and motor skills, and develop fine motor skills such as holding a pen or pencil correctly. Plus, the satisfaction of successfully completing a puzzle is sure to bring a sense of accomplishment and boost your confidence!
Building with LEGO can be an incredibly calming hands-on activity for special education students. This type of tactile exploration promotes fine motor skills, creativity, problem solving and spatial awareness.
LEGO pieces provide visual, auditory and tactile stimulation to help children focus on the task at hand. By building with LEGO sets, students can develop basic building and engineering skills while exploring their own imaginations.
Felt boards provide another great way to engage special education students in calming, hands-on activities in the afternoon. This activity is great for interactive learning about shapes, colors, numbers and letters.
Felt boards are also a great tactile experience as children can move and manipulate the felt pieces on the board. These activities help children develop fine motor skills as they try to hold the felt pieces correctly with their fingers.
Best of all, felt boards can be used for imaginative play and storytelling, giving children a space for self-expression. Felt boards provide an engaging experience that promotes concentration and focus on the task at hand – all while having fun!
From sorting objects to building with LEGOs and building felt boards, there are a variety of calming hands-on activities that special education students can engage in during an afternoon of learning. These activities provide visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation that helps children focus more deeply on their tasks while providing an outlet for creativity and self-expression. With the right tools and materials, you can create a fun environment where your student’s natural curiosity is encouraged to flourish—even in the afternoon!