Fun for the entire family can sometimes feel like a tall order. Kids with intellectual and developmental differences who are part of multi-child families may have needs and interests that are different from their siblings. 

If you’re hoping to make memories with the entire crew, your options are far from limited. Everyday activities can become opportunities for bonding. Here are some ways to get creative about how you accommodate the needs of each family member. 

sensory friendly play sandHonor all skill levels.

There is a job for everyone in your next family project. Whether you’re planting a garden, building a treehouse, or just making dinner, there are usually tasks within each activity that are suitable for kids of all ages and abilities.

While chopping vegetables may not be an ideal task for a child still mastering fine motor skills, mixing and measuring ingredients may be perfect. Giving each family member their own role in a collaborative project helps everyone come together and take pride in the end result. 

Include sensory-friendly modifications.

Kids with sensory sensitivities may find boisterous siblings overwhelming at times. Fortunately, small adjustments to your home can make family activities more enjoyable for everyone. 

  • Noise-canceling headphones allow children with sensory differences to appreciate a movie that their siblings would rather watch at full volume. 
  • Dimmer light switches can help you find a happy medium for kids who find harsh lighting distracting during game night. 
  • Sensory-friendly clothing options make dress-up games more fun for everyone.
  • Offering a variety of snacks that include both familiar and unfamiliar flavors and textures can encourage kids to try new things together. 

Looking for fun outside of your home? 

Many attractions, including zoos, aquariums, amusement parks, and theaters, offer special sensory-friendly programming on select days. These events help the whole family enjoy outings with reduced sensory triggers. 

Choose no-rules activities.sensory friendly outdoors

Games that require that everyone understands and follows a set of rules can be frustrating for differently-abled siblings. This isn’t the case for playtime that is focused on self-expression.

Designated activities with no right or wrong approach can be relaxing and fun. Get everyone together for:

  • A family dance party
  • Finger painting
  • Sand play
  • Coloring
  • Crafting
  • Wind-down yoga

Share an adventure.

Regardless of our age or ability, we all have a unique perspective on the world around us. Shared experiences allow each family member to make their own memories while growing closer together. 

Plan a road trip.

Take a hike.

Visit a landmark. 

You’ll probably find that you don’t need to travel far to escape the ordinary. Encourage each child to discuss their perspective of your adventure: 

What stood out most?

What were they most excited about?

What was their favorite part of your outing?

Encouraging each family member to share their thoughts and impressions about an experience they have in common encourages empathy, perspective-taking, and closeness. Look for ways to use family activities to strengthen sibling bonds, and kids will view the differences in their abilities as part of what makes them unique. 


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