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11 Best Learning Activities for Toddlers with Autism!

11 Best Learning Activities for Toddlers with Autism!

Learning activities for toddlers with autism are developed according to their special needs. Some interesting activities are as follows:

  • Introduce yourself game.
  • Emotion cards to identify emotions.
  • Use yoga balls for energy utilization.
  • Sorting games for learning categorization.
  • Games that build motor movements.
  • Matching games to improve memory.
  • Games to develop a sense of smell.
  • Games to build up the sense of taste.
  • Relaxation training games.
  • Drawing as a learning activity.
  • Playing with musical instruments.

Why is Play Important for kids with Autism?

Play is an extremely important part of childhood. This is true for every stage of childhood whether it’s infancy, toddler, or preschooler. Jean Piaget was a developmental psychologist. He worked excessively on the importance of play for children. He regarded play in childhood as equivalent to work in adulthood.

Play is also equally important for autistic toddlers as well. Play activities are used as learning activities for toddlers with autism. Daily activities for autistic child should be planned in a fun way. In this way, the child learns more skills. Learning different skills play a pivotal role in the development of autistic toddlers.

For example, play allows autistic toddlers to explore their creativity. They learn better social skills. Their communication skills are also improved a lot. As a result, they can make friends. In fact, structured play activities help autistic toddlers to aim for general educational settings in the longer run.

How do Autistic Toddlers Play?

Autism is a developmental disorder. It usually follow an early onset. In fact, autism is likely to occur even during pregnancy. In the same way, infancy is also a critical period to develop autism. Playing like typical children is quite problematic for autistic toddlers. Their brains do not possess the same wiring as normal kids. Therefore, activities for 2 year old autistic child should be simple. There are three major reasons for play-related problems in autistic toddlers:

  1. Firstly, repeated patterns pose problems for autistic toddlers. They easily get stuck if there are many repetitions. As a result, their brains entangle in the patterns. When they are interrupted, they show high levels of resistance. Irritability also occurs in autistic toddlers due to this reason.
  2. Secondly, maintaining focus is another problem that autistic toddlers face. They are easily distracted by their surroundings. As a result, engaging them in play is quite difficult. That is why simple games and instructions are more useful.
  3. Thirdly, autistic toddlers focus on their bodies and movements more. They focus less on the verbal cues of play. Communication is a big issue for kids with autism.

Learning activities for toddlers with autism must be based on the above-mentioned areas of interest. In this way, the toddlers will feel at ease. They will engage in learning more and new things. As important as they are, the above-mentioned reasons can also be solved only through play. Therefore, the importance of play for autistic toddlers is quite big.

How to Help Autistic Toddlers with Learning Activities through Play?

Answering what are the best learning activities for toddlers with autism is not a tricky thing. You can use the same ways as with typical children. There are some basic rules which should be followed in cases of autistic toddlers. They are as follows:

  • Firstly, always focus on the interests of the child! This makes them feel more connected. They’ll engage more and more. As a result, their attention and focus will also improve.
  • Secondly, focus on their sensory preferences! For example, if an autistic toddler prefers squeezing toys over musical instruments then go for squeezy toys. Do not force him to play with musical instruments.
  • Thirdly, go for simple directions and instructions! Complex things frustrate the autistic toddlers. If you model the instructions, it’s even better.
  • Fourthly, use the toddler’s strengths when deciding for learning activities! For instance, if the child is good at building things then plan his play activities around this domain mostly. Gradually you can shift to other domains as well.
  • Lastly, visual cues are the path followed by autistic toddlers! Therefore, always show them what you want from them. Simply listening to the instructions is not an autistic toddler’s cup of cake.

What Activities are Good for Autistic Toddlers?

Keeping under consideration all the above-mentioned information, we have selected some learning activities for toddlers with autism. These are tried and tested activities. They are also backed up by experts in the field. Integrating these play activities into daily routine helps autistic toddlers to thrive.

1. Introduce Yourself Game!

This is a very basic game. It is used to let the autistic toddler introduce himself easily. It also helps them in learning other children’s names. This works as an initiator to communicate with others. The game is quite simple: make all the kids sit in the form of a circle. The elder person is supposed to introduce him or her before.

For example, you can start by saying “I am Ms. Beth!” Then ask the child next to you to introduce his name in the same way. Also, ask him to repeat your name by pointing towards you. In this way, your name is registered in the child’s memory. Finally, ask the child to repeat the same steps with the next kid. In this way, the entire circle introduces itself.

If parents exercise this activity at home for toddlers, the toddler will adjust to school life quite calmly. This is one of the simplest learning activities for toddlers with autism. However, it has long-lasting impacts on the toddler’s development.

2. Emotion cards help autistic toddlers a lot!

Human beings are emotion-based beings. From the beginning of life, they start expressing their emotions. However autistic toddlers feel difficulty here. If you are interested that your autistic toddler learns to identify and express emotions, choose emotion cards.

Printable emotions cards are suitable for such purposes. Such cards have faces of kids printed on them. Each face shows a different emotion. For example, there is a happy face, a sad face, an angry face and so on. Show the cards one by one to the toddler. See if he identifies the emotion in the card.

If he identifies correctly, go for the next card. However, if the toddler feels difficulty then you should show him the emotion by modeling it. You can also provide him with statements. However, modeling is the best approach.

3. Using Yoga balls can help autistic toddlers in controlling their energy!

If you have a toddler or have seen one, you know that they are full of energy. Their energy levels know no boundaries at all. The same goes for autistic toddlers as well. Typical toddlers learn easily how to use their energy levels. However, autistic kids face difficulties.

One of the best learning activities for toddlers with autism to focus on this aspect is the use of yoga balls. Parents can easily use this technique to teach and train toddlers. The yoga balls can be used in different ways:

  • Arrange a good area of space and use the yoga ball. Roll the ball towards your toddler. Then, ask him to roll back the ball towards you.
  • Help your toddler in sitting on the ball. Then teach him to bounce the ball. Make sure that he does not fall down. After some attempts, make the toddler do the entire activity on his own.
  • Assist the child on lie on the ball. Then roll the ball back and forth. Make sure to hold the face of the child properly. This avoids potential injuries.

4. Sorting games develop categorizing and organizing in autistic toddlers!

Sorting games are fun games for everyone. They are very important for autistic kids as well. Autistic toddlers learn motor skills through sorting games. There are different ways in which sorting games are played. For autistic toddlers, it is good to start with large toys. For instance, you can use cars or large building blocks of different colors. Ask your toddler to sort them according to their colors.

Once the toddler learns to sort large toys, go for small items. Going size to size, you can even choose colored rice for sorting purposes. When the elements of size and color is done, you can start on shapes. All in all, it’s a very broad dimension. Options are unlimited. It simply depends on your own creativity.

Motor skills of autistic toddlers can be further improved if you ask them to use their less dominant hand for picking the items. You can also ask them to use tweezers of different sizes. If you are looking for the best motor skills learning activities for toddlers with autism, this is your answer!

5. Which games improve motor movements in autistic toddlers?

Autistic toddlers are usually not well-aware of their bodily movements. They look clumsy or loud. There is an absence of moderation in their motor movements. There are different activities that can teach autistic toddlers to control their body movements. You can teach them to climb, run, jump, push, carry and pull in different ways.

These activities do not even need specific places or equipment. They can be incorporated into the daily routine of autistic toddlers easily. For example, teach them to carry the laundry baskets with you. Similarly, give them their mini shopping carts and ask them to push the carts while shopping. In the same way, use trampolines or pulling wagons to teach jumping and pulling skills.

6. How matching games can improve memory of autistic toddlers?

Matching games have proved to be the best approach in enhancing the memory of children. These games can also be used with kids having autism. Including matching games in activities for 3 year old autistic child is a very good tactic. You can use pairs of cards having same picture on them. Ask the toddler to match each pair.

Learning activities for toddlers with autism
Matching games enhance the memory of autistic toddlers!

In the same way, you can also place cards with pictures on one side and cards with names on the other side. Then, ask your autistic toddler to match the names and pictures with each other.

7. Sensory games to develop sense of smell in autistic toddlers!

Toddlers having autism are excellent explorers. They like to work on different aspects of their development. The five senses are also among these aspects. Games that enhance their sense of smell differ according to the age of the children. For toddlers, using scented play doughs is a good approach. Use the scents that your toddler likes. Divide the play dough in small portions and add scent. In this way, the toddler will learn to recognize the smells while playing in a structured environment. This is a form of unconscious learning for the autistic toddlers.

8. Sensory games to enhance the sense of taste in autistic toddlers!

Just as with smell, the sense of taste can also be developed through play. The rule is simple: put a blindfold on the eyes of the toddler. Present him with different foods or drinks. Ask him to taste the given item and then identify it. Start by giving the items that he likes. Then you can move on towards introducing new items as well. This has the dual benefit: a sense of taste is developed and the child unconsciously becomes open to new food experiences.

9. Using games for relaxation training to autistic toddlers!

Hyperactivity, loudness, and aggressiveness are some common experiences for autistic toddlers. That is why relaxation training is quite important for such kids. There are different ways in which autistic toddlers can be taught to calm down. For instance, parents can prepare bottles having water, glitters and some small items inside them. The glittery appearance can easily attract the attention of the autistic toddlers. Thus, they remain calm for longer periods of time.

This is an excellent approach when you are traveling or when you are waiting somewhere. Even if you want to teach them general relaxation, this is a good way. They are also ideal for use in cases of emotional meltdowns.

10. How drawing helps as a learning activity for autistic toddlers?

Drawing activities are also one of the best learning activities for toddlers with autism. This is especially true for the development of motor skills. You can start with drawing in the sand. Toddlers should use their fingers or hands. In this way, they can also feel what they are drawing.

As time passes by, start using large-sized crayons. They are good for grip purposes. You can draw a line and then ask the toddler to follow your movements. Clothing pegs can also be attached with the crayons for improving the toddler’s grip.

11. Playing with musical instruments to improve learning in autistic toddlers!

Learning activities for toddlers with autism
Music attracts the attention of autistic toddlers and aid in motor learning!

Music instruments present a fun way for autistic toddlers during the learning phases. Firstly, the toddlers can be allowed to randomly hit the instruments. They will develop familiarity in this way. They will also learn about the cause and effect relationship in this way.

Next, you can move towards using some items to create sounds. For example, give a stick to the child and ask him to beat the drum. The same goes for rattles as well. For further improvement in motor skills, ask the toddler to use only one finger to create sounds on a toy or keyboard.

If you do not have musical instruments at home, you can go for bottles filled with small items. Similarly, spoons and utensils are perfect replacements for sticks and drums. Again it’s all on your creativity.


In a nutshell, there are different learning activities for toddlers with autism. They are simple. Everyone can use them easily. Try our activities and open a whole new world for your toddler.

We would be very happy to hear from you on the comments sections of our Facebook page. You can also visit our Quora page. Feel free to leave your comments and queries!

About The Author

Affaf Amjad

Having an MPhil in Applied psychology and being a mother of three kids, I have always tried to try and test different psychological interventions and approaches in the day-to-day routine of my kids. Sharing my results and effective strategies with parents around the globe is the my main aim as a writer.

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