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9 Activities to Encourage Problem-Solving in Autistic Kids

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Building up our kiddo’s confidence and skills are so important when looking at short-term and long-term goals. One important skill to work on is problem-solving.

I know I’m guilty of not giving my little guy enough time to solve something on his own if I’m not actively thinking about it. Can’t get something to work? Momma’s got it. Can’t reach something? Momma’s got it. It can be so automatic to help.

But problem-solving for yourself is extremely important, and that is no different for our sprouts. We have to let them try on their own, then seek help after trying.

So let’s dive into the 9 activities to encourage problem-solving in autistic kids!

9 Activities to Encourage Problem-Solving in Autistic Kids

I think it’s important to note that depending on your child’s skill level and interests that not all of these will be winners. But I believe with some imagination and thinking you can adapt things to suit your child’s needs (in most situations).

#1 Scavenger Hunts

A picture of a scavenger hunt map with kids in a group ready to do a scavenger hunt.

How many free scavenger hunts do we come across on Pinterest when scrolling for activities for our kids? Whether it’s looking for a list of items or deciphering clues, they’re encouraged to problem solve. Plus, It’s a great activity to do inside or outside and do together to get moving around.

Here’s a few I found on Pinterest to get you started:

#2 Puzzles

Two picture on one page showing puzzles being put together. The top picture is a tangram shape puzzle and the bottom picture is a jigsaw puzzle

Puzzles are obviously great for problem-solving because they’re trying to put pieces together that usually only fit one way. Having to turn pieces, focus, and think all encourage problem-solving in our kiddos.

  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Puzzles
  • Rubik’s Cube
  • Tangrams 
  • Shape Sorters
  • Some Ideas on Amazon I Found:

#3 Board Games/Games

A collage of three pictures about playing board games. There’s a bunch of game pieces at the bottom, Jenna I’m the top right corner, and kids playing a game in the top left corner

There are so many board games that can help with problem-solving because they encourage strategic thinking and planning. Obviously chess, checkers, and Monopoly are the first few to come to mind.

Here are a few more ideas:

  • Jenga – this is fun for everyone, but having your sprout have to stop and think before pulling out a piece and figure out how to not be the one to make the tower topple is fun problem-solving. Plus the tower toppling is fun for the kiddos too!
  • Don’t Rock the Boat – My son likes the little penguins and likes the ship falling over. It’s fun to do hand-over-hand or if you kiddo can place the pieces on the boat on their own.
  • Connect 4 – This is a nostalgic game for me to play, but the fine motor skills involved and problem-solving to get 4 and block your opponent is perfect for sprouts.
  • Don’t Break the Ice
  • Yeti in my Spaghetti
  • Pancake Pile-Up – The instructions say it “helps children develop important gross motor skills, like balance and coordination.” Also, that this helps “children practice following a sequence, a beginning math skill.”

#4 Building Blocks and Structures

Picture of a block train with a description of what it is. It is blocks put together to resemble a train. Uses a single row of blocks then stack a couple of blocks on the front block to make the train pipe.

Another way to encourage problem-solving is using building materials and either giving your child instructions to follow or let them imagine and build their own. Full disclosure: my son is a destroyer! So I build things and he’ll figure out ways to tear it apart. Still problem-solving if you ask me.

Some ideas for you!

  • Classic Blocks – make a block train, pile them up way high without tipping over, make a fort!
  • Magnetic building tiles – there are so many designs to come up with these or just make boxes out of the tiles; whatever you kiddo can do and enjoys
  • LEGO – they have so many sets and designs that the options are endless
  • Bristle Block Stackadoos – we found these at Target and my son loves the texture and this is one he loves for me to build things and he tears them apart.

#5 Obstacle Courses

Obstacle Course collage. Bottom picture is a boy and a therapist helping in a sensory room to get over an obstacle. The top right is an outside obstacle course with kids bouncing on balls. The top left is a girl coming out of a tunnel

I love obstacle courses because they’re fun, but they’re working problem-solving skills and gross motor skills. You can find sets on Amazon, but it can get pricey. If your kid is like mine, there’s tons of toys and random things in the house to make obstacle courses from.

You can use Pringles cans as cones, have them hop over toys, step on sturdy boxes.

Some Set-up Ideas:

My son’s physical therapist used Jumping Stepping Stones and he loves hopping and walking on those as an obstacle course. So my friend bought it for him as a birthday present and he has a blast on them:

#6 Escape Rooms

A collage of three pictures representing escape rooms. A secret code lock, a magnifying glass looking at a clue, and kids in an escape room looking for clues.

This is all problem-solving with clues and riddles to figure out. This is not for everyone, but if your kid has a knack for things like this, it could be a really fun outing together.

Or, Pinterest has some neat ideas for Escape Rooms at home. I tried to find a few to get you started:

#7 Cooking

Two pictures in one showing kids cooking with their parents.

Cooking can involve following a recipe or letting your child go nuts and create their own recipe. If following a recipe, they have to identify and find ingredients, figure out what cutting something in quarters looks like, measuring, cooking times, portions.

If they’re making their own recipe then they’re using their imaginations while trying to make something edible. It can even be fun to try to problem-solve why something wasn’t edible!

I just let my son shake the season salt on some green beans I was cooking the other day. He was unimpressed to say the least lol. His diet is basically snacks, Kroger chocolate chip waffles, and chicken fries, so we’ll be working on pouring his own snacks, toaster use, and microwave use.

Some ideas to get you going:

#8 Coding

Three pictures of kids practicing coding on a computer as part of learning a skill and problem-solving

I love this suggestion because it’s challenging, but it’s also teaching a skill that could turn into a career later on in life. And if your kid finds it fun and engaging, then that’s a real win!

Some suggestions I found:

#9 Experimenting

Boy refusing to touch fun gooey goo made in Stem class. The same boy touching a cockroach in stem class with no problem

Finding fun experiments to do and helping your child explore the world is another form of problem-solving. Not everything is going to be a winner; for instance, my son refused to touch the Oobleck his class made for Dr. Seuss week. But he did enjoy petting the STEM teacher’s Madagascar cockroach.

Suggestions:

Conclusion

This is just a range of suggestions that your child may or may not enjoy; or they may or may not be at the level to understand. All our kiddos are different ages, stages, skill levels, so having more options to choose from is better.

I know my sprout would not be interested in cooking, and I wouldn’t be able to hold his attention long enough to even get him to show him how to mix ingredients in a bowl. Don’t force these things and make you both miserable. This should be fun and engaging first because we’re not really learning if we’re too upset to comprehend what we’re doing.

Did you try any of these suggestions? I’d especially love to know if you have your own suggestions or even modified one to suit your little sprout! Let me know in the comments or hit me up with an email. I’d love to hear from you no matter what it is!

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2 Comments

  1. Hi, I love these suggestions! It’s so nice to have new ideas since I seem to get stuck on doing the same things and need to remember to allow the kiddos to experience a range of things, even if it’s not their very favorite things all the time!

    1. I’m the same way with my son! He’s stubborn lol. I wrote this as some ideas for myself as well because it’s easy to get stuck on the same thing. And you know the kids will let you know if it’s not their thing haha.

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