Category Archives: De-stressing

Fun Activities May 11 – 18th

Matchbox Car Toilet Paper Tube Maze


Almost every home we visit has matchbox cars or something similar. And everyone seems to use toilet paper. So here is a craft for you: use your TP roles, some scrap cardboard and duct tape to build a maze that will grow and expand – and be cheap to throw away when your kids destroy it – which they should! Kids need to explore, and cheap, recycled crafts are the thing to use for fun and educational destruction.


pic from “a happy wanderer” bloodspot



Toilet paper rolls

Scrap Cardboard

Duct Tape


Somewhere to lean the finished project!

So take your toilet paper tubes, and cut them in half. (older kids can help with this, or cut ahead of time)   Find a large piece of scrap cardboard (every appliance store I have ever visited will give me cardboard boxes) or ask Walmart for some large scrap boxes and they will happily share.  Or save your own.

Use the duct tape to arrange and secure the TP half-rolls to the scrap cardboard.  Have your kids help!  This should be fun.  Arrange the half-tubes in any pattern you want, and encourage exploration.  Kids want to create mazes that won’t work, in that the cars won’t roll down the tubes properly.  That is the point!  By arranging and re-arranging the rolls, kids learn important things, such as “match box cars won’t fly across a cardboard box for two feet without more support.”  This is physics and math.  And the more they explore the less trouble they are in.

So I am showing you a picture of what the “finished” maze can look like, but please please don’t make this for your kids.  And don’t worry about buying balls, matchbox cars are fine!  This is a fun activity for you and kiddie to do together….  and btw, my teenager youth group loved this activity, too, and worked at it for hours.  So teen Vacation Bible school teachers, pay attention!


Recycled Board Game!


There are tons of used kiddo board games out there – check Goodwill, flea markets and garage sales.  All are missing pieces, have chewed up corners, and falling apart boxes.  But they make a fun activity.

here a mom did the fun work, but you can use dominos or scrabble tiles (if child is over three – scrabble tiles are not choke-proof) for your child to make into a game that is about them! From




Chewed up old board game or dominoes or scrabble tiles if your child is over three years old (scrabble tiles are not choke-proof!)

Pictures of any sort or kind

Scissors – or tear pictures with little kids

Paste (mix flour and water to thick consistency)

Markers if you wanna color

Paint if you wanna paint!

Find one of your own chewed-up board games, or get one cheap at flea markets…  and then let kids have fun with them.

You can cut up junk mail, kids’ art work, old photos, and use a homemade paste or store-bought glue to affix the paper to the game:  re-make that chewed-up board, cover up the old cards from a monopoly set, color over matching picture tiles.  The idea is to make something and have fun!

Older kids can create their own, new, self-designed game.  Younger kids create lovely messes.  All is good and fun.  Just remember: the idea is to have a good time!

Here a family glued pics over a Clue game to make their own new board game… but with little kids, remember to make way more mess than this!! Original post at:


Make Mud!

Ok, this is not just for little ones!  Mud is so much fun, and families buy expensive play doughs forgetting how much fun the original clay really is.  Do this inside (in the tub works) or better yet, outside!

mud and grass:  hours of fun  picture:  personal collection, copyright Claudia Neely

Ingredients are simple:



(if inside, some container or bucket to hold the mud)

optional:  old pots and pans, muffin tins, margarine tubs, yogurt cups, spoons, spatulas, boxes from the trash or recycling, pots, seeds…  whatever is cheap and easy!


Mix ingredients, stir.


And enjoy!


Mud should keep your little ones super busy for hours.  If you have a kiddo who is sensitive to textures, mud can be challenging, so adjust YOUR expectations accordingly.  Allow your sensitive kid to stir mud with spoons, sticks, an old ruler.  The more you participate in mud and have fun, the better your child will see that mud matters.


Flower Walk

Ok, it is MAY!!!!!  After this snowy winter, it is great to get outside!  So GET OUTSIDE!

Walking with children is a wondrous activity.  Yes they look at every rock on the path.  Yes they find every stick amazing.  Yes each dandelion is cool.  But isn’t that the wonder of kids???  They remind us that yes, every rock is amazing.  So go outside with the kids and enjoy them and the world.  They will show YOU amazing things.


You and kids.


Maybe a bag to collect stuff.

smelling the roses… pick with permission. Pic from private collection, copyright Claudia Neely

Take the kids and go walk somewhere with lots of wild flowers.  Try a park, your neighbor who hasn’t mowed (guilty of this myself), or just your neighborhood.  Go walking and look at flowers, and suggest collecting the wild ones in bags:  find dandelions this week aplenty, violets, buttercups, and anything else that is weedy and pretty.  Bring the flowers home to enjoy – as a bouquet, as a mishmash mess (some kids scrunch their flowers and this is ok), as fun supplies for your mud activity (see above).

Warnings:  don’t pick flowers on state or national lands, and don’t pick your next door neighbor’s prized peonies.  If in doubt, don’t pick.  There are always plenty of nice weeds, so if your little one is heading to pick grandma’s favorite rose, just re-direct your kiddo by saying, let’s pick this one over here!  Usually works.

The fun of flowers is that weeds are plentiful, fun, and many even edible (dandelion leaves are, buttercup leaves are, and violets are)! Best of all, enjoy the fresh air, the fun of walking, and the knowledge that your child will be worn out and sleeping soon.


So there you have it!  HOURS OF FUN activities, for you and child/ren, no matter the age!  The point of all of these ideas is to spend time together, to get your child/ren active, to have fun.  This is not “make a masterpiece” time.  It is FAMILY FUN time.

Weekly Activities! Easy fun for busy folk! A new weekly series.

Driving all over the state of West Virginia, we work with super active and busy families who are coping with autism, trauma, and other related developmental disabilities and diagnoses.  And everyone is struggling when kids are bored and tired… true for families with teens or families with 12-month-olds.  Everyone looks forward to us visiting because we bring fun new stuff (which is why we call our work PlayBA!)  I am often trying to leave craft and activity ideas for families to use between our visits, and encourage Pinterest use!  Still, finding and sorting activities when you are tired and kids are crying and dinner isn’t done can be a struggle.

So now this is our new weekly blogpost:  a week of activities for you and your child.  Ok, many activities are preschool friendly, but with a little adaptation lots of these are fun for older kids, too.  If your positive behavior support plan requires your teen to do some kind of activity other than computers/videogames, then here is a resource for you, too!

So check our blog weekly andgirl toddler painting


I will set you up with a week of fun activities.  I will encourage you to use your trash and recycling for most activities (cheap cheap cheap!), and make the cheapest, Walmart-available crafts supply recommendations as I can.

Because it’s not about spending money on kids or teens (despite what they tell you!).

It’s about spending time with them.

“The Problem with Functioning Labels” from blogsite “From Struggle Comes Strength”

Check out Sophia, a young blogger with her own site:  “From Struggle Comes Strength.”  She wrote an awesome post for World Autism Awareness day, discussing the autism community’s use of the words “high- functioning” and “low functioning.”  Over on Facebook, the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism re-posted the article, so check them out, too.

She wrote:

“Often, the way somebody functions can depend on the circumstance or situation. A student who excels academically is likely to be labelled ‘high’ functioning, but let’s say this same student struggles to speak on the phone, or has crippling sensory issues. It is probable that because of their ‘high’ functioning label, their difficulties may be underestimated or even ignored. Equally, those labelled as ‘low’ functioning may be underrated and their capabilities dismissed.”

Sophia’s point is especially important for families when struggling to get services.  I have seen programs turn away individuals due to their perceived functioning level:  “oh, she is too low functioning for this program,” or “he doesn’t need services, he is too high functioning.”  Service providers don’t always individually assess each person with an autism diagnosis, assuming that everyone is the same.  Likewise, when individuals transition to college or work settings, these labels continue to limit people as well.

Sophia writes from the point of view of someone labeled as high functioning:

“People with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, like myself, often experience overwhelming difficulties on a daily basis. The invisibility of this condition means that many do not recognise the extent of our challenges. By describing somebody as ‘high’ functioning, you are inadvertently implying that they do not require much support, or accommodations. After all, why would a seemingly ‘high’ functioning student require extra time to complete an examination?”

At WHOLE Families we work very hard to insure that people – no matter their label – get the services they need to be successful.  That includes working with schools, agencies, insurance companies, and state and national programs.  No label should determine the services you or your child deserves:  the purpose of positive behavioral supports – for all people – is to help everyone achieve the best they can.

For college students, we have ensured test accommodations and seating arrangements; in high school we have helped students get laptops and sensory accommodations.  We have helped two year olds transition into special education, and we work with pre-schools to provide stress breaks and quiet time areas within classrooms.

And WHOLE Families supports the words of people with autism, who are speaking out about what services are beneficial and what helped them.

If you are struggling to get services for you or your child due to labels about “high” or “low” functioning, we can help.  If you are working with other agencies, cool, but be sure to ask for the services you need.

Sophia ended her awesome article with the best conclusion:

“Functioning labels are not necessary, instead respect the individual for who they are, and what they can do, and appreciate that ability to function may change on a daily, or even hourly basis.”

Get the services you need.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Those Falling Apart Days

Every parent knows the feeling. Your teen is surly and refuses to do homework…. your two year old is throwing toys and spitting… the laundry needs done and the house is a wreck and everyone is stressed out!

You know… THOSE days.

It’s always hardest to parent when you see your child or teen starting to spin out of control. Inside it is so easy to think about how you are tired and had hoped to come home to an easy evening or spend a nice day home with the family. And then chaos hits.

Time to take a break and think about stressbusters now, before the surly teen is cursing and the two year old breaks the remote, again. Stress in the family means parents must pull back, calm down, and take a breath. If you are losing it and your kids are losing it then everyone needs to find soothing and relaxing activities. High stress means time to rest, to relax, to let you and your children and teens unwind.

Here are some great ideas:

Get OUTSIDE. Even if it is raining, grab umbrellas, pull on boots, layer up on many sweatshirts, and head outside. Fresh air and oxygen help everyone unwind.

STICK to YOUR SCHEDULE. If kids eat breakfast at 8:00, get everyone mixing and stirring so food is on-time. If 10:00 is art time, plan some soothing goop activities. If 6:30 is homework time, plan on sitting together with your child or teen and calmly doing the work. Schedules help everyone feel safe, calm, predictable.

SENSORY ACTIVITIES. This is how you soothe yourself (do you like a bath? a cup of coffee? chewing gum? Your favorite music? You use sensory activities, too!) Make goop for little ones or get teens punching out pizza dough. Put on music that everyone likes, or go for some blessed silence. If you have multiple kids with multiple needs, make sure everyone (INCLUDING YOU) gets a little of what you each need. And push for bathtime early – for you, your teen, yourself. Water is a great soother.  Check out our homemade recipes on this page!

CALM Television time. Ok, usually when we work with families we turn off television sets all the time. But when stress is high, put on that favorite episode of Barney or Star Trek and relax. Watch something you have seen a million times, and know every song or line of dialogue. Repetition is relaxing. Pop popcorn. Turn the lights down. Who doesn’t unwind when Captain Picard takes on the Borg one more time?

BREATHE. With little ones it is easy to bundle them into our laps and read books. With teens try to slow your breathing down when they are stressed and notice how much this is catching! If your teen allows it, try some backrubs. Stand next to your teen, shoulder to shoulder, which is a subtle reminder that you are a team.

CALL for HELP!  When kids lose it and you are not coping, it can be hard to work out a solution.  Then you need help!  Don’t wait until windows are breaking or you are ready to cry yourself to sleep!  Call friends, family, therapists, religious leaders…   Kids with special needs are a parenting challenge, whether the special need is related to giftedness, different abilities, or developmental delays.   Asking for help is what makes the difference for your child – and it will help the whole family, as well.


And finally, REMEMBER:

Ideally, we all want to become independent self-soothers, and manage and calm ourselves. But really isn’t family ultimately about the fact that we need one another? I lose it when appliances break and I need support. Our teens lose it from overwhelming school days, and they need us – STILL – for support. Our little ones can’t soothe themselves, but as we help them they learn how.

Stressful times actually define what families are. Anyone can do family and parenting when life is easy. When it is hard, that is when parents matter most. So remember when the sink plugs up and your teen is refusing to take out the trash and your five year old threw books out the window….

This is the time that makes you a family.