Autism and Natural Play Therapy: Child-led fun activities for kids

 Did you know that April is Autism Awareness Month?

In this post, we are discussing Natural Play Therapy for autism. Why does Yvonne Marshall love Natural Play Therapy, and what wisdom does it offer for all parents?

Also, how can you do more than be aware of autism this month? We’ll tell you!


Why Natural Play Therapy for Autism?

Autism can be isolating.

Sometimes a child with autism seeks isolation when their environment is over-stimulating. Even when the child would like to be in the company of others, coping mechanisms (called stimming) may startle others and cause them to be stand-offish.

Often people try to break that isolation by creating a fun activity and inviting the child to play. Sometimes this is successful, but often a person with autism does not respond the way we would expect.

Natural Play Therapy offers an alternative approach.

With Natural Play Therapy, you first observe the natural play (or stimming) that the child is involved in. After a while, you may play with or beside him. You enter his world, rather than expecting that he enter yours. This creates a connection between the you and him. It breaches that isolation.

This therapy results in less stress and more understanding for everyone.

Yvonne Marshall’s 8 year old son, George, has autism. Finding Natural Play Therapy was a turning point for her and George. It helped her understand a different of way of looking at autistic behavior. Using play to enter George’s world, she has found a great way to connect with him.


You can read more about it in the FAQ section of her blog, George’s Natural Play Therapy. You can also connect with Yvonne through Hope4George, on Facebook.



[Tweet “I love NPT because it’s a non-judgmental approach, that lets us accept George where he is at, believing that he is doing the best he can. It’s about building emotional trust and strengthening relationships.”]


Use the Wisdom of Natural Play Therapy.



How can you use the wisdom of Natural Play Therapy with your children? 

Observe your children. What delights them? What do they enjoy doing? Can you join in some of their play? Are there ways to let them lead in fun activities that you do together?

  • In the classroom, pull out a stretchy band for circle-time activities. When you are done, instead of putting them away, ask the kids what they would like to try next. If you have the Connect-a-Stretchy-Band, then you can take them apart and let the kids have time to explore using them in self-directed activity. 
  • At home make sure there is time in your child’s day to play and unwind. My girls delight in putting on music and dancing. Provide movement scarves to add magic to their motions. Dance with them, it will lift your mood (dancing, giggles and bonding, what could be better?).

Many of the activities in a child’s life are adult-driven. By giving your child adequate time to play and explore, you can reduce their stress. Watch them play sometime, and ask if you can join. When you enter into their world through play, you communicate respect for them. You say, “I am interested in you.”




Earlier, I wrote about the isolation that a child with autism may feel.

It won’t surprise you that parents of children with autism often feel isolated as well.

As parents wade through all of the emotional and physical issues of autism, they find themselves in a world that many don’t understand. Well-meaning advice may be discouraging. Quite often they spend hours a week on research, trying to find the cause and a cure. They navigate therapy sessions, insurance paperwork, and sometimes medication.

Just as a child with autism needs his parents to come alongside him as his companion,  those parents also need companions to come alongside them in this journey of care. Yvonne has this support through family and friends, including Janet Stephens, of Bear Paw Creek.

That’s why Bear Paw Creek is celebrating Autism Awareness by giving fifteen percent of sales in April to fund Yvonne’s play therapy goals:

  • Putting a Murphy bed in George’s room so that he has more room to play during the day with Yvonne or one of his care-givers.
  • Constructing a climbing area for George because he loves to climb and it is so good for him.
  • Fencing in the outdoor area so that George can play outside securely.
  • Adding some play equipment outside after the fence is built.

I have seen George’s infectious smile when he is doing something he loves. I’m picturing his smile as he enjoys climbing around with his brothers on the equipment Yvonne wants to build for him.

George with Rachel in play room

What can you do? Build up your kid’s resource of “playing tools”.

By buying movement props for your kids to play with, you’ll be doing more than being aware of autism this month. You will be coming alongside Yvonne as she improves the environment to connect with George through play.

Fifteen percent, of every dollar spent this April, goes to that goal.

Let’s do this!


Bean Bag Song by Nancy Stewart

Bean Bag Song by Nancy Stewart

Bean bags are one of the first items I learned to sew when my Mom taught me as a child. You can read about that in this past blog post.

I imagine bean bags are one of the first movement props you add to your goody bag. They can be used in so many different activities from throwing/catching, touching the body with, balancing, stacking, sorting, and for different games.

You can find the complete lyrics and songs here on Nancy Stewart’s site.  You can also print lyrics, sheet music and get the mp3 for…FREE!  The kids and I did a quick video for fun.

Beanbag Song

1.  Put your beanbag under your chin
That’s the way this song begins
Put your beanbag down on the ground
and take a little walk around it now.
Jump over it once, ready, set, go
Jump over it again, pick your beanbag up and
Toss it hand to hand for this is not the end my friend.

2.  Put your beanbag on you head
Now put it down on your knees instead
Put your beanbag down on the ground
and take a little walk around it now.
Jump over it once, ready, set, go
Jump over it again, pick your beanbag up and
Toss it hand to hand for this is not the end my friend

Toss your beanbag up in the air and catch it if you can
Beanbags up and beanbags down,
And beanbags sometimes on the ground.

3.  Put your beanbag on you head
Now put it down on your knees instead
Put your beanbag down on the ground
And take a little walk around it now.
Jump over it once, ready, set, go
Jump over it again, pick your beanbag up and
Toss your beanbag in the air for this is the end my friend!

Textured Bean Bags

Textured Bean Bags

Jingle Bell Movement Songs

Jingle Bell Movement Songs

Another fantastic video from music therapist and educator Margie La Bella from Music Therapy Tunes!

This video is featuring six songs that can be used with jingle bells.  You may have your own supply of jingle bells, or you can check out our jingle bells on a wrist scrunchie.     Great to use with bean bags too!

You can find all of Margie’s songs here!  Including 10 songs you can download for free!  Each of the first three songs can be purchased individually (links below) for $2 or you may want to purchase the whole album: Scarves, Ribbons, Beanbags, and Bells  a bargain for $7!

“Tap it on Your Head”  full music

“Tap it on Your Head” acapella

“Move it by Your Chair”

“Everybody Touch Your Head” full music

“Everybody Touch Your Head”  acapella

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