St. Patrick’s Day Sensory Activities for Children with Autism

St. Patrick’s Day may not be the same type of “Hallmark holiday” as Christmas, Halloween, Hanukkah, Easter or Valentine’s Day, but when taking the time to celebrate, it can be a ton of fun for kids. From seas of green shirts and sounds of Irish folk music, to talks of pinching and little men called, “Leprechauns,” children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may unsurprisingly be a bit confused by the elements surround St. Paddy’s Day.


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To help bring a bit of the “luck o’ the Irish” into your home, we came up with a range of sensory activities designed to encourage speech and communication, build fine motor skills and provide entertainment around the themes of St. Patrick’s Day.



10 Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Kids with Autism


Leprechaun slime search for the pot o’ gold.
Sensory play is more fun with slime! Start by making an easy batch of slime together: 1/2 a cup of child-safe glue (clear or white both work, depending on the “look” you want) and a 1/2 cup of water. Mix away! Add food colouring or green glitter to give it that Leprechaun look. Pour 1/4 cup of liquid starch and keep stirring until the liquid transforms into a blob of slime. Finally, knead in some toy gold coins or other “treasure” that your child can work to find and pull out for more fine motor fun.


Mixed media rainbow art.
Here is one where your creativity can adapt the activity according to your child’s interests. Draw or print a large rainbow on paper. Gather your desired décor for the rainbow: gem stickers, star stickers, mini pom poms, beads, dot paint or even Skittles. Whatever you choose, make sure you have all the colours of the rainbow. Get it started with one colour and encourage your child to continue to fill in each section of the rainbow.


Shamrock cookie-decorating.
Get your kids involved in the kitchen with a simple cookie-decorating activity. Start with sugar cookie dough, a shamrock cookie cutter and green icing, then put your child to work with the toppings! Place a few different sprinkle options out in front and demonstrate how to decorate before handing over the reins to their little fingers. While most may end up on the floor or in their mouths, the act of placing each sprinkle on top of a cookie (or a green spinach muffin, should you choose) should be enough to get them excited.


St. Paddy’s Day sensory sorting box.
What reminds you of St. Patrick’s Day? Sequined shamrocks, gold coins, green pom poms, rainbow balls, St. Patrick’s Day necklaces, dry spinach pasta, shredded green paper…you name it, you can add it to this themed sensory box. Give your kiddo a variety of spoons and tongs, plus a few bowls or cups for sorting the various items. Talk to him or her about the texture and colours and what they mean to the holiday. This activity is great for children learning to use the pincher grasp, while also teaches them about colours, size and shape.


Shamrock stamping art.
Did you know sliced green bell peppers resemble clovers? Give your kid a new art experience by using them to “stamp” clovers onto a sheet of paper, cardboard box or gift bag. Peppers usually have three lobes or four (perfect for a four-leaf clover!), so check out the curves of the sides and bottom before choosing your new “supplies” at the market. To begin, cut the pepper in half and shake it out to get rid of any loose seeds. Your child can use the stem as a handle to dip the flat sliced edge into green paint before stamping it onto the paper. Once stamped, you can add another dash of green paint or marker to the bottom to draw on a shamrock stem.


Four-leaf clover lacing. Lacing may require a little more skill than some of the other activities and this version is great practice for kiddos. The parent’s job is to first draw a large clover onto a sheet of green construction paper or cardstock, then cut it out. If you want something a little more sturdy, you can also laminate it before using a hole punch to add holes around the edges. Have your child practice lacing a shoelace in and out of the holes; the curves will add a new challenge for them. Once finished, have them decorate it however they wish!


Holiday-themed story time.
We’re always big fans of using story time for learning and St. Patrick’s Day is no different. There are a number of sweet and silly books out there for this holiday, so choose according to your child’s interests. For instance, if you kiddo is already a Pete the Cat fan, check out Pete the Cat: The Great Leprechaun Chase. If rhymes and songs are appealing to your child, he or she might like The Luckiest St. Patrick’s Day Ever. There are also St. Patrick’s Day adapted books available, which offer a nice way to practice identifying colour, location, sequencing and more.


Emerald Isle water sensory bin.
We love water play and Spring is the perfect time to bring it back into the rotation. Either outdoors, in a big bathtub or on a large towel, fill a giant bin with water and add some drops of green food colouring. Drop in some gold coins or St. Patrick’s Day-themed rubber duckies, then give your kiddo various cups, spoons and scoops and let the playtime begin! By pouring the water and scooping out the coins, your child can work on motor skills by also learning about liquids and volume. Pro tip: if you want to skip the green food colouring and add a cleaning element to the mix, pick up the Rainbow Fun bar from Lush. This non-toxic Playdoh-like soap is not only fun to mold in the tub, but the green bar will turn the water green!


Lucky Charms lineup.
It wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day without Lucky Charms! Pour the cereal into a big bowl and have your child pick out the marshmallows to sort and line up on a sheet of paper. Talk about the different shapes and how they are associated with the holiday. You can also use this sensory experience to have your child discover the scents, feelings and of course, tastes.


Tried and true colouring books.
For kids who love their crayons and paints, it’s hard to go wrong with colouring books. Talk about the meaning behind the pictures and let them colour away. It gives the children a chance to practice holding a writing tool, learning colours, and drawing straight lines and circles, which is great school preparation, in addition to entertainment.