10 Hobbies and Activities to Enjoy With Your Autistic Child

Tips for selecting the best shared interests for a child with autism

If you have a child with autism, play is important for their development and well-being irrespective of where they are on the autism spectrum. Hobbies and activities help autistic children develop skills that are important for learning and communication.

Enjoying activities together not only helps your child build social skills that they can integrate into their school life but can also be bonding if you choose the appropriate activity based on your child's capabilities and interests.

This article provides guidance on how to choose the right hobbies and activities that you can enjoy with your autistic child. It also offers 10 suggestions that may spark your child's interest while working around some of the social and communication challenges commonly faced by autistic children.

Activities to enjoy with autistic children

Verywell / Ellen Lindner

How to Choose the Right Activity

Choosing the right activity for your autistic child can sometimes be difficult. Ordinary childhood activities are often challenging, making it hard for a parent to work around things like sensory overload, social and communication deficits, and a general preference for repetition and routine.

But that doesn't mean that the child is limited in their capacity to develop and thrive from hobbies and activities that other kids commonly enjoy.

There are many ways for families with autistic children to enjoy hobbies and activities together. Accommodations may be needed, but, in many cases, autism is either not an issue or is actually an advantage to the shared experience. The key to success is to choose an activity and venue that is comfortable and interesting to your child.

Here are a few tips that can help you select the right hobby or activity:

  • Observe: Start by watching your child's play. If they are verbal, ask questions. Don't make any assumptions. Just observe and take note of how your child chooses to share interests with you.
  • Follow your child's lead. Next, try joining your child's activity. Rather than leaping in with your own ideas, allow your child to let you in as far as they are comfortable. The most important thing is to engage and communicate, not instruct.
  • Take it a step at a time. Don't rush things or set an agenda. Your autistic child may love baseball cards, for instance, but that doesn't mean that you should organize a full day's outing to a baseball game. Start slowly, perhaps by watching a single inning at a little league game.
  • Plan. Think about your workarounds. If there are certain challenges faced by your child (like sensitivity to heat, boredom, or behaviors that disturb others), take time to figure out how you might work around them.
  • Be flexible. Sometimes there may not be a workaround and you may need to adjust your goals. This is why the slow-and-steady approach works best. With incremental goals and changes, your child is more likely to adapt as you try out new things together.
  • Have fun. Remember the whole point of enjoying activities together is to build connections. If the experience is stressful for either of you, it's time to back off a bit and find a way to make it fun.

Don't Give Up

You may assume that your child is incapable of shared activities because they are non-verbal or have other disabilities. But it is important to remember that many children with nonverbal autism have gone on to become accomplished gamers, artists, swimmers, runners, and more.

Hobbies and Activities to Enjoy

These are just some of the activities that can be shared and enjoyed by families with autism. They may not be the exact fit for you and your child with autism, but they help get your creative juices flowing.


Who knew that a bunch of plastic building bricks could turn into a full-scale, international artistic (and scientific) medium? If your autistic child is a Lego fan—and many are—your options may be endless.

Build from blueprints and diagrams. Create your own cities. Watch the Lego movie. Go to Lego conventions. Get involved with Lego Mindstorms, and then join clubs and compete. Go to Lego art shows. The possibilities are amazing.

Video Gaming

Video games are not just for kids and today come in many levels of difficulty. Your autistic child may enjoy playing Minecraft or Harry Potter on their own, but that doesn't mean you can't join in and take part in the fun.

Instead of assuming you're not wanted (or that the games are too hard for you), take time to learn the ropes, ask questions, and get involved.

If your child is just starting out or has difficulty navigating complex games, opt for simpler vintage games or sports games that don't require high-level manual dexterity (like golf, bowling, or pool).

Some studies have found that video games help relieve stress and aid with social connection in children with autism. On the downside, they can lead to video "addiction" if not monitored and managed.


If you're an American, you may think that it's odd to memorize train numbers, schedules, and specs. In Britain, however, "trainspotting" is a time-honored activity, and many kids with autism embrace similar interests.

If trains (or planes or automobiles) are your child's interest, join them in learning about them. Explore train museums where real trains look exactly like those in the Thomas the Tank Engine TV show. Watch train-related videos. Read train-related books. Build model trains. Visit model layouts. Join a modeling club together.


A surprising number of people on the spectrum love anime—a complex and much-beloved form of Japanese animation. Anime is huge, and it's everywhere. Join your child in watching, reading, and drawing anime.

Create your own anime on the computer. Go in costume to an anime convention. Most schools and communities even have anime clubs your child can join.

Studies have shown that autistic children are often responsive to anime-style virtual characters, which have been used as a tool for social skills training.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Science fiction and fantasy are often of great interest to autistic people. Depending on their interest levels and abilities, people on the spectrum may learn every detail of a particular "universe," write their own stories, watch and rewatch movies, read comics, attend conventions, or even make their own costumes.

There is a whole world of opportunity for hobbyists out there at all levels. Find your inner caped crusader, and get involved.


Whether at the ocean, in a lake, at a pool, or under the sprinkler, water activities are fun for almost everyone. And while some people are there to learn swimming strokes, join swim teams, or become lap swimmers, others just go to have a good time together.

Hiking and Walking

Autistic people are often less amenable to team sports for a variety of reasons but still have plenty of physical energy and stamina. If your autistic child falls into this category, consider getting into hiking and walking.

In some areas, hiking means climbing a nearby mountain; in other areas, it means walking down the street. Either way, it's a great opportunity to get exercise and spend time together.

You might also bring along a pair of binoculars to do some bird watching, trainspotting, or star gazing—and by doing go build yet another shared interest.

Making Things

Many autistic children are very good at taking apart and building devices ranging from alarm clocks to small engines. These skills, sometimes referred to as "maker" skills, have been attributed by some to a heightened sense of focus and attention to detail in many people with autism.

This growing community of "makers" involves people with autism who conceive, create, and share prototype devices that do everything from lifting and moving to teaching and learning. Your child may be only a beginner "maker," but encouraging those skills can plug them into the larger "maker" community.

Puzzle Solving

Many autistic people, even those who are non-verbal, have a tremendous knack for solving jigsaws and similar puzzles. This is a popular hobby—and one you can share in your home alone, with a group of friends, or even in a club setting.

Animal Care

Not everyone on the spectrum loves animals, but those who have an interest are usually very interested. Consider sharing that interest through activities that range from horseback riding to pet care, volunteering at nature centers, fostering kittens or puppies, joining a 4-H club, or working at a local farm.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Lisa Jo Rudy
Lisa Jo Rudy, MDiv, is a writer, advocate, author, and consultant specializing in the field of autism.