It’s important to have plans for leisure and recreation activities for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Not only do these help keep them physically fit, they also encourage socializing and help them develop cognitive abilities. Since most adults with developmental difficulties rely on the care of others, caregivers must follow a special plan. First, determine what the individual likes to do. Chances of success are higher if you choose activities that they enjoy. Next, keep in mind any physical or intellectual limitations. 

Physical Activities for Adults with Developmental Disabilities

Everyone benefits from muscle-strengthening and aerobic activities – adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities are not different! If you don’t have a quality adult day care to make sure your loved one is staying physically active during the day, try these activities with them at home:

Activities for Individuals in Wheelchairs

You might be surprised to find how many community outlets have activities for those who are confined to a wheelchair! Look for meetups of wheelchair basketball and tennis – or activities like seated volleyball. Seek athletic or hiking events that can be accomplished by self-propelling in a wheelchair, hand-crank bicycle or other adaptive equipment. Aquatic exercise is also a popular option for aerobic physical activity.

Brisk Walking and Hiking

This is a great activity for small groups that results in both physical exercise and socialization. Many parks and paths offer paved alternatives that increase safety while taking away none of the aesthetic beauty of the walks and exposure to the beauties of nature.

Structured Activities

Find physical activities that are structured and have repetition. This helps to develop and improve muscles and motor skills. Aerobic exercises should be performed at least ten minutes at a time, spread throughout the week for at least 2 to 2.5 hours. These activities include walking, team sports, yoga, self-propelled wheelchair and hand-crank biking, lap swimming, etc.

Muscle strengthening exercises

To achieve ongoing results and to keep in shape, it recommended that two days a week to work on all the major muscle groups, for at about 75 minutes. Typical activities include the following: yoga, working with resistance bands and weights, under supervision, and other exercises.


Cognitive & Memory Activities

Music Therapy

Music therapy greatly benefits adults with developmental disabilities. They can instantly participate in activities like foot tapping, hand clapping or sing-a-longs. Skilled music therapists and group leaders can include everybody – even non-verbal individuals – to play percussion instruments and benefit from feeling the rhythm and vibrations. In addition to stimulating senses, music can help to improve an individual’s emotional, social and mental well-being.

Art Therapy

For individuals with developmental disabilities, art encourages creativity and expression, especially for those who are unwilling or unable to communicate in other ways. Looking at art fosters conversation. Creating art, whether it is on canvas, paper or though dimensional art like sculpting, wakens creativity and accomplishment.

Model Building

Building model cars, trucks, trains, boats are a great way to create something from start to finish. It builds patience when the project whether the project can be completed in one day or must be revisited over a period of sessions. Cognitive skills are engaged as a project goes from beginning to completion. This is a great sense of satisfaction to the model builder – and some fantastic team-building and bonding when done together with others.

Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are inexpensive, challenging, fun and come in many forms and challenge levels. Choose subjects that interest the individual. They are educational, and help individuals develop skills and experience accomplishment in problem-solving, attention span and fine motor skill development and social skills – it’s a great way to spend time together with the one you love.


Artistic and Sensory Activities

Sensory stimulation therapy exercises help to work the mind, muscles, and emotions of developmentally disabled individuals.  From arts and craft to cooking and playing games, these simple and everyday activities nurture artistic and sensory skills in adults with special needs.


Using color, texture, words and sounds – crafting helps to encourage individuals with developmental disabilities to express themselves, bond with others and experience the joys of achievement. It’s simple using paint by number kits, stringing beads, making items, sculpting with clay or Play-Doh projects, to name just a few.


Cooking as an activity for developmentally disabled adults has several benefits. It is fun, teaches self-reliance, provides a sense of accomplishment and is inclusive. Begin by touring the kitchen. Show where everything is kept. How cups, glasses, and bowls are separated and stacked. Teach how measuring cup work. Next, select simple recipes and together — build upon this by cooking together and moving on to more advanced recipes.


Here’s a great way to gather a group together to nurture the seeds they plant and watch grow into beautiful flowers, vegetables and even trees. The ongoing project builds team bonds, work ethic dedicated to a common cause and the shared rewards.


Physical, Cognitive, Memory, Artistic and Sensory Activities – All at Coleman Adult Day

As a caregiver, you want the best for your loved one. If it’s difficult finding time to keep them physically active, getting them to socialize or just participating with them in their favorite activities – Coleman Adult Day can help.

We are an adult day care that specializes in caring for adults with Dementia and Developmental Disabilities. From memory exercises and on-site therapies to physical exercise and group outings, Coleman Adult Day provides active days for your loved ones and peace of mind for you.

Contact us today to learn more or schedule a tour!