Pack The Perfect Backpack For Special Needs Summer Adventures

If you’re anything like I am, you like to get your kids outside as much as possible, especially in the warmer weather. After a Midwest winter, I’m ready to sit in the grass and enjoy the sunshine. My boys and I eagerly await spending hours outside at a time, walking to the library and adventuring through the local historic village.

You should never travel without a backpack with some essentials . It can be the difference between a successful excursion and a terrible meltdown.


Whatever adventure awaits you this summer, more than likely you want to avoid crisis. No one likes to have the perfect summer outing hijacked by a child’s inability to get over water on shorts, a nagging need for a snack when no allergy-friendly options are available, or a serious medical issue. Here’s what to pack in your special needs adventure backpack:

* Water. Some special needs kids overheat faster. Make sure everyone has water, even when you don’t think you need it. I speak from experience. If your child won’t drink plain water then some electrolyte tabs to flavor it too.

* Other beverages. Your child may need a nutrition shake. Or maybe you pack a juice treat.

* Snack. Always bring more than you think your child will eat. You never know when you’ll get stuck somewhere unexpectedly. Food is always a plus. If you have gluten, dairy, or other allergies, definitely pack extra!

* Calming item. If your child has a particular item that helps her calm when overstimulated or anxious, be sure to sneak it in. If you need to, have multiples of the same item.

* Extra clothing. This can be for potty accidents, but you also never know when a child will find a rather large mud puddle. Many sensory kiddos will not be able to handle staying in wet or squishy clothes.

* Self-stick bandages. Have a variety of sizes. You’ll want extras for your friends, too.

* First aid. Sometimes you’ll feel like you don’t really need the ointment, compresses, or medical tape. You really never know, though. And the old adage is true—“Better safe than sorry.”

* Medicine. If you are going to be gone long enough that your child will need to take some medicine, don’t forget it! You may want to pack it anyway, just in case you get stuck.

* Napkins or wet wipes. Convenient for wiping hands after snacks or any other messes your child creates.

* Tissues. These come in handy for runny noses and scrapes.

* Sun and insect protection. Whether your prefer lotions or essential oils, whatever it is, stick it in!

* Notepad and writing tools. Again, if you get stuck somewhere, you want your child to have something to do. A lot of our special needs kids, especially the younger ones, are still learning patience. Having paper to draw on or play games with will save your sanity.

* Small game. There are lots of travel versions of games. A pair of number dice or letter dice can be turned into lots of games to occupy stranded children.

* Small blanket. If you’re going on a picnic, a blanket or sheet can help sensory kids be willing to sit on the ground. There are many thin throws that will roll up tight and not take up too much space.

* Spare money. It’s great to have a little cash with you in case you need to purchase something for your special needs child or just want to enjoy an impromptu treat.

* Plastic bag. Grocery bags are easy for this. You can roll them up to a tiny ball and pack them into corners. These come in handy for dirty clothes, trash bags, collecting treasures, and more.

The list looks long, but most of this won’t take up much room. The biggest space hog is food if you’re going to be gone most of the day. Now that my boys are old enough to carry their own packs, mine doesn’t hold as much. Of course, the contents of your backpack may vary depending on where you’re going. But if you keep a pack in your closet filled with most of these items, you’ll be ready for adventure when it calls! Would you add anything to this list? Tell me in the comments!




Jenny Herman wants to live in a world where dark chocolate dispensers reside on every corner. As a homeschooling special needs mom, she’s been featured in Autism Parenting Magazine, Wit and Wisdom from the Parents of Special Needs Kids: Mostly True Stories of Life on the Spectrum, and various blogs. If she survives the onslaught of testosterone in her home, she may take a moment to blog, read a book, try a new recipe, or loom knit a gift. You can find Jenny’s book The Power of One: Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life Amazon. Discover her tips for special needs parenting, hands-on homeschooling, and pressing on at