Including kids with special needs at playtime

Including kids with special needs at playtime

Author: Canadian Living


Including kids with special needs at playtime

Many families face the challenge of finding fun activities for kids of diverse ages, attention spans and abilities. When your child has special needs, you have to find innovative ways to include them, both inside and outside the family. According to Toronto-based Variety -- The Children's Charity (, an organization committed to improving the quality of life for young people of all abilities, inclusion doesn't necessarily mean that everyone needs to do the same thing the same way. However, what it means is that all individuals are respected, involved, accepted and supported. Here are some tips and game ideas from the organization, and books that may be helpful resources.

Tips for including everyone at playtime
• Create an accessible, safe and welcoming environment
• Always ask the individual for their preferences, their own modification ideas and suggestions
• If you adapt activities, base them on the same principles as the suggested activities -- modify equipment, rules or physical structures as required
• Examine and challenge your own personal beliefs, experiences, attitudes and expectations -- someone's limitations may be only your perception
• Recognize, support and encourage participation -- review and discuss the individual's personal beliefs, experiences, attitude and expectations
• Remember, everyone is an individual, and no two people are the same with respect to ability, personality or motivation
• When measuring individual or group success, request input and feedback from all participants
• Don't hesitate to contact resource organizations for support, direction and advice

Easy bowling
Most kids love bowling, and this game can accommodate lots of players.
• Use water bottles or plastic cups and a Nerf ball
• Provide a mini ramp for support, for those who require assistance, by using two pieces of material -- plastic or wood -- angled side by side to guide the ball
• If there is more than one participant, divide the room and have the participants bowl against one another, trying to knock down their opponents' pins first

Ringing beach ball volleyball
• Use an inflatable beach ball (avoid latex balls, as some children are allergic)
• Cut the side open, place a bell inside, seal and enjoy the ringing sounds (great for kids with visual disabilities)
• Enjoy a game of volleyball

3-D tic-tac-toe
• Place six long strings on the floor, dividing the area into nine sections (as in tic-tac-toe)
• Provide two different types of objects (six of each)
• Reach and place objects on the position to make your mark across or sideways
• This game is great for stretching

Two resource books that provide valuable information and great game ideas plus precaution and safety tips are:

Adapted Games and Activities from Tag to Team Building by Pattie Rouse. It's an excellent teacher resource or good for those parents trying to put together group extracurricular activities.

Inclusion Through Sport by Ronald W. Davis adapts popular games for a diverse group.

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At Variety Village (, Introduction to Inclusion workshops and Inclusion Certification courses are available for educators, parents and guardians, coaches, staff and volunteers.


Image courtesy Variety Village


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Including kids with special needs at playtime