Tips for Inclusive Play and How to Get Your Child Involved

Play is an essential part of a child’s development. Social skills are strengthened, bodies are active in new ways, and friendships are made. Gillette Children’s is launching an Inclusive Day of Play on Saturday, July 27, 2024, to build community and bring attention to the need for inclusive spaces. Being thoughtful about inclusive play can make a successful day of fun for all!

These tips were developed in partnership with Gillette’s Therapeutic Recreation and Child Life experts and our Family Advisory Council.

Tips for Inclusive Play:

Why Play is Important for all Children

  • Play is universal; it is something every child experiences.
  • Play can help develop skills and meet goals related to cognition, physical and social skills.
  • Play presents the opportunity to try new things and allows for personal growth.
  • Play helps children learn about the world around them.
  • Play helps reduce stress and offers children the opportunity to master skills and tasks.

What to Look for in an Inclusive Playground

  • Look for ground surfaces that allow for easy wheelchair access.
  • Playgrounds with woodchips, sand or rocks are not easy for a child in a wheelchair to navigate.
  • Look for curb cuts and ramps that make it easier for a child to enter a play area and use the equipment.
  • Many playgrounds now include accessible and adapted equipment.
  • Look for elements that children of all abilities can use together.
  • Look for a play area that provides quieter, shady areas for rest and protection from the heat and sun.
  • Check that your play area has an accessible bathroom or outhouse.
  • Look for sensory elements like musical instruments or water tables.
  • Fenced areas help ensure safety.

Inclusive Play Activity Tips

  • Art activities such as sticker picture scenes, coloring, and sand art projects are good activity choices for many children.
  • Consider games like corn hole, grip ball catch, knee hockey with a plastic stick and puck, basketball hoop shooting, and seated beach volleyball.
  • Dancing and movement can unleash creativity and energy.
  • Listen to music or play instruments together.
  • Water play is fun. Fill an inflatable pool with toys or use foam water shooters to hit balloons or other non-living targets.
  • Get messy. Try painting with a paintbrush, fingers, or toes!
  • Playing with natural clay can help develop fine motor skills and engage the senses.
  • The best toys to share are those that can be played with from a seated position

Here’s How You Can Help Facilitate Play

  • Start a conversation: Ask families what activities their child enjoys and how you can help make everyone feel welcomed and included.
  • Allow children to participate in as much activity as possible. If they’re able to, let the child state when they want help and how much help they need.
  • Use partial participation: Break the task down into smaller steps and have those that can do pieces of the activity complete those steps, while a friend helps with the other steps.
  • Make small adaptations to games like changing the height of a basketball hoop or the distance to a hockey net. If you play beachball volleyball, try having everyone seated.

Gillette Children’s specializes in treating complex brain, bone and movement conditions that begin in childhood. Gillette provide comprehensive services, highly trained specialists, an integrated team approach, family-centered care and a lifetime of services. 

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