Inclusive Play: How to Include All Kids During Play Time
Updated: Sep 20
When kids are playing games or taking part in play activities they are learning, in addition to having fun and practicing empathy. These activities promote the development of skills, improve their perception of their surroundings and stimulate their creativity a lot. Inclusive play activities and games can be great allies in the inclusion of children with disabilities in school and in society in general. Learn more about inclusive play and games in this article.
Raimundo A. Dinello is a PhD in Psychology with a specialization in Educational Orientation and is also a former Sociology of Education professor from the Free University of Brussels.
He states that “games play a role in psychomotor development and in the kid’s social domain’s process of learning. It is possible to exercise mental processes, language development and social habits through games”.
All these benefits can also stimulate inclusion, both in the classroom and in other environments. By means of playing games, kids with disabilities can exercise their autonomy and have fun at the same time while also learning.
When kids whose disabilities are motor, cognitive, visual, hearing, speech or language play games or participate in play activities, they are overcoming extremely relevant challenges to their development, which also impacts their mental health.
Inclusive Play and Games Promote More Interaction Among Kids
The Guia do Brincar Inclusivo (freely translated to “Guide to Inclusive Play”), developed by the Unicef’s Project “Incluir Brincando” by Meire Cavalcante, a master and PhD student in Education and Inclusion from Unicamp, points out that “people are different – and that is what makes the world so rich. What should be “equals”, in fact, are the opportunities to survive and develop, to learn, to grow up without violence and to play (...)”.
By planning activities, games and educational materials, you need to ask yourself a key question: does what I’m going to offer allow everyone to play together, regardless of each student’s characteristics?
In order to promote games and play activities which are inclusive to all the kids, you need to pay attention to some details and, if necessary, make a few tweaks that will make all the difference.
Meire Cavalcante also wrote for the website “Nova Escola” about the theme. “Kids and teenagers with mental disabilities usually struggle to focus for a long period of time. In order to keep their attention, dynamic activities that involve lots of colors are recommended.”
Examples of Inclusive Play and Games
The Guide to Inclusive Play presents a series of inclusive activities and also offers adjustments for the games you already have at home.
“To make games more accessible, some simple and inexpensive adjustments can be made: creating raised marks with string or plastic paint; using materials such as velcro or magnets; changing the rules; creating bigger cards and dice to facilitate reading to those with low sight; using big pieces with straps for kids with physical disabilities; using signs and subtitles written in braille; or using textures and colors”.
The memory game’s a childhood classic. It stimulates attention and concentration and trains kids’ memories and logical thinking. To make a memory game inclusive, you just need a few simple adjustments.
The outline of the game pieces can be marked with plastic paint, which will dry up and form a raised shape. This raised shape makes it easier for kids who have some visual impairments to perceive and identify the game pieces. Another possibility is to glue tiny objects such as buttons, glitter, sandpaper, cotton balls or wool – due to their different textures.
The introduction of adjustments like that, which add texture on top of the smooth surfaces of game pieces or toys, are also beneficial from the psychomotor perspective. By touching these textures, kids with disabilities will develop motor, cognitive and sensory skills at the same time.
You can adapt the game of dominoes in a very simple manner, by simply putting hot glue into the dots of each piece. This creates raised shapes in the pieces, which makes them easier to be handled and identified by kids with visual impairment. In this case, kids who aren’t visually impaired can cover their eyes with a cloth, in order to increase their interactions during the game.
Uno is a game created in the seventies and that has since then gained many fans around the world. It is estimated that, to this day, 200 million copies of the game have already been sold.
One of Uno’s remarkable traits is the color of the cards, since each turn is made according to the colors and numbers on the cards.
The symbols are located next to the number of each card. All the primary colors (red, blue and yellow) have different symbols that, combined, form a different color.
How it works in practice: the combination of the yellow card dash and the blue card triangle form the symbol present on a green card.
In addition to the cards being different for having color symbols, they can also be recreated by joining two cards. The fact that the green symbol is the combination of the yellow and the blue symbols, for example, makes it easier for kids to identify which color is which.
Everyone can play!
The Guide to Inclusive Play also offered some tips so that everyone can play:
Encourage kids to help those with reduced mobility and other difficulties;
Use balls with rattles and audible objects;
Ensure the ground of the environment is smooth enough to allow the circulation of wheelchairs;
Respect kids who are hypersensitive to touch and sight (carry out activities in their rhythm);
Create toys to explore figures, colors, smells, textures and sounds;
Always ask their family or health professional whether there are any restrictions to play time;
Teach the activities and games to the families so they can play them at home with their kids;
In game cards, get a card holder for kids with physical disabilities;
Interfere when someone is excluded from the games;
Don’t allow unequal treatment in the group;
Offer play activities that go against gender prejudices;
Prioritize activities that value each kid’s strength (not their struggles).
Online Inclusive Play and Games
The Laboratório de Objetos de Aprendizagem (LOA) (freely translated to “Laboratory of Learning Objects”) from the Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCar), has been developing games for visually-impaired kids since 2012.
To this day, 5 games have been created:
A Era Inclusiva (“The Inclusive Era”)
Em busca do Santo Graal (“Seeking Saint Graal”)
Forca Inclusiva (“Inclusive Strength”)
Memória Inclusiva (“Inclusive Memory”)
Responda se Puder Inclusivo (“Inclusive Answer If You Can”)
Within each of these games’ rules and gameplay, it is possible to exercise concepts of math, Portuguese, chemistry, music, and health notions.
Nvidia Corporation, a tech company based in Santa Clara, California, created a filter tool in 2018 that can be incorporated into several computer games.
In order to gain access to this tool, you need to install the most recent version of Game Ready Driver. After that, NVIDIA Freestyle will allow the game user to change the appearance of their chosen game, through color adjustments or post-processing filter application.
Within the filters categories, there is the colorblind mode, which allows colorblind players to identify colors more easily.
Written by Débora Nazário
Translated by Mariana Gruber
Technology has become more and more of an ally to digital inclusion. Voice assistants, Alt Text on Instagram and other similar measures embrace more people. Some of them are more complex and require more sophisticated programs and technologies, but many simple things can be taken into account when creating inclusive content.
We can mention a few facilitators in kids games and kids apps that make them more inclusive:
Captions in the content;
Activities with a voice-over feature;
Use of shapes and patterns to help the colorblind
But inclusion goes beyond physical disabilities. The app Domlexia, for example, has games that help kids with dyslexia learn how to read. Fun interactive games plus phonological exercises help kids with dyslexia develop what they need in order to learn letters and phonemes, thus aiding their literacy process.
Another application with inclusive aspects is Truth and Tales. Every Truth and Tales activity is narrated, therefore kids who haven’t learnt how to read yet can use the app without missing out on the experience. The app also has audio books – stories with audio only – that can be listened to by kids who are visually impaired.
In some mini games within the interactive stories, colors are used to differentiate between one object and another, but we also use different shapes and patterns so that colorblind people can complete the challenges.
At last, Truth and Tales offers physical exercises that return people to their natural, homeostatic state, helping everyone – not only kids – to become calmer and return to their body and mind’s balanced state. Our homeostatic exercises can help kids with attention deficit, hyperactivity and anxiety. Download it and try it out!