Games and Toys for Inclusive Play

Children learn through play, try out new skills, bond with others and also in the process, have their imagination piqued. To enable children with special needs to play, mainstream games [...]

Children learn through play, try out new skills, bond with others and also in the process, have their imagination piqued. To enable children with special needs to play, mainstream games and toys have been adapted and modified.

At the SG50 Hack-a-Toy! event held in September 2015, off-the-shelf toys were modified to make them more acessible to children with special needs. For instance, remote-controlled cars’ joysticks were replaced with colourful button controls, while a small lever to switch on a bubble-blowing machine was substituted with a large button on a wired remote control. Such initiatives help to raise awareness on the challenges of children with special needs at play and encourage toy manufacturers, schools and parents to explore accessible toys and inclusive games for an enhanced play and learning experience for these children.

Here, senior advocacy analyst Poh Sho Siam shows us some of these modified games.

Games for People with Visual Impairment
UNO Cards with Braille

These UNO cards come with braille markings at the corners, large print and bright colours, making the game accessible to people with visual impairment.

  Braille and Low Vision Monopoly

This monopoly set includes braille on its cards, dice, money and instructions. The game board is printed in braille and has large fonts and an overlay that helps people with visual impairments identify the areas around the board.

  Chess Set for the Blind

The white pieces of this chess set have a tactile dot on top to differentiate them from the black pieces. All spaces on the board have peg holes that hold the pieces in place and the black squares are slightly raised on the board to help track the diagonals.


Games for People wth Hearing Impairment
There are various games available that could be played by both hearing and non-hearing users.
Keep Quiet Game
This game contains wooden cubes depicting the alphabets in the American sign language. The player has to sign as many words as possible according to the sign language symbols printed on the cubes within an allocated time.
Alphabet Sign Language Peg Puzzle
The wooden pegs show hands signing alphabets in the American sign language. The corresponding English alphabets are displayed when a peg is lifted. Each peg piece is differently shaped and could be detached and fitted back, serving as an educational toy that helps a child’s hand-eye co-ordination and motor skills development while learning the sign language.
Sign Language Bingo
A fun way to learn the sign language is by playing Bingo. This American sign language Bingo is modified from the conventional Bingo. The calling cards have several themes such as family, feelings and time. Each player would be given a Bingo card. The caller would sign the word from the calling cards and have the player mark the word/sign on the Bingo card that matches the sign demonstrated. The first person to cover all the squares in a row, a column or in diagonal wins.


Toys for People with Mobility Impairment

Jelly Bean Switch Operated Toy
Children with physical disabilities may have difficulties operating toys with switches.
Toys with switches, which are often very small, could be adapted to enable children with mobility impairment to access them. There are many types of adaptive switches that are operated by different motions, for example pushing, pulling, grasping, clicking and sucking-and-puffing, to suit children who have different levels of dexterity.
A few examples of these switches are shown below:
Jelly Bean Switch
A jelly bean switch is activated by applying pressure on it. It has a large surface area for ease of activitation and produces an audible ‘click’ when activated. This auditory feedback would be useful especially when the switch is placed out of sight, like as a head switch or elbow switch. The switch has holes around the base for mounting or securing to surfaces so that it could be placed at suitable positions for the user. It also comes in bright colours, which could be helpful to those with low vision.
String Switch
A slight pull of the string operates the string switch, which could be helpful for children who have limited strength in their fingers or hands. The string could be looped around any finger or thumb and it produces an audible ‘click’ when pulled.
Grasp Switch
The tube-shaped switch is activated by holding it in the palm and giving it a light squeeze on the rubber or foam hand grip.
Large-sized Building Blocks
Constructive play promotes creativity and imagination, hand-eye co-ordination and motor skills development. It also encourages social interaction among children.
Large-sized bricks make picking up and building shapes easier than regular building blocks which may be difficult for children with weaker motor control to grasp and handle.
Picture on the left compares the blue and yellow large-sized bricks with the red regular-sized brick.
Textured Chunky Blocks
There are also chunky blocks that come with textured surfaces for added sensory stimulation.
Magnetic Building Blocks
Magnetic building blocks have magnets embedded in them that could help children with weak fingers connect and ‘stick’ the blocks quickly to build the shapes they desire more easily.
Tobbles is a stacking toy where each piece is uniquely weighted for balance and would not topple over easily. This allows kids to be successful in stacking and balancing the pieces without having to be precise or maintaining a straight pile.
The large bowl-shaped pieces also allow for easier grip, providing the motivation for children with hand tremors or difficulties in hand co-ordination to continue playing.
This article serves to generate greater awareness on the types of games and toys available for children with special needs. It does not replace professional advice and recommendations. Most of the games and toys mentioned are available online.
References include Achievement Products (US), eSpecial Needs, LLC (US), Fat Brain Holdings, LLC (US), Harris Communications, Inc. (US), Maxi-Aids, Inc. (US),, LLC (US), Special Needs Essentials (US), Tegu (US), Zyteq Pty Ltd (Australia) and All About Unit Block Play’ by Nancy P. Alexander.