This is a guest post from writer and blogger, Jennifer Landis at Mindfulness Mama.
Inclusivity is more vital than ever in America. Amid a pandemic, millions lost jobs and health insurance coverage — this lack can prove life-threatening for children with disabilities. They often face ongoing challenges into adulthood, and the loneliness society imposes on the disabled cripples them further.
To foster improved sensitivity towards those with various disabilities, parents need to promote friendships with children of different ability levels. How can you encourage inclusivity in your child’s play? The following ten activities will help you raise sensitive, insightful children.
1. Play Simon Says
Many children know this classic game, but those who don’t can pick up the rules even if they have developmental disabilities. Some parents find that children with autism take to this game quickly.
Show your kids how to emphasize sensitivity in language as the leader. “Take two steps,” can become, “move forward two sidewalk lines.”
2. Every Pirate Needs a Treasure
Ahoy, matey! What child doesn’t love playing a pirate? Scavenger hunts offer fun that nearly anyone can enjoy, but add an extra playful element by filling a “treasure chest” with booty.
All you need to do is hide objects around the playground at heights that all fingers can reach — including those attached to crutches. Then, give each child a chest to fill and let them go wild searching for loot.
3. Make It a Trivial Pursuit
Those whose bodies don’t always work like others can put their intellectual powers to the test with various board games. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a mint at the toy shop. Many dollar stores offer games and books of word puzzles inexpensively, so you can invest in ample inclusive activities for the entire gang.
4. Engage All the Senses
Maybe one of your child’s friends can’t see or hear. They can still partake in sensory games.
When you make homemade play-dough, add a few drops of essential oil to engage their sense of smell. You can also make footprint paintings or engage in activities like washing the car that involves hot and cold water.
5. Pump Up the Jams
Music is another modality that engages children of all ability levels. Those who use wheelchairs can nevertheless get a quality workout by moving their bodies to the beat. You can have a dance-off or play musical chairs.
6. Cornhole, Quoits and Croquet, Oh, My
Did you think a backyard barbecue couldn’t be much fun for individuals with physical disabilities? Please erase that idea from your mindset. Many such games offer inclusive fun for all.
You don’t need to stand up to throw a bean bag or horseshoe. Croquet mallets are nowhere near as ungainly as golf clubs, and those who use wheelchairs can take part. Children with mental disabilities may gravitate toward games that require physical skill instead of cleverness.
7. Can You Spell Horse?
Likewise, basketball doesn’t have to require running up and down the court. You can play variations of Horse and 21 that don’t involve active blocking or the ability to slam-dunk. Have your children collaborate on rules for individuals who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids. Guide them if they struggle — but most will do their best to make things fair.
8. Strike It Fun
Bowling is a blast for nearly everyone, and lanes often have weekend specials that offer unlimited games. However, if your budget is on the thin side due to a layoff or salary reduction, you can still get in the game. You can use empty 2-liter bottles for pins and a red rubber ball instead of a hefty model. Use anything from pool noodles to dowel rods to line your “lanes.”
9. Give Everything a Dash of Color
Nowadays, even adults get in on the coloring game to relax their brains and ease stress. Arts and crafts activities are also ideal inclusive play methods. Fortunately, you can find ample crayons, markers and watercolor paints at discount stores for relatively little.
Crafts can make the gift-giving time more enjoyable. You can help your little ones make a suncatcher or a personalized mug to give a favorite relative for their birthday.
10. Go Ahead — Build a House of Cards
Children of all ability levels can likewise play card games and help invent new ones. How else did you think humans ended up with the seemingly endless varieties of poker and rummy we enjoy today?
Playing cards are inexpensive, and you can toss a pack in your purse. If you notice a disabled child playing by themselves when you go to the park, you now have the perfect toy that your tyke can suggest sharing. Once the bonds of friendship form, differences cease to matter much.
Encourage Inclusive Play With Your Children to Create a Kinder, More Respectful World
People with disabilities face a ton of discrimination in our current society. Help your child grow up more respectful by encouraging inclusive play while young.