Adapting Toys for Play 2016-11-16T08:37:42+00:00

Adapting Toys for Play

by Chaney Roko

Playing is a natural way to learn, and I was bound and determined to make sure my daughter was given that opportunity. Since she has significant multiple disabilities, play is not something that comes easy to her. She cannot use her fingers to grasp toys, is resistant to touch things, and cannot sit up unassisted. In addition, she has had a fairly isolated childhood with no real models of kids playing, and she is non-verbal. So I had my work cut out for me!

markerglovemarkerglove2My daughter, Mary, learned how to use cause/effect toys when she was a baby, toddler, and preschooler. Mary is now six-and-a-half. She does not have much interest in those toys anymore, and the cause/effect toys for a person her age are not appropriate for her physical ability. Not to mention, they can get quite expensive! The following ideas are some toys, games, and adaptations that have helped Mary play.

Mary cannot bend her fingers due to her arthrogryposis. After trying a splint, the best way for her to hold a marker or paintbrush is to use a glove with a hole in it. Making a small slit in the glove to poke the marker through works well enough for her to color!

Mary uses a DynaVox for communication via a switch at her elbow. We use the same switch connected to a battery adapter to operate the toy pictured below while it remains in the ‘on’ position.

Switches and a toy adapted with a battery interrupter

switch small-switches battery-adaptor toy

Mary is just starting to learn how to play card games, but doesn’t have the dexterity to hold the cards. This is an example of a cardholder that is on the market. Under one of them is a piece of Dycem, which is something you can buy to help things stay in place and not slide around.

card-holders

Many children who have muscle difficulties have eye impairments as well. After all, there are muscles involved with seeing. Therefore, we received a large lightbox through a state program and one activity we do frequently is use Gel Clings on it. Stores these days are always selling Gel Clings for holidays or special occasions and I buy them inexpensively. I have also found letters and numbers, which have come in handy as Mary is at the age where she is learning to spell. Additionally, with our lightbox, we have it hooked up via a Powerlink and a switch so Mary has the independence to play with it when she wants.

Lightbox with letter gels and switch

Lightbox with letter gels and switch

Mary uses the Powerlink to operate her radio as well. The newest Powerlink design is wireless and she can turn the radio on via a Jelly Beamer switch on the other side of the room. The Powerlink plugs into the wall and the radio plugs into the Powerlink. The Powerlink can be set several different ways: on/off, on for minutes at a time, on for seconds at a time, or on only when you press the switch. At Christmastime, it is Mary’s job to turn the Christmas lights on via the switch and Powerlink.

Powerlink unit that makes anything with a plug switch adapted

Powerlink unit that makes anything with a plug switch adapted

Mary uses the Powerlink to operate her radio as well. The newest Powerlink design is wireless and she can turn the radio on via a Jelly Beamer switch on the other side of the room. The Powerlink plugs into the wall and the radio plugs into the Powerlink. The Powerlink can be set several different ways: on/off, on for minutes at a time, on for seconds at a time, or on only when you press the switch. At Christmastime, it is Mary’s job to turn the Christmas lights on via the switch and Powerlink.

Everyone is getting an iPad these days. One of the main reasons I got one for Mary is so she can independently look at pictures books. Mary cannot turn pages due to her arthrogryposis. Many of the children’s books on the iPad have the option to auto-play. We still read books from the library and her bookcase, but the books on the iPad give her some independent reading time.

Some of the things below are simpler and lower-tech tools to adapt toys.

Bells often come with Velcro attached and children can play music along with their favorite CDs or with their friends.

Bells often come with Velcro attached and children can play music along with their favorite CDs or with their friends

This clamp is 99¢ at a hardware store and can hold things to an armrest of a wheelchair or a stander

This clamp is 99¢ at a hardware store and can hold things to an armrest of a wheelchair or a stander

Painters tape is perfect to use to thicken a handle of a magic wand, drumstick, or spoon. Just wrap it around and around until it is thick enough for your child to hold onto!

If you are looking for more good ideas for play or adapting toys, visit the blog http://adaptions4kidz.blogspot.com/ because Heidi Thompson has great ideas!

Author: Chaney Roko • Date: 5/21/2012

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