Special needs kids games (that are actually games)

November 21, 2010

“Special needs kids games” is what I Googled when I was planning Chloe’s seventh birthday party.  I was looking for games that would be fun for the two kids with wheelchairs, as well as the dozen or so kids without.  Now I’m sure you can imagine what happens when you Google “kids games”–websites galore with endless lists of fun games and only brief nods to “education” or “skills.”  Add special needs, and you get things like this, excerpted from an almost useless eHow entry:  “consider games that provide targeted physical and intellectual stimulation.”

I’m sorry, but “intellectual stimulation” does not make a good birthday party theme.  Apparently, most of the people who make up games for special needs kids can’t help adding a little therapy to the mix, because, you know, special needs kids just can’t enough therapy.

There was no therapy at Chloe’s birthday party, I’m proud to say.

So my husband and I made up our own games.  Here’s what we came up with, by modifying games we found online and making up our own:

Mummy Fashion Show

You will need:  lots of toilet paper (at least one roll for every two kids), construction paper in lots of different colors, a big trash bag.

Cut squares from the construction paper so that you have one for every child.  Make sure that each color is represented by two squares.  For example, if you have ten kids, cut two red squares, two yellow, two blue, two purple and two orange.

Line the kids up and pass out the squares.  Tell the kids to find the other person with the same color square.  That is their partner.  (This eliminates the problem of kids getting ostracized when partners are chosen).

Let the kids decide who is the mummy and who is the fashion designer.  Kids whose disabilities keep them from easily manipulating the toilet paper can be mummies.   Kids with sensory issues might do better as fashion designers.

When all the mummies are wrapped up, let them come to the front of the room one by one to show off.  Have the kids applaud each mummy.  It’s also fun to let the mummy break out of the toilet paper in front of everyone.

Balloon Football

You will need: balloons, a football goal or target of some sort (I considered using an innocent stuffed animal before I realized Chloe’s toy football goal was perfect).

If the kids are old enough to blow up their own balloons, let them.  Otherwise, have an adult help.  Don’t tie the ends; let the kids hold them shut–an adult or another kid can help kids with fine motor issues.

Line all the kids up in front of the target and let them release the balloons. If you want, give a prize to whoever hits the target (if you can tell–it gets pretty chaotic).

Pass the Frisbee

You will need: one of those frisbees with a large hole in the middle, or any light object with a large hole in it.

Get all the kids in a circle.  Have the first kid put his arm through the frisbee, then “pass” it to the second kid without using hands.  This activity is challenging enough to keep all the kids occupied, but it’s actually easier than grabbing for kids who have fine motor problems.  Since our party was close to Thanksgiving, we had each kid say what he or she was Thankful for when they got the frisbee.

Red Light Green Light, the AAC device version

We didn’t actually play this game, but we considered it as away for non-verbal kids to be the leaders, for a change.

You will need: one communication device, preferably the kind that records voices.

If you want, have the kids help you set up the game by recording their voices saying “Red Light” and “Green Light” on the child’s communication device.

Then set up a regular game of red light, green light–one kid is on one side of the yard, and the others are lined up on the other side.  When the leader says “Green light,” the kids come toward him.  When he says “Red Light,” they stop.  The catch is that the leader is the kid with the communication device.

If the non-verbal child wants to play on the other side of the game, have the kids take turns.  But if he’s having more fun being the leader, let him do it.  The other kids can get listened to any time they want, but it’s not so easy for kids who are non-verbal.  This game gives them a chance to be in control.

Pass the Parcel

This idea came from one of Chloe’s former teachers, but I was too lazy to do the setup–maybe next year.

You will need: tissue or wrapping paper, prizes–small toys or candy

Wrap up a handful of candy or toys in a layer of paper.  Or, if you want to be an overachiever, you can get a bunch of different sized boxes, put the candy and toys in the smallest one, and wrap up the box.

Put one candy or toy on the outside of the wrapping, then add another layer of wrapping.  Repeat until there is a layer for every kid.

Have the kids sit in a circle and play music as they pass the parcel around the circle.  When the music stops, the kid with the parcel unwraps one layer, gets a prize, and leaves the circle.  The last kid left gets the motherlode.

Other ideas?  Leave them in the comments!

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10 Responses to “Special needs kids games (that are actually games)”

  1. Jon Says:

    Wow, we were pretty innovated, weren’t we? It was a lot of fun brainstorming these up, too. Hey, we ought to write a book on special needs games. Every special ed. department in the country would order one if we did a good enough job.

  2. Donna Says:

    Thank you for the ideas!

  3. Christa Nelson Says:

    Thanks for the great ideas. I want to adapt a snakes & ladders board game for a special needs child. Any ideas?

    • camillajoy Says:

      Hi, Christa. It depends on what the child’s needs are. For my daughter, I’ve found that games where you pick a card, as opposed to rolling a dice, are easier for her fine motor skills. I also ask her to point to the space where the piece needs to move, then I move it for her, since she can’t actually move the piece.

  4. Monica Says:

    Thanks for the ideas. I’m working on putting together a birthday party for my son who is wheel chair bound & has limited upper body control. He is turning 10 next month & this will be the first time he invites other kids. It is a worthy challenge to insure all enjoy themselves.


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