How to Adapt Toys for Children with Cerebral Palsy
By Stacey Bucklin CP Family Network Editor
This time of year, store shelves are filled with toys for the holiday season. Children with cerebral palsy shouldn’t miss out on the fun just because they may have problems manipulating and activating these toys! Armed with a bit of knowledge and a few simple tools, there are several at-home techniques parents can use to adapt toys so that they can be easily operated by children with disabilities. We’ve gathered these great ideas from around the web and hope they will help make the holidays even merrier for your CP child.
Things to Consider Before Modifying a Toy
There are many different ways to make off-the-shelf toys more accessible to children with cerebral palsy. Most of these methods involve preventing the toy from being accidentally pushed out of the reach of the child and/or making the toy easier to manipulate. Consider these modifications:
Stabilize the toy
Add a grasping aid
Make the toy easier to manipulate
Add a special activation switch
Consider the child’s position needs
Ways to Modify Toys for Children with Cerebral Palsy
After considering the unique needs of your individual child, there are many techniques you can use to adapt existing toys so that they can explore them. Experiment with a few of the methods listed below to find the right solutions for your child.
Add Handles to Building Blocks or Game Pieces
1. Find a wooden trowel or piece of foam wide enough to be gripped easily by your child.
2. Cut the trowel or foam into pieces 1 to 3 inches in length.
3. Glue lengths of wooden trowel or foam to the blocks or game pieces to serve as handles.
Create a Velcro Board or Table
1. Find a table or board that your child can play on.
2. Attach pieces of VELCRO® to the table or board.
3. Attach VELCRO to toys so that they can be secured to the table. They can then be manipulated by your child’s hands or other body parts.
Create a Velcro Bracelet
1. Cut a length of VELCRO long enough to wrap around your child’s wrist.
2. Attach VELCRO tabs to small toys. This allows the child to keep their favorite small toys close at hand.
Add a Larger Button to Battery Operated Toys
Some children with cerebral palsy have difficulty operating toys with small ON and OFF buttons. These can be modified relatively easily to be more accessible.
1. Remove the toy’s batteries to avoid a potential shock.
2. Carefully unscrew the wire that attaches to the battery and remove the small button used to activate the toy.
3. Using additional wire, attach the battery to a new, larger push button. Experts recommend using a button or switch that is at least 2 to 5 inches in length.
4. Replace the batteries and screw the battery cover in place. This modification gives a child a longer reach and an easier button to push to operate the toy.
If you don’t have the time, resources or inclination to adapt your own toys, there are companies such as Enabling Devicesthat sell toys that have already been adapted for children with disabilities. Regardless of whether you buy a pre-modified toy or decide to make your own changes, providing children with toys appropriate for their abilities is extremely important. Interactive play is an integral part of mental and physical development.
Have you adapted a toy for your disabled child? Do you have suggestions for other parents? Share your thoughts in the comments below!