Adapting Toys: How to Do It Yourself

Tips for Parents

Do-it-yourself switch for adapting toys for special needs kids

Play is an important part of a child’s life and is key in the development of many motor and neurological functions such as:

  • Muscle strength and control
  • Cause/effect reasoning
  • Choice making
  • Object matching
  • Picture/object association
  • Construction categorization/sorting
  • Language skills

All children need opportunities to discover and actively explore the world around them, but many toys are not designed with all abilities in mind. Keep reading to learn helpful ways to make toys more accessible for your child.

Switches

Toy switches are one of the more complex, but often very rewarding, ways to make a toy accessible. Put simply, a switch is an added on/off button that connects to a battery-operated or electric toy that lets a child safely and easily interact with it. Many types of toys can be altered to include a switch, which means your child can enjoy most of the latest toys seen on TV or in toy stores.

Books

Most books can be adapted to make them easier to hold and interact with. The best types of books to look for are ones with thick and sturdy pages such as “board books.” Some easy alterations include:

  • Page turners: Simply glue or tape a popsicle stick or cardboard tab to each page, so your child can easily turn pages on their own. Make sure the handle sticks out far enough to comfortably grab.
  • Page padding: Another great way to make pages easier to interact with is to add “padding” so pages have space between them. Simply glue a small piece of thick foam to the corner of each page.
  • Tactile objects: To make books more engaging for children with vision, hearing, or learning impairments, hot glue textured fabrics or other materials to the pages so they can interact in a more tactile way. You can add fur for animals, sticks for trees, a mirror to see themselves in — get creative!
  • Digital books: Many books are available in digital, audio, and video formats, and tablet devices are often easier for children to interact with. A simple web search for “free children’s books online” will return pages of great results.

Puzzles

Puzzles are a great way for children to learn object matching and recognition skills. Small pieces can be challenging for children who struggle with fine motor function, but there are some simple adaptations you can do to help.

  • Handles: Screw or hot glue grabbable objects to each puzzle piece for easier grip. You can use drawer knobs, PVC piping, small toys or objects you have around the house — it doesn’t have to look perfect, it just needs to be large enough to suit your child’s needs.
  • Large puzzles: Choose puzzles with large pieces and choose a difficulty appropriate for your child.
  • Tactile puzzles: Choose puzzles you can do by touch, including form boards or puzzles with textures. Do it yourself by gluing on textures or drawing on the pieces with puffy paint to outline the major parts of the picture.

We want to hear from you—which toy alterations work best for your child? Do you have any other creative ideas? Send us an email and make sure to join our online community on Facebook.

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