Learning through play is an important part of child development. Toys can help with fine and gross motor skills, creativity, imagination, problem-solving, sharing and a whole host of other skills. Toys are usually easy to purchase with many shops stocking them from supermarkets to charity shops, meaning most children have access to adequate play resources. But, as a disabled child, adapted toys certainly are more difficult to get and often come with a ‘premium’ price tag.
I acquired my disability in my teens, so I grew up playing with a ‘normal’ range of toys. However, I think that if better representation of disabled people was available in children’s toys throughout my childhood, I would’ve had an increased understanding at a younger age around disabilities. One of the students at my old dance school sold her toys and purchased a Barbie doll in a wheelchair to look like ‘Miss Kate’. The fact children have the ability to do that now, and there’s more visible disabled people on things like TV and magazine adverts than before, really does make a difference to how they view the real world.
Inclusion on the High Street
Amazon has recently brought a game-changer to the market and it took the internet by storm upon its release. The ‘Step 2 All Around Playtime House with Patio’ is the first adapted playhouse I have personally seen on the high street market. It allows wheelchair users to finally have their own playhouse, accompanied with kitchen, table and sand / water area. I certainly hope it’s popularity proves that there’s a clear need for more accessible toys!
Carmela is a beautiful 6-year-old girl who has a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. I started following her journey online after she took part in one of my inclusive dance classes and she certainly has a ‘can do’ attitude for everything which comes her way. Her mum recently purchased the mud kitchen accessory from Aldi and by screwing this to the wall, Carmela can get her walker easily underneath and still access the play equipment. Lucy, her mum, says: “I like to give her every opportunity to access play, exercise and home like all her abled friends, but I know this can be tiresome with endless applications, research, networking. When a supermarket sells a full access play mud kitchen which needs no adapting at all, it’s a breath of fresh air.”
Adapting Your Own Toys
Thankfully, the range of inclusive and accessible toys is growing, albeit slowly. The downside is a lot of these toys have a high price tag and some children simply want to play with the same as their peers. Meru, a company I recently came across at a disability exhibition, has the perfect solution for this. They can change the squeezing action or small button of a toy and replace it for something like a large switch so it can be accessed by many disabled children.
I certainly hope that brands start to not only look at the popularity of inclusive toys but the impact they’re having too. It’s probably a pipe dream for toy manufacturers to all have inclusive or adaptable ranges but to see an increase in brands developing new products with everyone in mind would really make such a difference. I’d love everyone to have the same opportunity as I had as a child to play and I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
Meru Switch Adapted Toy – https://www.meru.org.uk/what-we-do/switch-adapted-toys/
Step 2 Accessible Playtime House – https://www.activitytoysdirect.com/step2-allaround-playtime-patio-with-canopy-p1819/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw9b_4BRCMARIsADMUIyo4W08JGWY9TpWsnW3dxDza8SScj66heW3yTaDXnp_aAESc5cu21AQaAvlDEALw_wcB
Aldi mud kitchen accessory – https://www.aldi.co.uk/tp-mud-kitchen-accessory/p/703345372605200?gclid=Cj0KCQjw9b_4BRCMARIsADMUIypH67SW0vv-mpdHdPE_V_zUORtGvYy43CW6SUK9O09NLGhUkycdS8YaAmPpEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds