Play Time Can Be Learning Time for Every Child

Play is an important aspect in every child’s developmental process. Toys can teach children a variety of skills, including fine-motor skills, visual focus and sense of control over their environment, to name a few.

Through play, children become aware of their surroundings and their capabilities, and they expand their imagination and curiosity. Toys prompt children to not only have fun, but to sustain their curiosity to keep learning.

Unfortunately, play time is not a fun time for every child. Children with limited capabilities, such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism, spinal cord injuries and developmental disorders, do not get the opportunity to use a majority of the toys that are easily used by other children.

There are many reasons a child can have difficulty with a toy. For example, a child may not be able to see the button, cannot physically push the button, or, developmentally, does not understand the concept of cause and effect.

In Good Shepherd’s Pediatrics Program, we use adaptive play activities with our children to promote therapy-specific goals. Adaptive toys used in therapy can go a long way to promote sensory, auditory, visual and cognitive learning.

Switch adapted toys provide play for children who otherwise may not be able to interact with a toy. A switch adapted toy is a toy that has been modified so that a child with a disability can press a switch and activate the toy. All you have to do is press the button to create an action.

Switches are simple devices with incredible potential. There are switches that are light in touch, have textured surfaces, or provide visual stimulation and auditory feedback.

Placement of the switch is just as important as the type of switch used. The switch needs to be properly placed for the child to have the most success for activation of the toy. A child can be sitting on the floor, seated in his or her wheelchair, seated in a positioning chair, standing or lying down to play with the toy.

For a child with a disability, switch adapted toys can have significant impact on strength, fine motor skills, visual focus, range of motion, cause and effect and sense of control over his or her environment.
Switch adapted toys can be purchased online from different vendors, but families can adapt battery-operated toys with a single switch battery interrupter.

Different types of toys will accomplish different goals, so consult your therapist if you need assistance in determining which toys and switch accesses may be best for your child.

Every child deserves the opportunity to learn, develop and play. Adaptive play can brighten these horizons for children who otherwise wouldn’t get to see the bright lights of a toy.

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