Youth Group Games for Disabled Children
Disabled children often feel excluded from youth group activities, as so many depend on a modicum of physical prowess. But many games can be played by children in wheelchairs, and most beloved children’s games can be adapted to suit children with varying disabilities, with a little ingenuity.
Many youth group leaders today are keen to encourage disabled children, as well as children with learning difficulties, into the mainstream as far as youth group activities and games are concerned, but they don’t always know where to start.
Take your cue from the child, and speak to the child’s parents if you have any questions or concerns. Usually, a little imagination and creativity are all you’ll need to make everyone happy!
Sitting GamesThese games can be fun for children in wheelchairs or who need to sit down for longer periods of time as they don’t require much physical exertion. Adapt them to suit the age/development of the children involved.
- Wink Murder Children sit in a circle. Each child reaches into a bag and pulls out a scrap of paper, on one is written the word “murderer”. The murderer then has to wink and “kill” people without the others seeing. Players can guess who the murder is, but if they guess wrong they also die.
- Feel the Difference: Place a number of different large objects in several cloth bags, such as a candle, a hunk of bread, a mobile telephone, a tissue, a leaf and more. Each child gets to feel the bag and identify one object without looking inside, then pull it out before it gets passed on. If they pull out the wrong thing they have to put it back.
- Board Games: Kids - and adults - of all ages love board games, which can encourage the development of maths, reading and social skills, depending on the game. Bring on some old-time favourites such as Monopoly and Cluedo. You could even let the kids try their hand at poker, with play money and a real prize at the end.
Arty Smarty GamesNon-disabled children as well as disabled children who need quieter activities or who are less mobile may enjoy some of these fun activities, which can be done as part of a group or independently.
- Biscuit Decorating: A great activity that is loads of fun when it’s over as well, as you get to eat the finished product. Bring in some hard biscuits, cover them up with icing, then add sweets and sprinkles. Yum!
- Face-Painting: Virtually all children love to have their faces painted, either as a pirate, a tiger or a beautiful fairy. Get in a face-painting book and ask the older children to paint the faces of the younger ones.
- T-Shirt Designing: Let the children’s artistic talents come to the fore with this fun activity. Buy acrylic paints or markers and some cheap white t-shirts, or have them bring in ones of their own. If a child needs help, team them up in pairs.
Wheelchair GamesBeing a wheelchair user doesn’t mean you don’t want to enjoy the fun and competitive spirit that goes with playing sport. Many people who start playing wheelchair sports as children go on to play them professionally as adults. Some ideas include:
- Wheelchair Basketball: Perhaps the most popular wheelchair sport, all you need is a hoop, a ball and a couple of kids in wheelchairs.
- Wheelchair Rugby:Not for the fainthearted, this is also called Murder Game. Can be brutal!
- Wheelchair Bowling. Many children in wheelchairs are very capable of bowling, with a little help. A nice activity for children who don’t want to participate in team sports.
Computer GamesOlder disabled children who have problems with their motor skills don’t have to play “baby” games on the computer. Many accessible computer games are available online, which have been adapted to children with special needs.
The game speed can be slowed done, the time limits increased and the objects made larger on the screen. For older children with cerebral palsy, for example, these games can be loads of fun. If your youth group offers computer time, make sure you find out what type of accessible games you can make available to your members.
Severe DisabilitiesChildren with severe or multiple disabilities can still get enjoyment out of simple games; the challenge is to find ones that suit them best. Here are just some:
- Blowing Games:Children with quadriplegia, and others, need to make the most of their respiratory functions, which is why blowing bubbles, pinwheels or ping pong balls across a tabletop can be both fun and helpful.
Making youth group games accessible to disabled children may take a bit of clever thinking, but it's really not that hard. Keep in mind that individual activities may be more suitable than actual games for some children, and that not every game will suit every child. When you make the games enjoyable for both the disabled and non-disabled members of your youth group, you'll know you've succeeded.