Inclusive Play: How to Include All Kids During Play Time

When kids are playing games or taking part in play activities they are learning, in addition to having fun and practicing empathy. These activities promote the development of skills, improve their perception of their surroundings and stimulate their creativity a lot. Inclusive play activities and games can be great allies in the inclusion of children with disabilities in school and in society in general. Learn more about inclusive play and games in this article. 

Raimundo A. Dinello is a PhD in Psychology with a specialization in Educational Orientation and is also a former Sociology of Education professor from the Free University of Brussels. He states that “games play a role in psychomotor development and in the kid’s social domain’s process of learning. It is possible to exercise mental processes, language development and social habits through games”.

All these benefits can also stimulate inclusion, both in the classroom and in other environments. By means of playing games, kids with disabilities can exercise their autonomy and have fun at the same time while also learning. 

When kids whose disabilities are motor, cognitive, visual, hearing, speech or language play games or participate in play activities, they are overcoming extremely relevant challenges to their development, which also impacts their mental health. 

Inclusive Play and Games Promote More Interaction Among Kids 

The Guia do Brincar Inclusivo (freely translated to “Guide to Inclusive Play”), developed by the Unicef’s Project “Incluir Brincando” by Meire Cavalcante, a master and PhD student in Education and Inclusion from Unicamp, points out that “people are different – and that is what makes the world so rich. What should be “equals”, in fact, are the opportunities to survive and develop, to learn, to grow up without violence and to play (…)”.

By planning activities, games and educational materials, you need to ask yourself a key question: does what I’m going to offer allow everyone to play together, regardless of each student’s characteristics? 

In order to promote games and play activities which are inclusive to all the kids, you need to pay attention to some details and, if necessary, make a few tweaks that will make all the difference

Meire Cavalcante also wrote for the website “Nova Escola” about the theme. “Kids and teenagers with mental disabilities usually struggle to focus for a long period of time. In order to keep their attention, dynamic activities that involve lots of colors are recommended.” 

Examples of Inclusive Play and Games 

The Guide to Inclusive Play presents a series of inclusive activities and also offers adjustments for the games you already have at home. 

“To make games more accessible, some simple and inexpensive adjustments can be made: creating raised marks with string or plastic paint; using materials such as velcro or magnets; changing the rules; creating bigger cards and dice to facilitate reading to those with low sight; using big pieces with straps for kids with physical disabilities; using signs and subtitles written in braille; or using textures and colors”

Memory Game

The memory game’s a childhood classic. It stimulates attention and concentration and trains kids’ memories and logical thinking. To make a memory game inclusive, you just need a few simple adjustments.

The outline of the game pieces can be marked with plastic paint, which will dry up and form a raised shape. This raised shape makes it easier for kids who have some visual impairments to perceive and identify the game pieces. Another possibility is to glue tiny objects such as buttons, glitter, sandpaper, cotton balls or wool – due to their different textures. 

The introduction of adjustments like that, which add texture on top of the smooth surfaces of game pieces or toys, are also beneficial from the psychomotor perspective. By touching these textures, kids with disabilities will develop motor, cognitive and sensory skills at the same time.

Dominoes Game 

You can adapt the game of dominoes in a very simple manner, by simply putting hot glue into the dots of each piece. This creates raised shapes in the pieces, which makes them easier to be handled and identified by kids with visual impairment. In this case, kids who aren’t visually impaired can cover their eyes with a cloth, in order to increase their interactions during the game.  


Uno is a game created in the seventies and that has since then gained many fans around the world. It is estimated that, to this day, 200 million copies of the game have already been sold. 

One of Uno’s remarkable traits is the color of the cards, since each turn is made according to the colors and numbers on the cards. 

In 2017, a colorblind-friendly version of the game was released. This version’s cards are marked with the iconographic symbols of universal color codes for the colorblind, or ColorADD

The symbols are located next to the number of each card. All the primary colors (red, blue and yellow) have different symbols that, combined, form a different color. 

How it works in practice: the combination of the yellow card dash and the blue card triangle form the symbol present on a green card.

In addition to the cards being different for having color symbols, they can also be recreated by joining two cards. The fact that the green symbol is the combination of the yellow and the blue symbols, for example, makes it easier for kids to identify which color is which.

Everyone can play!

The Guide to Inclusive Play also offered some tips so that everyone can play: 

  • Encourage kids to help those with reduced mobility and other difficulties;
  • Use balls with rattles and audible objects; 
  • Ensure the ground of the environment is smooth enough to allow the circulation of wheelchairs;
  • Respect kids who are hypersensitive to touch and sight (carry out activities in their rhythm); 
  • Create toys to explore figures, colors, smells, textures and sounds;
  • Always ask their family or health professional whether there are any restrictions to play time; 
  • Teach the activities and games to the families so they can play them at home with their kids;
  • In game cards, get a card holder for kids with physical disabilities;
  • Interfere when someone is excluded from the games;
  • Don’t allow unequal treatment in the group;
  • Offer play activities that go against gender prejudices;
  • Prioritize activities that value each kid’s strength (not their struggles). 

:: You can also read: Empathy: What it Is, How it Manifests and How to Recognize it in Kids ::

Online Inclusive Play and Games

The Laboratório de Objetos de Aprendizagem (LOA) (freely translated to “Laboratory of Learning Objects”) from the Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCar), has been developing games for visually-impaired kids since 2012. 

To this day, 5 games have been created:

Within each of these games’ rules and gameplay, it is possible to exercise concepts of math, Portuguese, chemistry, music, and health notions. 

Game Filters

Nvidia Corporation, a tech company based in Santa Clara, California, created a filter tool in 2018 that can be incorporated into several computer games. 

In order to gain access to this tool, you need to install the most recent version of Game Ready Driver. After that, NVIDIA Freestyle will allow the game user to change the appearance of their chosen game, through color adjustments or post-processing filter application.

Within the filters categories, there is the colorblind mode, which allows colorblind players to identify colors more easily. 

Written by Débora Nazário

Translated by Mariana Gruber


Technology has become more and more of an ally to digital inclusion. Voice assistants, Alt Text on Instagram and other similar measures embrace more people. Some of them are more complex and require more sophisticated programs and technologies, but many simple things can be taken into account when creating inclusive content. 

We can mention a few facilitators in kids games and kids apps that make them more inclusive: 

  • Captions in the content;
  • Audiobooks;
  • Activities with a voice-over feature;
  • Use of shapes and patterns to help the colorblind

But inclusion goes beyond physical disabilities. The app Domlexia, for example, has games that help kids with dyslexia learn how to read. Fun interactive games plus phonological exercises help kids with dyslexia develop what they need in order to learn letters and phonemes, thus aiding their literacy process. 

Another application with inclusive aspects is Truth and Tales. Every Truth and Tales activity is narrated, therefore kids who haven’t learnt how to read yet can use the app without missing out on the experience. The app also has audio books – stories with audio only – that can be listened to by kids who are visually impaired.

In some mini games within the interactive stories, colors are used to differentiate between one object and another, but we also use different shapes and patterns so that colorblind people can complete the challenges. 

At last, Truth and Tales offers physical exercises that return people to their natural, homeostatic state, helping everyone – not only kids – to become calmer and return to their body and mind’s balanced state. Our homeostatic exercises can help kids with attention deficit, hyperactivity and anxiety. Download it and try it out

What are negative thinking patterns and how can they affect your kids

Mental health problems during childhood are more common than we imagine. About six to seventeen percent of children and teenagers are affected by anxiety disorder or depression. Research has identified that many children and teenagers with an anxiety disorder showed cognitive distortions, which are characterized by negative thinking patterns — in other words: when the repetitive exposure to derogatory and negative content has a negative impact on thoughts, emotions, and behaviors — affecting their well-being, the way they see the world, and their adaptive functioning. 

According to this article, these cognitive distortions are the result of negative thinking patterns. When this negativity in the way of thinking becomes a pattern as early as childhood, it directs how information and events are interpreted throughout one person’s life. 

What are negative thinking patterns

Negative thoughts are common and everyone has them, from kids to adults. But you need to be careful so that this does not become so recurrent to the point of becoming a pattern, especially during childhood. 

If you notice your kids are having cognitive distortions — if their thoughts are inflexible, their expectations are chronically negative, or their feelings are too strong for them to reflect on their thinking patterns, it is time to look for the help of specialists. Kids who are suffering with this in a way that their routines, behavior and perspectives of the world are affected need to be monitored by a professional. 

It is possible to recognize and identify some negative thinking patterns:

1) “All or nothing” thought (also known as either-or) or dichotomous thinking. 

What is it: It is seeing things in only two ways, categories or possibilities, therefore thinking that they are either good or bad, black or white, without any gray area in between. It is a common distortion that makes you think — and then feel — that if something is not everything you want, then you do not want any of it. It is also thinking that you must perform excellently at everything  (perfectionism) — otherwise you have failed miserably. 

Examples: “I did not get into my first-choice university, therefore all my hopes are lost.” Or: “if I don’t get a 10 on that test, I have completely failed.” 

2) Emotional Reasoning 

What is it: It is believing that, because you feel something, it must be true, even if there is no other evidence to support it aside from this feeling. 

Examples: “I feel alone, therefore no one likes me.” Or: “I’m afraid of elevators, and that is why elevators are dangerous.” 

3) Overgeneralization 

What is it: It is talking about a negative detail or event related to a situation and turning it into an universal pattern which is true about your entire life. 

Examples: “Someone does not want to hang out with me. No one ever wants to hang out with me!” Or: “I messed up a chemistry experiment today. I never do anything right!” 

4) Labeling

What is it: It is putting a negative label on yourself — or others — so that you no longer see the person behind the label. When you reduce someone to this kind of thought, your understanding becomes so rigid that there is no more space for you to see yourself or someone else in a different way. 

Examples: “I fell today at soccer, trying to score. I’m so clumsy!” Or: “I didn’t have anything to add to this conversation. I’m so boring!” 

5) Psychic/Prediction mode

What is it: It is predicting something will happen in a negative way. This can turn into a negative way of seeing the future and can impact behavior, increasing the chances of your negative predictions happening. 

Examples: “I know I’m going to fail this test”; and then you get nervous and your performance deteriorates. Or: “If I talk to this person, they won’t talk to me or accept me”; and then you don’t talk to them or have the chance to connect with someone whom you want to get to know better or who could help you. 

6) Mindreader

What is it: It is assuming that you know and understand what other people are thinking, and usually, being sure that it reflects badly on you. 

Examples: “I am talking to someone else and they don’t seem to be paying attention. I’m sure they don’t like me”; and, actually, you don’t know what the other person is thinking: for example, they may only be distracted or worried about something completely unrelated to you and are finding it hard to focus. 

7) Catastrophizing or magnification

What is it: It is distorting a problem or something negative out of proportion. 

Example: “This party is going to be the worst experience ever!” 

8) Minimizing or dismissing positive things

What is it: It is minimizing something positive that happened so that it “does not count” as a good thing or a pleasant experience in your life. It dismisses any evidence that goes against your negative vision of yourself or of a situation. 

Examples: “I did well in the exam, but that was pure luck.” Or someone says: “I love going out with you!” But you think: “They were only being polite, they didn’t mean to say that.” 

9) Mental filter or Selective Abstraction

What is it: It is seeing only the negative side instead of the positive or all the aspects of an experience. 

Examples: You write an article for a teacher and they give you a lot of positive feedback — but you wrote someone’s name wrong. All that you can think of is the wrong name. Or you have many positive conversations throughout the day and in one of them you say something slightly awkward. Appalled, you focus only on the embarrassing thing you said, forgetting all the other nice interactions you had that day. 

10) Personalization

What is it: It is making everything become about you when it is not. That includes blaming yourself even for things beyond your control and taking things personally when they don’t mean to be harmful to you. 

Examples: “If I wasn’t such a burden to my parents, maybe they wouldn’t be getting a divorce.” Or: “How dare that person walk in front of me, that is so disrespectful!” When the person simply didn’t see you and cutting in front of you was merely a distraction. 

11) Imperatives

What is it: It is thinking “should” and “must” (and the opposites “shouldn’t and “can’t”). 

Examples: “I should present my school work in class without feeling anxious. What is wrong with me?” However, thinking like that at the height of your anxiety will only make you even more nervous regarding said presentation!

:: Read Also: My kid is shy and an introvert. What now? ::

How parents can help their kids

Going to therapy can help! Cognitive behavioral therapy helps to identify, challenge and restructure these thoughts. 

For actions beyond therapy, it is important for you to start observing, identifying and recognizing your own negative thinking patterns. For example, if your kids have anxiety, you may end up personalizing it, blaming yourself and labeling yourself as a “terrible parent”. Always remember that it is a cognitive distortion, which is reversible, and avoid judging both yourself and, mainly, your kids. 

In order to help kids learn about cognitive distortions, you can explain them with fun cards or a game of questions and answers. It is important to keep this team work lighthearted, without putting too much pressure on yourselves, and to be careful so as not to invalidate your kids and tell them what they are feeling — even by accident — or tell them these negative thoughts are “wrong” or “unreasonable”. Even if they are, we cannot assume children are ready to handle them and see them this way. Each person has their own time, including (and especially) kids. 

An important reminder is that, if you notice your kids are having too many inflexible thoughts and putting too much pressure on themselves, or that their expectations are almost always negative, it is time to seek the help of a pediatrician, therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. 


Written by Luisa Scherer

Translated by Mariana Gruber