Inclusive Strategies in Community Recreation Settings
By: Lauren Cherney
Games and activities are always more fun when everyone can participate, but creating a truly inclusive game takes thorough planning. Following a few simple steps can create a smooth and comprehensive process and a successful, engaging game.
First, evaluate the goals you hope to achieve. Establishing your goals lays the ground work for all other details of the activity. Then, consider all types of disabilities - intellectual, physical, sensory/communication and visual/hearing. Identify barriers to participation for children with the different types of disabilities. These barriers may relate to the built environment or setting of the game, the equipment used, rules and structure of the game, and communication methods used. Once barriers have been established, identify the adaptations needed to remove the barriers.
For example, a child who uses a wheelchair or mobility device may need an adaptation to the built environment. The size and color of equipment may need to be adapted for people with a visual impairment. Rules may be adjusted so children with an intellectual disability have equal opportunity for achievement. Instructions may be communicated in multiple ways so participants with a sensory or communication disability clearly understand.
Although adaptations may be specific to certain children, everyone should be included in all aspects of the game or activity and inclusive language should be used when explaining and playing the game. When playing games with a large group, it may be helpful to establish smaller groups and create rotations. This gives the participants a chance to achieve the highest level of self-competence or autonomy during the activity while still having social interaction and competition against others. This can also provide more one-on-one attention to improve weaknesses and play to strengths.
One inclusive ice-breaker game I like to use is called Zap. Here’s how to play:
What you will need
• 1 plastic cup
• 10-15 popsicle sticks
• 1 pen or marker
Label most of the popsicle sticks with various inclusive tasks or exercises. Label a few of the sticks with the word “zap.” Place all of the sticks in the plastic cup. Have the children take turns drawing a stick from the cup. When a stick is drawn, have the child do the task labeled on the stick. If a child draws a stick labeled “zap” then the entire group must take a lap around the activity space. Tasks should be inclusive of all ability levels and may be modified throughout the game. Some example tasks are: hold a warrior or preferred yoga pose for 30 seconds; do arm or head circles for 30 seconds; or show off your favorite dance move for one minute.
These tasks can be performed from a standing or sitting position and get participants moving and socializing with one another. This activity also achieves multiple goals including building friendships, increasing feelings of control and belongingness, learning teamwork, enhancing self-esteem, and improving general coordination.
Inclusion does not have to be an intimidating process, and new games do not have to be created when considering inclusive strategies in community recreation settings. Games for children like charades, bingo, or a name game associated with movements can be effective. By establishing a checklist for inclusion, everyone can be included in the planning process and activities can be challenging and successful for all.