Inclusive Play: here and now

Two kids are using computers and smiling to each other.

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A word on inclusion

It’s hard to argue with a statement that diversity makes the world more exciting and interesting. We learn by thriving on each others’ experiences and ideas, starting at a very early age. Through inclusive play, we develop acceptance and learn to respect and appreciate different ideas. By enabling inclusive play, we make sure that various opportunities are available to children of different strengths and abilities.


We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.”

Max De Pree


This article reflects on the barriers to inclusive play from the perspective of parents, carers, and children.

Why is inclusive play so arduous?

There is an increasing pursuit towards inclusive learning and play between children with and without disabilities. Inclusive and meaningful play provides space to challenge stereotypes, foster strong relationships and help children develop empathy and other social-emotional skills. Moreover, it can “ripple through the community of the setting” and help families build positive relationships. However, there are a lot of barriers that hinder inclusive play.


If you want to speak with us about Technology and Inclusion, join us at our upcoming webinar:

Technology and Inclusion: Challenges and Opportunities


What do children say?

To equally engage everyone in the play, it has to be meaningful to both children with and without disabilities. This means that it has to encourage positive interactions and challenge implicit bias. As a result, it can foster positive relationships. 

However, inclusive play can be difficult for all children due to various reasons.


 “Disabled children face many barriers to play, which can be due to accessibility, but also to social barriers that arise between disabled and non-disabled children […] which are exacerbated by the difficulties of playing together.”


What are those difficulties?

Research done by the University of Leeds gives several examples of why children with disabilities tend to be excluded from play. Being physically slower, struggling to hear, difficulty understanding the rules, or asking for more support are the significant barriers indicated by children with disabilities. More barriers include lack of confidence in own strengths, different aspirations for play, and the preference to play with children of similar ability.


“[…] children’s perceptions of playmates can be barriers […] because they are drawn to kids who are similar to them and stay away from those who seem different.”


The above barriers can lead to missed opportunities for inclusive play, exclusion and segregation. On the other hand, children typically say that “games are more fun when they include more people”. Additionally, a team-based approach and the space to cooperate rather than compete can prevent exclusion.

And what about parents and carers?

There are numerous barriers parents and carers face to facilitate inclusive play.

First, inclusive play requires a greater level of planning and direction and cooperation between adults. Especially in home settings, parents and carers have to put a great effort into facilitating inclusive play between children with and without disabilities. This means providing additional support other than just placing children in the same space. It involves adjusting the activities that everyone can access, cooperating with parents of children without disabilities and often “tackling the stigma and isolation experienced by children with disabilities”. Research also indicates busy schedules, hectic routines, and often the lack of resources to facilitate playtime.

Additionally, the lack of opportunities for children with and without disabilities to play together leads to a lack of understanding and acceptance of different behaviours. All these factors cause “fear of the unknown” and are unfamiliar territory, especially to parents and carers of children without disabilities.


Read more about inclusion in our previous blog post on Inclusion in Education where we talk about fighting implicit bias and nurturing inclusive behaviours.


 

Can technology help?

Here, we come to a question, can technology fit into a space to help overcome some of those barriers? Research shows that technology can be designed to support children’s interaction. It can “augment interactions with the natural environment” and be a medium of positive participation.

In the future, technology should aim to enable more opportunities for inclusive play and meaningful interactions. Opportunities for children to play and socialise together should be embedded in every step and provide a safe and comfortable space.

What’s next?

If you want to know what role technology can play in facilitating inclusive play, stay tuned for our next blog post. We will talk about overcoming the fear of the unknown and making it easier for children to understand differences.

Sources

  1. Together Through Play: Facilitating Inclusive Play through Participatory Design. University of Leeds
  2. Maximising Children’s Opportunities with Inclusive Play: Considerations for Interactive Technology Design. University of Washington

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