Kids in wheelchairs may be seated, but that doesn’t mean they have to be sitting still. Whether they’re using a chair temporarily while recovering from a broken bone or other injury or they’re regular wheelchair users, one thing’s for sure: they have the same need to play and be active as every other kid.
You can modify many active children’s games to be more inclusive so kids in wheelchairs can have fun, be active, and play with friends. Sometimes all it takes is to substitute larger or softer balls that are easier to grab, use props like pool noodles to make it easier for children in wheelchairs to extend their reach when playing games like tag, or tweak the rules a bit to reward cooperative play.
Here are five examples of group games kids in wheelchairs can play:
1. Adapted sports
Many kids will enjoy the challenge of playing a familiar sport while seated in a wheelchair. Here are a few examples of games you can play to build sports-related skills:
Basketball: Lower a driveway basketball net, create a DIY version of a “hoop” to practice wheelchair basketball skills (it’s more challenging than it looks!), or practice dribbling and passing while seated.
Hockey: Line up milk cartons or plastic bowling pins and try to knock them over by shooting a ball into them with a hockey stick, or just try passing a ball back and forth or shooting it into a hockey net.
“Golf:” Set up hula hoop targets and toss bean bags into the circles. You can vary the challenges for each hole, requiring kids to throw from farther and farther away, for example. If this still feels too easy, see if they can land the bean bag on a smaller chalk circle, or try throwing backwards, blindfolded, or with the left hand for right-handed kids (the opposite for lefties!). No hoops? No problem: improvise using cardboard boxes, laundry hampers, or other items from around the house.
2. Modify a game of musical chairs
In a typical game of musical chairs, kids dance around until the music stops then race to find a chair. Since kids in wheelchairs bring their own seat wherever they go, that won’t work! You can adapt the game, however, by using bean bags, pillows, or cardboard “lily pads” for kids to claim when the music stops.
3. Throw a wheelchair-friendly dance party
All you need for this one is some killer tunes and space to boogie! Even if the child doesn’t have the arm strength or coordination to move their own chair, they’ll enjoy being twirled around the dance floor. Tip: it’s a good idea for the other dancers to wear shoes, in case the child accidentally rolls over someone’s toes!
Related read: 8 activities kids in wheelchairs can try
4. Set up an obstacle course challenge
Take advantage of a long driveway, an empty basketball court, or a sleepy dead-end street and set up an obstacle course challenge using chalk, bean bags, pool noodles, hula hoops, and whatever else is at hand. Wheel along a wavy line or draw circles and see if you can toss rocks or bean bags into them. This will be more fun with siblings or friends around—and you can bet it’ll be the kids who will come up with the most fun ideas. Don’t be surprised if they want you to try doing the obstacle course too!
5. Ready, set—race!
Find a nice long stretch of asphalt and see how fast your child can wheel themselves from one end to the other. You can use your phone or wristwatch like a stopwatch, or just count out loud to see how many seconds it takes to cross the finish line or do a certain number of laps around the perimeter. Kids can take turns sitting in the wheelchair, or if there’s no other kids around, they can just keep trying to beat their own time.
Learn more about inclusive play
You can find more ideas for activities kids in wheelchairs can do alone or with other children on the Let’s Play B.C. website, which was developed for caregivers of children with disabilities by the B.C. Wheelchair Basketball Society.