Board (not Bored!) Games

Emma McKinney
By Emma McKinney
4 Min Read

Playing games helps children discover their abilities and the world around them. Here are some games that can be played and modified to accommodate a range of needs.

Board games are important for developing many skills, including number and shape recognition grouping and counting letter recognition and reading visual perception and colour recognition eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, and more.

They also help to develop social skills, such as communicating verbally, sharing, waiting, taking turns, and interacting with others. Some children require structure, rules, predictability and routine, which board games provide. All children love to win games but they need to balance winning with losing and to manage the feelings that come with it. You need to take into consideration the age and level of the child to ensure that they don’t feel frustrated or give up. Sometimes it may be acceptable to ‘help’ them win or to change the rules a little to encourage them to play.

Board games range from Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly and Scrabble to chess. Some children find writing, shuffling, dealing and moving cards or moving small objects difficult but there are many other low-cost games that can be made and adapted.

Make your own dice

Numerous templates are available. Some children require large dice made of paper, which are light and easy to roll, while others would benefit from having ones made from material or thick cardboard. You can add Velcro coins or strips to the sides and the child can attach a strip of Velcro to their wrist or palm if needed, so that they can flip or roll the dice. Some children can move the dice using two hands, an arm, shoulder, neck or chin or even blow it using a straw and light paper dice.

Colour dice game

Colour each side of a dice in a different colour. Each colour will have a matching activity. When the child throws the dice and it lands face up on a colour they get to do something:

  • Red: Action Cards. Example: Wave your arms.
  • Yellow: Emotions. Example: Make a sad face.
  • Purple: Body Parts. Example: Pat your tummy.
  • Green: Animal Sounds. Example: Woof like a dog.
  • Orange: Counting. Example: Clap your hands three times.
  • Blue: Colours. Example: Point to something yellow.

Make your own Snakes and Ladders

Choose a piece of paper that is suitable for the child’s age and level. You can make the blocks and counters as big as you need. Get the child to help you colour or illustrate the blocks. You can paste or draw it onto a piece of cardboard like the back of a cereal box, or place it on a lap-tray or regular tray, raised or sloped if needed. You might want to laminate or cover the board in plastic in case of spills or saliva. Find counters that are appropriately sized, weighted and easy to pick up and move. You can use bottle lids, large seeds or stones, or stick a piece of Velcro or Prestik under them to stop them from moving.

Dr Emma McKinney is a “children with disabilities” specialist, a post doctoral fellow at Stellenbosch University and owns a company called Disability Included. email:

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Emma McKinney
By Emma McKinney Children with Disabilities Specialist
Dr Emma McKinney is a “children with disabilities” specialist, a post doctoral fellow at Stellenbosch University and owns a company called Disability Included.
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