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Safe Play Tips for Children with Special Needs
These tips were created by Toys"R"Us, Inc. with guidance from leading safety and special needs organizations.

Through the magic of play, all children can experience victories, imagine new worlds and share the joy of learning. But accidents can happen, and rates of accidental injury are higher among children with special needs. This includes children who have physical and psychological disabilities and is especially true for children who have cognitive, emotional and social limitations.

While basic safety rules apply to all children, regardless of ability, the delivery of the message should be tailored to ensure that a child who has a disability truly understands and internalizes how to play safely. To make sure playtime is a positive, memorable learning experience for your child, the following is a list of tips to help minimize playtime risks among children with special needs:

  • Never Leave a Child Unsupervised:
    It is especially critical that a child with special needs is properly supervised by an adult or trusted caregiver at all times.
  • Read Labels for Ability:
    Check toy packages for age grading, but choose toys that correspond with a child's learning level rather than merely matching a toy with his/her actual age. Toys that are misused or inappropriate for a child's particular abilities can pose a risk of injury.
  • Survey the Play Area:
    Designate a specific area of the home for regular playtime, one void of hazards such as electrical wires across the floor that a child could trip over, hanging cords that could cause strangulation and pools or windows that a child could fall in/through. Safety gates or other barriers can also be helpful in keeping children away from areas unfit for their age or abilities.
  • Establish Concrete Rules:
    Before playtime begins, discuss basic guidelines about what areas are off limits (i.e., the street, roof or pool). Make the message clear by saying, ''Never go past this line without Mommy'' and ''Yell, 'HELP!' if you are hurt, lost or scared.''
  • Use Visual Warnings:
    Post notes with phrases, such as, ''Don't Touch!'' and ''Off Limits!'' on toys for older children, as well as power tools, the stove, kitchen drawers or any other potential source of injury; doing so can help a child who has developmental challenges distinguish between an appropriate toy and an object that may be dangerous.
  • Review and Repeat:
    After setting playtime rules, create visual reminders to post somewhere in the house or play area to serve as a constant reminder to the child. Also, ensure a child grasps the message by prompting him/her with hypothetical situations such as, ''What do you do when a ball rolls into the street?'' and ''What could happen if you play near the pool?''
  • Prepare for Off-Site Play Dates:
    When scheduling a play date outside the home, pack a First Aid Kit for the guardian to carry and a Child ID package to put in the child's pocket or backpack. This should include the child and parent's/guardian's name, emergency contact information and necessary instructions (i.e. allergies, illnesses, disabilities and medicinal protocol).
  • Safe Storage:
    Teach children to put toys away so they do not pose a tripping hazard. Store an older child's toys in a separate storage bin and regularly check for toys that may become worn, damaged or have missing parts.
  • Avoid Trigger Toys:
    For children who are prone to seizures, it's best to avoid spinning or flashing toys. Opt for toys that have volume control for children who are adversely affected by loud noises. And make sure children have the postural stability to utilize ride-on vehicles and wagons.