by Hayley Anderson | 03 Jun 2021
Industry Commentary, Op-Ed
Hi! My name is Hayley Anderson, and I am a play advocate, toy enthusiast, and kid at heart. I currently work for Creative Fold, a design agency specializing in creating and developing toys and games. But my journey in the toy industry began long before joining the Creative Fold.
I’ve been playing since I was a kid, so I’m pretty much a play expert! In all seriousness, I’ve spent many years working in Chicago as a play therapist for kids with special needs facilitating therapeutic play sessions and evaluating toys and games for various toy companies. This experience really shaped my interactions with the world and my continued passion for PLAY.
I like to focus on fail-free play, the process of removing and breaking down any potential barriers so a child can fully access a toy or game. By creating fail-free play experiences for families, kids feel welcome, included, and most importantly, valued.
As a play therapist, I had to adapt off-the-shelf toys to meet the needs of the child, but wouldn’t it be nice if there were already products out there that were universally designed for children of all abilities?
As a toy designer, you can help with this. You can promote inclusion and make the FUN & JOY of toys, games, and all things play accessible!
When you’re starting to develop a new product, ask yourself these 7 questions.
Open-ended play ensures the child can play with the toy however they’d like. Remember, there’s no wrong way to play!
Challenge levels offer flexibility in skill for the child to access. Customizing the play to match ability is more inclusive for all players.
Remove any unnecessary and unrelated elements that serve a limited purpose or could be distracting.
Knowing space requirements is important because it identifies any physical barriers that could inhibit play. Do you need a big table? Is it better played on the floor? Indoors or outdoors? Can you travel with it? Are you able to pack it up and store it? Modifying the environment can make play accessible for a child with a disability.
Familiar products can reach a diverse range of demographics, promoting inclusion. Representation matters! Having a product or packaging reflect the child either in race, ethnicity, gender, or other ways can encourage social-emotional development. They feel seen.
Knowing how to activate a toy is important because the skills it requires could be out of reach for a child with a disability. Which means they miss out on play!
Utilizing textures, contrasting colors, bold/big font, scents, and sounds allows children to engage for longer periods of time with the product and encourages exploration and discovery. A multi-sensory learning environment can enhance skill development.
Asking these questions can help reframe your perspective on how others access toys and play. Let’s build a more inclusive world, one toy at a time.
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