Special Needs Game Ideas


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Games for Children with Special Needs

Whether you are planning a carnival especially for children with special needs, or just want to make one area of your carnival more accessible, this is the section for you! Of course, not all games will be appropriate for all children, but we've presented a few ideas that may help you get started. We would love to add more to this section, so if you have ideas for this theme, we would love to hear from you.

We've separated out the activities into areas that you may want to focus on:

Getting Started

A carnival atmosphere can be overwhelming to a child with a disability. Think about setting up a separate tent or area with calming activities to use as a "retreat." Allow plenty of space between activities to prevent crowding. If you have games that offer prizes, give prizes to everyone who plays, not just the "winners." 

Many of the games from our Alphabetical List of Games will work fine for children with special needs. You may need to modify them to make them easier to win, which can be as simple as moving the "throwing line" closer to the target.

Activities to Stimulate Hearing & Speaking

Karaoke

You can rent a karaoke machine or someone may have one they would let you borrow. The "performances" can be as simple as stepping up to say your name, or singing a simple song such as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

Musical Instruments

Have an assortment of instruments available to play, such as a tambourine, triangle, and drums.

Activities to Stimulate Touch & Movement

Petting Zoo

A petting zoo is great as it introduces many interesting textures such as soft bunny fur and prickly porcupines.

Pony Rides

Riding a pony has been shown to be therapeutic in many ways, besides being outright fun..

Prizes in Rice

Let your players dig through a large bin of rice to find a hidden prize.

Moonbouce

Bounces really get those muscles moving. Try to avoid the more elaborate inflatables such as obstacle courses.

Caterpillar Tunnel

Set up a large crawl-through tube. These are available from party rental operators.

Train Ride

Call carnival ride operators in your area to find a track-less mini train. Here in the Portland, Oregon area, Burgerville has a train that they will bring to your carnival.

Sidewalk Chalk

Provide sidewalk chalk for sidewalk Tic Tac Toe or let your players create a sidewalk art show.

Tattoo Parlor / Face Painting

Getting a tattoo (the removable kind!) or having your face painted are interesting sensations on the skin.

Spin Art

Spin art machines are available as rentals. They are fascinating to watch and you get to play with goopy paint.

Activities to Stimulate Taste & Smell

Carnival Food

Carnival foods like hot dogs and corn dogs may not be nutritionally correct, but they provide a real carnival atmosphere.

Root Beer Floats

Floats have an interesting fizzy texture and they taste wonderful.

Popcorn

Popcorn smells great and has a taste and texture all its own.

Activities to Stimulate Vision/Attention

Magic Show / Puppet Show

Sitting still to watch a show may be a challenge for some children and a treat for others.

Balloons

Balloons are colorful and interesting to look at. You could rent some giant tethered balloons and give away helium-filled balloons.

Bubble Machine / Bubble Blowing

Many kids can watch a bubble machine for hours. To provide a more hands-on activity, provide an assortment of bubble wands and lots of bubble liquid.

Carnival Mirrors

These "fun house" type mirrors provide a visual challenge and are funny to boot.

Activities to Develop Fine Motor Skills

Rubber Stamping

Provide an assortment of rubber stamps, and colorful papers and inks.

Bead Stringing

Provide large beads and an assortment of colored cords. 

Pony Express

Provide paper and pens to  let the children write letters to teachers and friends at the carnival and then provide "special delivery" during your carnival.

Activities to Develop Gross Motor Skills

Many traditional carnival games focus on gross motor skills. We've just picked out a few here but there are many more.

Ring Toss

You could modify any ring toss game by using larger rings or letting the players stand closer to the target.

Basketball

Provide an assortment of sizes of basketball set-ups, from the toddler size sets to a full size hoop.

Bowling

You can use or larger ball, or provide a ramp to roll the ball down towards the pins.

Sponge Toss

Let your players toss sponges at the "targets" -- their teachers or counselors. The wet sponges offer an interesting texture.

Other Popular Activities

Fishing Pond

The player puts their line behind a screen where the operator attaches a small prize. The surprise of reeling in a prize is a delight.

Photo Booth

Provide children an opportunity to take home a picture of themselves with their friends, family, and teachers.




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