Toy story

For these occupational therapy students, play is serious business

Research shows that when very young children play, there’s a lot more going on than just having fun: Movement and play are important in building preliteracy and other developmental skills. But what happens if a child isn’t able to play in traditional ways because of health problems, limited mobility, or sensory impairments?

Yvonne Swinth ’85 and students in her occupational therapy pediatric classes are in their third year of working with a Washington state-based organization called Good to Grow and an Olympia toy retailer to help evaluate toys for children with special needs.

“There are toys made just for kids with disabilities,” explains Swinth, “but they cost three or four times as much as regular toys. That’s prohibitive for many families, especially those with other children. This program helps parents and others select appropriate toys that all children in the family can play with.”

The testing provides information on how accessible a toy is, if it can be used in a variety of settings and from a range of body positions, how parents and children like it, and different ways kids can play with the toy.

“We also are working with manufacturers on how to adapt toys for children with disabilities, and with retailers so that they can assist parents looking for appropriate toys,” Swinth says.

With help from Swinth, Good to Grow developed a CD/ROM for retailers that shows them how to talk with parents of children with disabilities about selecting toys, and they hope to create a toy lending library once the university’s new health sciences building, now in the planning stages, is completed.

See Good to Grow on the Web at

— Gayle McIntosh