Occupational Therapist Antonia Llull Shares Insights on Importance of Inclusive Play

antonina llull headshot next to genius of play let's play playbook coverApril 16, 2024 | Last month, The Genius of Play™, a national movement spearheaded by The Toy Association™ to raise awareness about play’s vital role in child development, launched “Let’s Play – A Playbook for Kids of All Abilities.” This free guide offers families and educators a variety of adaptive, play-based activities to help children meet developmental milestones and promote social inclusion while having fun.

Toy News Tuesday editors sat down with Antonia Llull, an occupational therapist who helped develop the playbook, along with her MPOWERME team and Ellen Metrick, a human factors specialist with UL Solutions. Llull discussed the role of play in social inclusion, play ideas in the playbook, and more. (Note: This interview is the second of a two-part series. Click here to read part one.)

What role does play have in promoting social inclusion and understanding among children?
Play is the cornerstone of childhood development and plays a crucial role in promoting social inclusion and understanding among children. It provides a universal language, allowing children to connect, share experiences, and learn from one another. Through play, children learn to empathize, cooperate, and regulate their emotions. Children will find a way to play together given even the smallest opportunity. Inclusive play breaks down barriers, allowing children of different abilities to interact and learn from each other, which fosters a community of inclusivity and mutual respect.

What are some key features or activities included in “Let’s Play – A Playbook for Kids of All Abilities”?
"Let’s Play" is packed with a variety of activities, each designed to drive curiosity, creativity, and skill development. Key features include alternative activities to cater to every child's unique needs; challenge boosters to elevate the play experience and value; schedule boosters to incorporate play into daily routines; and a focus on developmental benefits across cognitive, social-emotional, physical, communication, and sensory domains. The playbook features nine activities for children and families to choose from based on their current interests and/or the given environment they are in. Each activity serves as a “provoker” of engagement, offering a holistic approach to growth and fun. Activities like “Tape Track,” “Get Your Beat On,” “Surprise Box,” “Snack 'n Social,” and “Act it Out” offer creative and exploratory play that enhances physical development, phonological awareness, cognitive organization, socialization, collaboration, and academic readiness through play.

In what ways can educators and parents incorporate the activities and ideas from the playbook into their routines?
Educators and parents can incorporate the activities and ideas from the playbook into their routines by using it as a flexible guide to foster development and learning and/or provide supplemental learning experiences in a lesson plan. The playbook’s alternative options and boosters make it easy to adapt activities to fit into various schedules and settings, ensuring that every child can participate and benefit from the play experiences. Parents can also incorporate the playbook’s activities into routines by utilizing the schedule boosters, which offer strategies to infuse play into everyday moments like bath time, car rides, and "waiting" times. Observing children’s learning styles during these activities helps us learn how to further tailor the experience to their individual needs, making play both fun and developmentally enriching. Better yet, observe how the children tailor the activity and how it enriches the play!

The Genius of Play’s “Let's Play - A Playbook for Kids of All Abilities” is free to download online in a digital book format. For more information about The Genius of Play, visit thegeniusofplay.org.