Tips and Tools for Adapting Games

By: Andrea Forsyth & Jodee Prudente

Games are a great way to get the family involved and interacting with each other. Games provide natural opportunities to practice turn-taking, communicating, and socially interacting with family members. Games allow individuals with disabilities to participate in family activities in a meaningful ways. Not only are games entertaining, but they provide a means of working on a variety of skills in a way that does not feel like work.


Many board games, as they are currently setup, are not made for those with visual and hearing impairments. Games often have complicated rules, hard to manipulate pieces, and busy boards. Some specialty companies have designed games for those with impairments, but they tend to be pricey. However, there are some easy and cheap ways to adapt games that families already own so that game night can happen without breaking the bank.

Things to keep in mind when adapting games 

  • Contrasting colors, reflective materials
  • Textures
  • Sizes of pieces, motor skills
  • Interests and ability levels

Adapting game pieces

Games frequently come with tiny pieces that are hard to manipulate. Families don't have to use these pieces. Instead, families can make their own game pieces, and even use them across different games.

  • Change pieces for larger, easier to see and grasp pieces
  • Make your own fun pieces
  • Below are two examples of game pieces made out of old medicine bottles

Adapting game boards

There are many ways to adapt and change game boards. Game boards tend to be colorful and very busy, which can be difficult for those with visual impairments to decipher where to move game pieces. Covering up busy and unnecessary sections of the board can help clarify where they focus of game play should be. Game boards are often slippery with smooth surfaces, textures can be added to define spaces for movement and to assist pieces staying in one place. Adaptions can also be made to game play. Instead of drawing cards, cards can be glued to a spinner. A larger dice may be used instead of smaller dice, or dice may be placed in a container to help with the action of rolling.

  • Add texture to pieces to help with grip, and to define different game pieces.
  • Add texture, materials such as Wikki Stix, to define spaces on the game board.
  • Add Velcro to spaces and game pieces to assist in movement
  • Make a spinner instead of drawing cards, larger or adapted dice
  • Use card holders to assist with holding cards (chip clips, bottom of egg cartons)
  • Limit busy colors of the board
  • Change (or simplify) the rules of the games
  • Create your own games
  • A game of memory can be designed with tex-tures to match or reflective colors to match. Even the number of matched pairs can be modified. 
  • Hot Potato is a great game in which any item in the household can be used. A favorite toy such as one that vibrates or lights up might be used as the “hot potato” and favorite songs used while the potato is passed.
  • Possible rule changes might be cutting game play in half for Candyland, or maybe only using the ladders and ignoring the slides in Chutes and Ladders.
  • Games can also be modified to be meaningful for the family and the child. The pieces of Guess Who can be removed and replaced with shapes or pictures of members of the family.
  • Tic-tac-toe can be modified in a variety of ways - through using different materials and different types of markers. Playing pieces can be any shape, not just X's and O's. Add items such as caps or bottles to the under-side of pieces to help with motor skills and grasping.
  • Changing the rules of game play are also a great way to include members of the family. No one will tell Milton Bradley that you changed the rules, we promise.