Accessible family activities for Christmas at home

Coronavirus means that many of us will be spending Christmas at home this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some good old-fashioned fun with the family. There are plenty of accessible family activities to keep you entertained over the festive period – here are six of the best. 

Get creative with arts and crafts

Xmas activities with paint and glitter

There’s tonnes of arts and crafts activities to entertain big and little kids alike this Christmas. With so many options on the table – from making Christmas cards to tye-dying, marbling to finger painting, sewing to pottery – there’s something to suit every level and access need. There are lots of useful websites where you can buy accessible equipment and access learning resources for your craft, as well as watching useful tutorials. Visit the RNIB online for ideas for blind and partially sighted creatives, plus links to fact sheets, equipment and disabled artists’ websites; search Living Made Easy for adaptive equipment; and browse Accessible Arts and Media for a range of inclusive creative workshops – including plenty of arts and crafts (as well as music making and creative sensory activities) – all hosted online at the moment and perfect for a Christmas spent at home. Don’t forget that arts and crafts can be an excellent outlet and form of expression, as well as helping practice mindfulness and honing concentration skills. 

Play a board or card game

Games can be the perfect Christmas gift!

There can be no argument: Christmas and games go together like Santa and Rudolph. But board and card games can sometimes be difficult for people with disabilities: text can be small and hard to decipher, small tokens and board-game elements can be tricky to hold and move, a hand of cards can be testing to fan and arrange, and many games require complex reasoning and memory skills. Thankfully, there are plenty of board and card games to choose from, so you can find one that’s suitable for you and your loved ones, while there are several adaptive options on the market, too. The website Meeple Like Us is a good place to start: it analyses a vast number of board games on various accessibility points, with a function that allows users to input all their additional access needs to find the perfect board game. Then there’s tactile chess, backgammon, draughts and dominoes available from the RNIB shop; Living Made Easy produces a range of accessible playing cards, from large cards to playing-card holders; while the Dyslexia shop sells large tactile spotted dice. If video games are more up your street, SpecialEffect is an invaluable charity that helps make gaming technology accessible for people with a range of disabilities, from pioneering modified joypads and eye-control technology to providing remote support.  

Cosy up with a book

Best books for Christmas 2020

There’s nothing like curling up in front of a roaring fire with a juicy book at Christmas, whether you’re a toddler or an OAP. Books come in all different shapes, sizes and genres, from tactile board books to digital eBooks, simple stories to large tomes, crime thrillers to magical realism. Technology has helped make reading more and more accessible in recent years, with a range of positive developments including text-to-speech tools, refreshable Braille, screen magnifiers and on-screen eye-gaze and motion trackers. Books now come in a range of audible formats, while kindles and other lightweight eReaders can help those with impaired motor skills to hold their books and read without the need to turn physical pages. If you’re looking for an accessible book, the Accessible Books Consortium is a good place to start; the RNIB bookshare scheme is another enterprise worth looking into. 

Watch a Christmas show from the sofa

Christmas magic on the small screen

Though cancellations have been rife this year – with Christmas markets, shows and pantomimes all getting the chop in light of the coronavirus pandemic – several productions have moved online so you can enjoy them from the comfort of your own home. One to watch is Panto Online’s Jack and the Beanstalk, launched by Blue Peter legend Peter Duncan and filmed in his own back garden. All the proceeds go to a series of charities and youth projects, including POhWER, a charity that empowers people living with disabilities, illness and social exclusion to find a voice. Jack and the Beanstalk doesn’t contain any of the flashing lights and loud noises that are typically removed for sensory-friendly shows and relaxed performances on set. And given the whole show is online, you can change the volume and pause as needed. 

If you’re after a carol concert to watch at home, why not choose one where the proceeds go towards a good cause: try Carols in the City at home, raising money for Marie Curie nurses (Monday 7 December), or Virtual Carols at Christmas, run by the Alzheimer’s society.

Relax with a puzzle

A puzzle is a great mind-focusing activity, with the benefit that you can take a pause and come back to it throughout the holiday. Relaxing and soothing, puzzles come in all shapes and sizes, including 3D varieties. They are likely to help develop motor, memory and concentration skills, and can easily be done at any height using a table and chair of your choice. The non-profit Active Minds has developed a series of puzzles for those living with dementia, while Living Made Easy offers a handy jigsaw-board stand and chunky puzzles with easy-to-handle pieces. If you’d rather get digital, the Jigsaw App means you can move to a lightweight device and choose from small, medium and large pieces. Pieces snap into place, too, which will help those with limited motor skills. 

Try your hand at potato golf

Potato golf is an accessible game endorsed by the NHS website; the premise is simple, and it can easily be set up at home. Simply lay out a series of dishes and bowls on the kitchen table, at different distances from the participants. Each player is then given a spoon and some small potatoes and tasked with getting their potatoes into the “holes” in as few “strokes” as possible. It’s the perfect way to while away a rainy December afternoon – you could even swap potatoes for baubles to add a festive twist.

Image Credits

Rough Guides would like to thank the following individuals, companies and picture libraries for their kind permission to reproduce their photographs (in order of appearance on the web page):

Arts and crafts: Eleonora_os/Shutterstock

Board games: Jaren Jai Wicklund/Shutterstock

Reading a book: Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock

Jack and the Beanstalk:

Puzzle: Elnur/Shutterstock

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