Hasbro creates instructional videos, tools to help children with disabilities learn to play

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Toymakers at Hasbro don’t want Mr. Potato Head to end up at the bottom of toy boxes, simply because children with developmental disabilities don’t know how to play with him.

Hasbro Inc. has partnered with The Autism Project, a group of parents and professionals that help people with autism to create instructional videos and tools to help children with developmental disabilities learn how to play with their toys.

The Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based toy company will launch the “ToyBox Tools” initiative on Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio at a national conference on autism and disabilities, OCALICON 2014.

Parents and caregivers can access the tools for eight of Hasbro’s classic toys for free online at the ToyBox Tools website. The series of Mr. Potato Head videos introduce children to the toy, explain how to assemble him in creative ways and show how to play with him with other children.

Karen Davis, the senior vice-president of global philanthropy and social impact at Hasbro, said that knowing how to play with these toys may not be intuitive for children with developmental disabilities, including autism. Three engineers at the company thought of the idea, she said, so every child can “experience the joy of play.”

About 15 per cent of children in the United States have a developmental disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“To be able to help this group of kids means an awful lot to us,” Davis said Tuesday. “We’re really looking forward to seeing where this goes.”

Joanne Quinn, executive director of The Autism Project, said ToyBox Tools will have a “huge impact” because parents will feel more empowered to play with their children, and children will learn how to play at their own pace and learn important life skills.

Parents and teachers sometimes write out instructional materials for toys or show videos of other kids playing, but no one has collected everything in one place for everyone to use, she added.

“Hasbro has given us such a platform to help so many families, it’s fantastic,” Quinn said.

Davis said Hasbro hopes to get suggestions from the experts at the conference to improve the online resources. Hasbro may develop similar videos and printed instructions for more toys in the future, she added.