If ever we needed a snow day, it’s now. 

The pristine white, the cushioned quiet, the calm, and for the kids (and the kid in all of us) the magical play. 

For many, it’s not as simple as putting on snow gear and heading out the door. That’s especially true for those who use wheelchairs. 

Most wheelchairs are not made for the snow. Winter wheelchairs are extremely expensive. So what do you do if you want to get outside and enjoy this winter wonderland?

When a mother asked an online support group for ideas so her husband, who uses a manual wheelchair, could play with their children in the snow; it was a reminder of yet another area where we need to do better with inclusion. So, the Center for Family Involvement compiled those ideas and added a few their own. The answers apply to kids of all ages, from 0 to 144. 

KEEP IT SIMPLE: For when you want to stay local 

  • Use sand toys to make an igloo.
  • Fill squirt guns with food coloring or diluted washable paint to color the snow and inevitably each other.
  • Food coloring in spray water bottles to do snow artwork. 
  • Snow cones! Mix snow with simple or maple syrup and a little food dye for your own creations.
  • Snow figures. Make whatever patterns in the snow that you can. 
  • Snow ball fight. Allow the person in the wheelchair to set the rules.
  • Scavenger hunt where you point out items on an outing rather than collecting them.
  • Snow volleyball. Bouncing a ball back and forth is fun, snow or not. 
  • Colorful ice and snow castles: Color snow or freeze ice into shapes and have a table top competition. 
  • Shovel a pathway to create an accessible obstacle course. 
  • If the person using the wheelchair likes to take charge, they could plan an obstacle course and then judge those who complete it. Stopwatch optional.
  • Blowing bubbles can be surprisingly fun in the snow. 
  • Accessible snow fort/igloo. Make a snow fort that is accessible so the person using the wheelchair can roll in. 
  • Make it rain. On super cold days, an adult can throw very hot water into the air and watch it freeze as it falls to the ground. 
  • Play dolls or figurines. This can be done on a table top and is so fun in the snow. Bonus if the dolls are wet and kids get to feel how brittle their hair and clothes get when they freeze.
  • Snowperson decorating. Let everyone else do the heavy lifting and save the corncob pipe and button nose for last. 
Angele West in her wheelchair in the snow
The CFI’s Angela West.

THE GREAT INDOORS: For those who want or need to enjoy winter from the warmth of home

  • Bring the snow inside, placing it on a waterproof table cloth or in a table top kiddie pool and create!
  • Get scientific and watch the snow transform from slush into water.
  • Make snowballs and put them in the freezer to save for a day where it’s warmer and easier to get out.
  • Inside snowball fight. You can buy cottony snowballs online or roll up socks to enjoy this winter pastime from the warmth and comfort of your home. 
  • Sled inside! If you have hard floors pull each other on blankets. Carpets – use a plastic sled or bag.
  • Tape paper snowflakes and snow people on the windows. 
  • Build an indoor fort with boxes and pillows.
  • Fireplace s’mores!
Angela West skating in her wheelchair at an ice rink
The CFI’s Angela West at an ice rink.

ADAPT AND MODIFY: There are awesome ways to play if you are a snowbird

  • SLEDDING: There are quite a few options out there for sledding. You can search for an adaptive sled that fits your needs. Kick sledding is another way to get moving outside. If this is too pricey or you want to try it out before making the investment, check with local disability organizations or area physical therapists to see if they have something you can try before you buy. You could also reach out to other wheelchair users and see if you could go in on something together and share it.
  • ADAPTIVE SPORTS: Adaptive programs are amazing and truly accommodate to the needs and wants of each person. Wintergreen is a popular resort in Virginia that offers a wide range of fun for all abilities.
  • ICE SKATING: There are ways to skate with proper supports in place. Reach out to local rinks to see if they offer time for those with disabilities to get on the ice. If they don’t have any, encourage them to start now!
  • SKI BLADES: “Wheelblades” are a thing. While there are lots of options, they can be expensive and might not work for all chairs. If you spend a lot of time outside, these could be worth exploring and seeing if insurance will cover it. 


What are your tips for making snow play accessible? Tell us in the comments?


We have staff and volunteers on hand to provide emotional or informational support. Reach out to our helpline and someone will get in touch with you within 24 hours.

Call: (877) 567-1122 

Email cfihelpline@vcu.edu 

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