Play houses conceived&executed by
girls-Oklahoma School for the Blind-Lewis_Hine-1917
Kids like to play, no matter what their level of abilities. If your child is
blind or disabled it may seem a bit harder to choose the perfect toys, but
really all you need to do is think about what your child enjoys and use a little
Tips to Help You Choose the Best Toys
- Safety First: Blind babies tend to mouth their toys longer than sighted
babies so take this into consideration when choosing toys for your child.
Sometimes the age restrictions on a toy may not apply to your baby, so be
- Simple is Best: Sometimes the best toys are ones that are very simple.
Ivan's favorite toys are his ring, his stacking cups, and his wooden pegs.
These are easy for him to manipulate and they are great educational toys. Of
course, the simple toys are also the hardest to find!
- Think Beyond the Visual: Naturally you'll want to look for toys that
make sound, offer interesting textures, or even produce soothing smells. Try
to find toys that will entice your child's other senses. If your child does
have limited vision, choose high-contrast toys or toys with lights. As far
as sounds go, instruments are always a winner!
- Beware of Representations: Dolls, stuffed animals, trucks, and other
toys that represent other real-life objects can be confusing to a blind
child. Be sure to explain that the toy is not a truck, but a toy truck.
Don't expect your blind child to play with these toys right away. For
example, a little blind girl may take awhile (if ever) to cuddle her plastic
"baby" doll because she can't see that it's supposed to represent a baby.
- Is it Too Loud? Maybe it's just me, but most toys are way too loud these
days. It's as if toy manufacturers want our kids to grow up hearing impaired!
Besides looking for quieter toys when shopping, you can also mute loud toys
by placing scotch tape or even duct tape over the toy's speaker. If the tape
mutes the toy too much, try poking a hole or two through the tape until you
find the perfect volume.
- Enhance Motor Skills: Many blind children are delayed in gross and fine
motor skills. When choosing a toy for your child, try to find something that
will encourage them to move in new ways. Do they have to twist or roll to
get to the toy? Does it require fine motor hand manipulation? Find toys that
can increase your child's skills but aren't too advanced. You don't want to
frustrate your little one!
- Price: Don't pay too much for a toy. For one thing, you never know how
long your child is really going to be interested in it. Also, if the toy
seems really beneficial (but really expensive) you may be able to get a
charity, like your local Lion's Club, to cover part or all of the cost.
Finally, ask your Early Intervention Program if they have the toy on hand.
You may be able to borrow the same toy or something similar through their
Make Your Own Toy Basket!
All you really need is a basket and some toys and you're well on your way to
creating a fun and educational toy for your visually impaired baby.
to do it... Just fill a small basket with lots of fun, small,
safe toys. The tricky part is making the most educational use of the basket.
Here are some tips...
- When choosing your toys, collect ones that make different sounds, that
are interesting to feel, that have different textures (smooth, bumpy, etc),
and that are made from different materials (plastic, wood, fabric, etc).
Talk to your baby about the different sounds, textures, and materials.
- Create concrete names for each toy in the basket. For example, you may
include a "ring," a "brush," a "block," and a "rattle." Be very consistent
in naming these toys while your baby plays with them. Once your baby becomes
familiar with the names you can play a searching game where you ask your
baby to locate a particular toy, "Can you find the rattle?" Teach him how to
scan through the toys with his hands and how to identify different objects.
- Place the basket in front of your baby and encourage her to push or pull
the basket. Try to get her to knock the basket over and spill out all the
- Place the basket to the right or left of your baby and encourage him to
reach to the side. This is a great way to get your baby to rotate their
trunk (a skill they'll need in order to crawl). You can also introduce the
concepts of "left" and "right."
- Baskets are a great way to teach the concepts of "in" and "out." Have
your baby take all the toys out of the basket. Then help her put them back
- As your baby gets older, you can introduce sorting games with the toy
basket. Have your child pull out all of the different balls or all of the
rings and sort them.
- Turn the basket over. Now you can talk about how the toys are under the
- The best thing about
Ivan's toy basket is that it keeps him occupied for
quite a while (while mom gets a chance to wash the dishes or fold the
laundry). This is by far Ivan's favorite toy. We have set toys that are
always in the basket (like his ring), but we also add new toys now and then.
It's a great way to play, learn, and get in some independent time, too!
Make Your Own Scented Rattle!
It's so easy to make a rattle for your baby that also has its own unique
smell. Teach your baby about cause and effect with the sound while you teach
them about scents too! Here's the simple how-to...What You'll Need:
- small juice bottles
- hammer and nail
- scents (like cloves or cinnamon sticks)
- bells (optional)
Making Your Scented Rattle
- Clean and remove label from a small juice bottle.
- Poke holes using your hammer and nail in the lid.
- Fill your rattle about 1/4 full with cloves or cinnamon sticks. You're
Making Scents: You can also buy extracts (like vanilla, orange, or almond),
dab them on a cotton swab, and place in the rattle with a couple of small bells.
Just remember, whatever you decide to put in your rattle should be
because, as your baby chews and plays with the rattle, they'll drool into the
holes and may suck the juices back out. This is also why you'll need to
periodically clean your rattle and re-fill it with new scents.
Make Your Own Sensory Play Area
You've probably seen those play gyms for babies that hang toys above your
child as she lays on her back. These are great toys that encourage reaching and
an understanding of object permanence. But what if you could design your own
play area that would stimulate your baby's senses and make them feel safe and
willing to explore at the same time?
You could try building your very own Sensory Play Area. We'll tell you what
it is, how it works, and how to make one. We'll answer all your questions and
take you through the building process step-by-step...
What is a sensory play area?
The sensory play area is essentially a large box, often made out of PVC and
peg board, in which small objects dangle from the lid so that the baby, when
placed in the box on his back, can grab and play with the objects. The main
concept is that this is a space where the baby feels comfortable and where he
feels that he is in control. The baby can manipulate the toys and other objects
and his voice will sound louder and different in the confined space.
The rules to the play area are simple:
What is it for?
- leave baby alone in the play area so he can learn about it himself
- keep the objects in the same place so that your baby will be comfortable
and the space will be predictable
- use elastic to hang the objects so your baby can reach for an object,
play with it, and then let it return to its position
- you can also attach textured fabrics, other materials, or even lights to
the walls of your play area
The sensory play area is designed to...
- encourage reaching
- teach spatial awareness
- improve muscle tone in arms
- encourage vocalization
- teach object permanence
- teach babies that they can manipulate their environment, rather than
wait to be manipulated by adults
And the sensory play area really does work! Here is a list of firsts our son
Ivan accomplished in his play area...
- first time he vocalized and babbled consistently
- first time he reached for an object after hearing it make a sound
- first time he reached for an object without hearing a sound (he just
knew it was there)
- first time he pushed himself up while laying on his belly
- first time he rolled over
- first time he rolled over consecutively
- first time he rolled over with purpose to reach an object (on the other
side of the play area)
What do I put in my play area?
Any household objects can work in a sensory play area, from soup spoons to
slinkys. Items in the play area should...
- be of pleasure to the baby
- be graspable
- have tactile and auditory qualities
- vary in weight and temperature
- take into account the senses of smell and taste
- be visually inspiring (if your baby has any sight)
- inspire to play counting games
- be changeable in shape
- be comparable
Here are some tips:
- Think beyond simply hanging baby toys in your child's play area. When
you do use toys, don't just use plastic ones; try hanging a metal slinky
next to a plastic one so your baby can compare "alike but different" objects
and learn to make his own comparisons. Also, blind babies are sensitive to
the different temperatures of plastic vs. metal (warm vs. cold), and they
find it interesting to compare the temperatures of both items!
- Leave a little room between the hanging objects so your child doesn't
- A small bottle brush that has been wet slightly is awesome - when your
baby touches it or flicks it, a light spritz of water will gently mist him!
Eventually, you can put the dangling bottle brush in a small baby
bottle so that he can learn how to put things in and take things out, but
don't forget to keep the brush slightly wet so he gets the misting effect!
- Krinkly gold metallic tissue paper is great fun! We bunch it up and tie
elastic to the bunch.
- If your child has light perception, string Christmas lights throughout
the play area. Begin playing with the lights off. Then tell your baby that
you're about to turn the lights on and watch their face light up as the twinkly lights fill up the room!
Make Your Own Can Puzzle!
If your child struggles with fine motor skills, it can be hard for them to
grasp a block and drop it in a hole. Here is an easy project that will help them
learn this skill with only one shape and
Learning to sort shapes and drop blocks into their corresponding holes is a
skill that most children work on during their toddler years. There are many
commercial toys designed to teach this skill.
But have you ever noticed that these toys just keep getting more and more
complicated? If your child has a vision impairment or struggles with fine motor
skills, it can be hard enough for them to grasp a block and drop it in a hole
without also having to decide which hole is the proper one!
The solution to this problem is simple...make your own puzzle with only one
shape and one hole!
This is an easy project that will take you only minutes. Here's the simple
how-to...What You'll Need:
- Small can with a plastic lid
- Toy blocks
Making Your Can Puzzle
- Clean your can and remove the lid.
- Using your block as a template, mark out the shape of the block on the
lid of the can. It's a good idea to start with a circle because that's the
- Cut out the shape and place the lid back on the can. You're done!
Now with only one shape to worry about, your child can focus on learning how
to hold the block, find the can, and place the block in the hole.
Encourage your child to use both hands so they can learn to hold the block in
one hand and use the other to find the hole. This technique of using one hand to
guide the other is actually an important pre-braille skill!
Once your child has mastered circles, move on to squares, and then triangles.
Once you're feeling confident with those three shapes, get a bigger can and try
a two-shape puzzle. Now your child will have to decide which shape fits which
This is a great way to take a concept all kids are working on and make it a
bit easier so your child can work on it in stages and be more successful!
Safety Tip: If the edges of your cut-out are too sharp, you can line them
with duct tape. This may be an issue with shapes that have corners, like squares
Make Your Own Touch Book!
Ivan received a wonderful gift from his Aunty Cori...
His very own Touch Book! Since Ivan is blind and interacts with his environment
predominantly through touch and sound, Aunty Cori decided to put together a book
of textures for him to feel. You can make your own touch book, too. It's easy
and fun and can be a great gift for a visually impaired child... or anyone!
What You'll Need:
- thick pieces of cardboard cut into 14 cm x 16 cm
- hole punch
- three key-rings
- different textured materials, etc
- permanent marker
Putting Your Touch Book Together
Begin by collecting different textures from around the house. Materials
like velvet or cordoroy are fun. Leather, sandpaper, feathers, bubble wrap,
double-sided tape, or sponges all make intersting feelings, too.
Glue each texture to a piece of cardboard. Name the textures using a
permanent marker and add Braille, too.
Finally, punch holes in your pages and clip together with key-rings. You're
A Fun Twist...
Try making a Noise Book along with your
Touch Book. Use the same techniques
as above, but fill your pages with things that make sounds when you touch them,
like bells, sticks that can be hit together, bags full of beans, etc.
only limited by your imagination!