Parents are always looking for something fun (and preferably educational) for children to do, but it can be difficult to find projects or outings that are appropriate for a young child who is blind. So we adapt the activities that we find online, ask our friends for ideas and make up some of our own. Here are some ideas for you to try with your child.
- Park: If there’s a nice park or playground nearby, then you’ll want to head out and try the slides and swings. Ivan has so much fun at the park, but I must admit that it can get boring pretty quickly for us parents. We need a little more variety.
- Picnics: Anything that involves eating works for Ivan. A picnic at the park is a pleasant change.
- Slip ‘n Slide: If you don’t have any water parks (or beaches) nearby, you might want to try getting a Slip ‘n Slide for your yard. They’re easy to set up and if your child doesn’t like cold water, you could always connect the hose to an indoor sink and pump in some warm water instead.
- Sponge ball: you can have fun throwing a home-made sponge ball around the yard.
- Visit a Farm: Farms are suitable places to learn about trees, plants and animals. Many farms have child-friendly programs with petting zoos or pick-your-own days where you can pick fruits and veggies yourself.
- Ball Pit: Ball pits are easy to make and you can play with them inside or outside. Just fill up an inflatable baby pool with plastic balls and you’re all set. If you want to stay inside, you can put the balls in your bathtub.
- Playing with Fans: Sitting in front of a fan can be a fun game too. It’s cool and Ivan likes to feel the breezes. We tied ribbons and a couple small balloons to our fan so Ivan can feel how the wind moves them around. Ed: This should hopefully take place under close supervision – beware of fingers getting caught.”
- Making Ball Soup: Get a big pot, fill it with water and throw in some plastic balls. Now you’re making ball soup! We give Ivan big wooden spoons and a ladle to mix his soup and he enjoys putting his hands in cold water on a hot day.
Small children play outside with cups around a bay bath filled with water. They are supervised by an adult .
- Playing with jelly: Make some jelly following package directions and have it set in a shallow cookie sheet. When it’s done you have a big, cold slippery surface that can be fun to touch or even dig into. Try hiding some toys in the jelly and see if your child can find them!
- Texture Balloons: This is one of our favourite texture games. Fill balloons with different textures (like flour or beans) and see if you can guess what’s inside.
- Finger Paint with Food: Want to get messy and try some painting but your child puts everything in his mouth? Well, then, why not finger paint with applesauce and pudding?
- Make a Touch Book: Touch books are fun ways to highlight different textures. Use objects you have lying around the house (like foil, tape or fabric remnants) and glue to the pages of your very own book.
Touch & Feel Book for Babies & Toddlers
- Music Games: Music therapy is a very specific way to use music to encourage development. You may not be a music therapist, but you can play musical games that are fun and developmentally appropriate for your child.
- Make Musical Instruments: Making your own musical instruments is part arts and crafts and part music, all rolled into one.
- Story Boxes: Grab a book with lots of items described in it, collect those items in a box and then read the story to your child while touching the items.
- Can Puzzle: You can make your own can puzzle by cutting holes in the top of a coffee can in the shapes of your child’s blocks. This way you can control how easy or how difficult the puzzle is.
- Themed Sensory Bins: Sensory bins are trays or plastic boxes filled with items that all relate to each other. Our newest bin, for example, is filled with sand, some seashells and rocks, small buckets and a shovel. What’s the theme? The beach! Sensory bins are really only limited by your imagination.
- A Sensory Corner: This activity centre is made out of peg-board and decorated with toys varying in texture and ones that also play music. Children who are blind, physically limited or highly distractible may not independently explore their “regular” environment. They may benefit from specialized activity centres.
Example of a Busy board with various activities for toddlers
- Activity centres concentrate a variety of stimulating items in a small space with clear boundaries.
- Activity centres can be made to put on the floor, to rest on a tabletop, to attach to a single wall or to fill a whole corner of a room from floor to ceiling.
DIY Toddler Busy Board
- An activity centre can be built out of wood, plastic or cardboard. The corner structure reflects sound and defines the limits of the exploration area.
- Shelves and various shaped hiding places can be built into the structure.
- Pegboard can be combined with the cardboard so that interesting items can be bolted in place.
- Remember, when constructing your activity centre that it is important to have easy access to the back of the centre in order to change or repair mounted items.
- Items in an activity centre need to maximize stimulation and motivation. An auditory-tactile play space needs items that have interesting sounds and textures. Carefully vary the “things” you choose to put in the activity centre:
- Include some heavy and some light Items
- Include some rough, soft, smooth, sticky and tickly items
- Include some items with moveable parts
- Light-weight plastic materials can be boring. Wood, metal or cloth items can feel a lot more interesting
- Household items are often more interesting than toys
- Examples of specific items for activity corners include: Chains, egg Beaters, slinkies, springs, spinners, bells, rattles, Sticks, scented Bean Bags, brushes, magnets, velcroed Items, hanging Cords, pocketbooks, musical Keyboards, dolls or stuffed animals.
- It’s all right if the end result looks a bit cluttered. What appears to be an overwhelming jumble is an accessible and stimulating set of choices for exploration! When children are motivated to explore their environment they often push themselves beyond their normal limits. The following are examples of actions and their therapeutic benefits:
- Reaching above shoulder height to find fun items can improve shoulder stability and extension patterns.
- Playing with items on a vertical surface enhances wrist extension.
- Playing with items that can only be reached from a standing position increases standing tolerance and improves weight bearing.
- Sitting on a T-stool or therapy ball while exploring materials improves automatic balance responses.
- Searching for favourite items in remembered locations develops spatial relationships.
- Baking a cake:
Getting your child in the kitchen is a great way to introduce important concepts and get your hands dirty, too.
What you’ll need:
- Cake mix and ingredients
- All of your measuring spoons and bowls at the ready
- Lots of patience!
Here are some tips to help make this a fun and rewarding experience:
- Start by washing your hands. Whenever you can get in a good lesson on hygiene and daily living skills, go for it!
- Have all your ingredients and utensils ready so you won’t have to get up during the fun. Better yet, have your child move about the kitchen with you before you get started and help you find all the things you’ll need.
- Have your child help with as many of the steps as possible. The more he gets his hands in the batter or feels the eggs crack open, the better he’ll understand what a cake really is.
- Don’t worry about making a mess! Set everything on the floor and even lay out an old sheet for an easy clean up afterwards.
- Let your child touch all the ingredients. This can be a little scary for some kids who don’t like to touch sticky or gooey things, but it’s also a great way to start to desensitize their tactile defensiveness. Just be patient and encouraging!
- Add the eggs last. Eggs can carry salmonella, a dangerous bacterium when eggs are raw, so if you want to let your child taste the batter (and trust me, you do), then you should add the eggs at the last possible moment, or consider using an egg replacement product, like Egg Replacer.
- Don’t forget about the last steps. Have your child help you turn on the oven and feel the heat. Ivan really enjoys feeling how hot the cake is when it’s done and feeling the steam escape when the cake is first cut.
- Baking is a great social experience because we so often cook for our families. If you can, invite friends or family over to help you eat the cake. Ivan loves sharing his cakes with his family!