Play and recreation are key to children in the early years. Children learn through play and toys are very much designed to be aesthetically interesting, which in turn generates an interest to engage with the toy. It is important to promote hands on or kenetic learning with a child who has a visual impairment. Also, you must consider a full sensory experience for the child and make sure you incorporate activities or toys which are stimulating to the other senses. The skills that are learnt through play can be transferred to other aspects of the child’s life and can help to develop an understanding of the world and promote interaction and social skill development.
“85% of early learning is visual. Typically sighted babies observe the people and the events around them for weeks before they reflect back a smile or reach for an object. Young children with visual impairments miss out on receptive visual learning and often have significant cognitive gaps in their understanding of how the world works.”
Here is an ultimate resource sheet bringing together all the best toddler play related information from across the world wide web!
This great post from Amber from Wonderbaby.org explores all of her son Ivan’s favourite toddler toys. From tactile to musical, Ivan certainly has great taste when it comes to what he likes to play with. This article also gives a direct link back to where you can purchase each item and also discusses the developmental benefits for the toys!
The RNIB offer a great online toy shop for children who are blind and partially sighted. You can buy the toys direct from the website and support the RNIB at the same time! These toys pay particular attention to all of the senses and include musical puzzles and scented doughs!
If you are interested in finding something a bit more customised for your child with the emphasis being placed on education Gwyn from Positive Eye has a whole host of resources for children who are blind or have low vision. In particular I really like Gwyn’s take on flash cards, she uses clear and distinct images and real life correlating objects. Click here to the video demonstrating the Everyday Object Picture Cards. Although some of the products on the website are designed for the use of practitioners there are also many things you as parents can use with your child at home to reinforce learning.
- If your child has sensory issues similar to Scarlett, then her 4th Birthday present pile may be a good guide for what to get your sensory seeking child, to read what I got her that year click here!
- There has to be some additional considerations made when buying toys for a toddler who has a visual impairment. If you would like to read about my Toy Buying Top Tips then click here!
- Cecily Morrison, throughscarlettseyes.com website author has some great tips on how she uses her house as a therapy toy to aid her son Ronan’s development. If you want to read more about how she does this then click here!
- If you have some concerns about your child and their ability to ‘play’ or interact with toys then it may be worth contacting the Portage Association. Portage is a home-visiting educational service for pre-school children with additional support needs and their families.
The Portage model of learning is characterised by the following attributes:
- regular home visiting;
- supporting the development of play, communication, relationships, and learning for young children within the family;
- supporting the child and family’s participation and inclusion in the community in their own right;
- working together with parents within the family, with them taking the leading role in the partnership that is established;
- helping parents to identify what is important to them and their child and plan goals for learning and participation;
- keeping a shared record of the child’s progress and other issues raised by the family;
- responding flexibly to the needs of the child and family when providing support;
- Cause and effect toys:
Scarlett was very driven by cause and effect toys and took much pleasure out of pressing the buttons and getting feedback she could hear. This means we bought and still use many of the toys from the 18-24 month age group. Once your child finds a sound they like they will play with these for hours! It is a bit trail and error so it may be worth trying to find a toy lending library first to test out which will be their favourites.
If your child has problems with being overwhelmed by sound when out in busy or unfamiliar environments then hand held versions of such toys are always a good idea to keep with you, allowing the child to access the sounds by operating the toys are a great way to restore calm!
- Musical toys:
Scarlett like many children who have a visual impairment just loves music and instruments have always been a firm favourite of Scarlett’s. They are great for providing great audio feedback and can be used in addition to learning, fine motor skills and songs can be used to aid speech and language development and literacy. When Scarlett was assessed by Sally Zimmerman from the RNIB she recommended that we purchase Scarlett ‘real’ musical instruments rather than the toy replicas as the sound provided is much richer and also the operation will be much better for fine motor development. If you would like to read more about Scarlett and her assessment then please click here!
- Gross motor toys:
Scarlett has always been a massive fan or moving around and rough and tumble! I think thee best thing we ever bought her was a trampoline, originally we started with the small indoor type with a handle and slowly progressed up to the big 12ft one we have in our garden. She also likes anything that promotes rocking and shaking. so see-saws and swing are also a fantastic source of stimulation for Scarlett. If you would like to read more about why children like to spin/rock/bounce please click here, this post was written by a fellow parents about her daughter Ellie and the science behind Vestibular Stimulation.
Messy play and sensory activities are particularly important in the toddler years, the benefits from such activities create skills that can be easily transferred into everyday life as your child gets older, plus it is lots of fun!
If you want to read more about how messy play can benefit self feeding skills when your child is older please click here.
If you want to read more about the importance of messy play and how you can introduce it to your home then please click here! This article was provided by qualified teacher for the visually impaired and a trustee from the CVI society, Janet Harwood.
If you want more ideas than you know what to do with regards to using messy play and creative activities at home please follow this Facebook group, Playful Explorations for children with a visual impairment.
I hope you have found this useful and if you have any suggestions about how you promote play at home with your own toddler please do get in touch, firstname.lastname@example.org.