Learning Toys For Blind and Low Vision Kids

Learning Toys for Blind and Low Vision Kids

Many people think that because they have a blind or low vision child that there are only 'specific' learning toys that can enhance the child's learning experience. Nothing could be further from the truth!

In fact, most of the learning toys recommended by professionals who work with the blind and low vision kids recommend some of the most basic toys on the market today - things that are readily available in most every store or on-line. The idea that learning toys for blind and low vision kids must come from specialty stores or be adaptive toys is not true at all.


All Valuable Toys and Tools for Learning for Blind and Low Vision Kids

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Blocks and things that fitCrayons or paints with colorThings you can listen toMobiles and things that stimulateBoard games and things with piecesPianos and other instrumentsTrikes and scooters - things that movePuzzles and shapesStuffed animals and things of textureTrampolines and balance beamsComputersBooks of all kinds - talking and regular
Blocks and things that fit
Blocks and things that fit
Crayons or paints with color
Crayons or paints with color
Things you can listen to
Things you can listen to
Mobiles and things that stimulate
Mobiles and things that stimulate
Board games and things with pieces
Board games and things with pieces
Pianos and other instruments
Pianos and other instruments
Trikes and scooters - things that move
Trikes and scooters - things that move
Puzzles and shapes
Puzzles and shapes
Stuffed animals and things of texture
Stuffed animals and things of texture
Trampolines and balance beams
Trampolines and balance beams
Computers
Computers
Books of all kinds - talking and regular
Books of all kinds - talking and regular

Much of the concern that parents have when they are raising a blind or low vision kid is that they need some kind of unique learning toys to teach their child how to adapt to their disability.

I speak from first-hand experience that you can raise and teach a blind or low vision child just like you would a 'normal' child provided you know how to use those tools and learning toys and you understand a bit about what the child needs to learn through play.

Since almost all of these learning toys and techniques are applicable to normally sighted, legally blind, low vision, or completely blind children, it's easy to insinuate them into every day play and involve the entire family - enhancing further the independence of the blind or low vision child while ensuring a solid sense of self in the process.

What Learning Toys Are Appropriate For Blind and Low Vision Kids?

The answer to that question is quite simply just about anything and everything is appropriate for a learning toy to use with the blind or low vision child. It is all about the application and the functionality geared to the individual child and their level of visual and physical function.

What are the benefits of learning toys and play in a blind or low vision child?

Several factors come into play when a child is born blind or with limited vision. Based upon the amount of sight the child has remaining, that alters how much or how little of certain activities are helpful or instructional in shaping their skills - but it is all time well spent.

Elements to consider in the visually impaired or blind child

  • Mobility. A blind or low vision child must be able to move comfortably and most importantly safely through life. Therefore, learning toys geared at balance, movement, walking, touching, riding, even bouncing are a great way to build confidence in the visually impaired child and create a comfort zone for them later on.
  • Places, people and objects. Unlike decades ago, blind and visually impaired children are not locked away in institutions or in someone's home never to see the light of day or the world about them. From early on, these children need to know where they fit in the scope of things. My street is here, my city is here, my state is here. By using learning toys to learn various concepts of the world around them, you prepare them for their eventual entry into the world on their own. The same goes for objects and people. The more experiences they have in the larger world, the more adept they will be to meet all of life's challenges head-on.
  • Communication. Whether it is by voice, by sound, by touch, by sign language, by Braille, any child with a visual impairment or complete blindness needs to be able to learn solid and effective ways to communicate with the world around them so that again they will be ready to go into it someday unencumbered by their disability.
  • Creativity and imagination. Most blind or low vision kids don't need any help in this department but the use of learning toys encourages them to express themselves. Most blind or partially sighted children have incredibly overdeveloped senses in other areas. For instance, their sense of sound can be unbelievable. Their sense of smell is usually enhanced, and their sense of touch is incredible. Encouraging them to use their creativity and imagination can lead to wonderful results. In the instance of my son, he is a fantastic pianist. By offering him this venue for expression, creativity and imagination flourished and gave him a wonderful tool for expressing himself - and delighting others.
  • Sports and exercise. A visually impaired or even totally blind child can participate in sports or exercise! My son quite vehemently insisted that he be allowed to play sports. I wasn't happy about it at first but my husband and I quickly learned that it wasn't really our call to make. He wanted to experience it, and we allowed him to participate in whatever arenas he could - with a little help but again, learning methodology suited to his needs.
  • Social interaction. This is vital for a successful transition into adult life for the child who is visually impaired or blind. Association with people with like disabilities is also extremely important and there should be a balance of both. Many state facilities for the blind offer programs in the summer or on school breaks for both visually impaired and completely blind children so that they can go about their lives in a normal fashion and also have a period of time where they interact with people with the same disability and participate in activities specifically geared to their disability such as horseback riding, water skiing, mountain climbing, skiing, etc. My son has done them all and was a better person for all of it.

What Learning Toys Fit Which Bill?

Hearing Sense

Some wonderful toys and things to stimulate and improve a blind or visually impaired child's sense of hearing

  • Singing
  • Playing an instrument - even a toy piano - all age appropriate levels
  • Talking books (most are available free through state services and are sent to the home)
  • Toys that talk or pattern real life noises can be used as a learning tool while still being a part of play
  • "This object makes this noise" - invaluable tool for the blind or low vision child

Touch Sense

Offering a child many different textures through play toys is a great way to introduce what their hands will need to explore in the future. Most visually impaired or blind children already have a very sophisticated sense of touch but it doesn't hurt to help it along!

  • Toys that come with dials and knobs encourage the child to develop dexterity with these devices even if they are completely blind
  • Any toys that teach a child to touch and associate the stimulus with some specific thing - hot, cold, rough, smooth, wet, dry, etc. all have their place in creating a sensory touch pad in the child's brain and will serve forever as a guide
  • Finger-painting, Play-Doh, etc. - great ways to introduce textures to a blind or low vision child and encourage touch as a medium to navigate through life

Creativity Sense

Creativity comes in many forms and can be enhanced through reading, music, math - basically any activity that involves learning and/or expressing yourself.

  • Crafts are an excellent learning toy for the blind or visually impaired child
  • Learning to read whether it is by large print books, talking books, or Braille - it opens the world to the visually impaired or blind child
  • Music is an excellent form of expression and even early on musical instruments of any form can be introduced
  • Singing or vocalizing is also a wonderful way for children to express themselves whether sighted or not
  • Dance is another 'toy' or tool as it encourages creativity and also is great for movement and balance
  • Gymnastics is another great tool - as simple as walking on a low balance beam teaches them fluidity of movement and also balance
  • Games that stimulate thinking and reasoning such as matching games, word games, number games - these all enhance the child's ability to think and learn

Visual Sense

If a child is totally blind, obviously this sense will be absent. In the low vision or visually impaired child, however, just because a child has low vision doesn't mean that their vision cannot be stimulated. (Of note, a legally blind or severely visually impaired child may balk at the stimulus or the learning toys but it is actually helping rather than hurting - it is a necessary evil to achieve better results long term.)

  • Bright colors stimulate and improve visual perceptions. As early as infancy, brightly colored mobiles that move and turn should be introduced
  • Visually 'busy' books such as Richard Scarry books actually help a low vision child focus
  • Toys such as peg in hole, stacking blocks, Lego's, etc., while at first may seem frustrating are excellent training tools and teach the visually impaired child (and even the blind child in this instance) how to look/touch and fit things together. It is actually teaching the child a survival skill for later in life
  • Toys like Lite-Brite - things that stimulate the child to look and focus on the lights or colors, patterns

Motor Development

Due to a loss of sight or poor vision, many children shy away from participating in physical activities. This is one of the most important things you can do for these children - improve their physical awareness, balance and coordination.

  • Trikes, bicycles, big wheels, pogo sticks, bouncy balls, trampolines, etc. They all have their place and of course under the careful supervision of parents or professionals until the child has mastered the skills. Physical participation is a wonderful gift to a blind or partially sighted child because even if they struggle with it and can't be as 'good' as someone else, it will inevitably make them a more independent person in the future.
  • Walking, running, swimming, tumbling - these things may appear to be a challenge for these children but in the long run, it will serve them well. I watched completely blind athletes doing track at the Washington State School for the Blind and it was amazing!
  • Action toys or any toys that stimulate motor movement from grasping and releasing to playing on monkey bars - as long as the child is taught to do these things and is supervised until they have mastered it, it is a huge bonus for the future
  • Any sports team activity that works for the child at whatever level of visual impairment they have. My son was able to ski, bowl, play soccer, water ski, horseback ride, etc but it was all with appropriate instruction and guidance - and education on the part of kids and parents in team sports (such as 'man on at 10 o'clock' in soccer)

Daily Living Skills and Socialization

The main goal is for the totally blind or low vision child to achieve independence in adulthood. If the child is brought up using learning toys and embracing situations where he or she feels successful and learns the skills that are necessary to survive, total independence will be the end result.

  • Games or scenarios that depict normal routines - visually impaired and blind children need interaction just like other kids. They need preschools, they need play dates, they need to feel totally normal
  • Use puppets and dolls to reenact situations or encourage socialization skills and reinforce sharing behaviors
  • Acclimate your child with games or contests about where you are, how you get from here to there, what would you do if
  • Games or creative situations can be used as tools to teach the child how to do simple daily chores and making sure that the child grows up knowing how to do them - always stressing the blind or visually impaired child is part of a team (I taught Pat to do his own laundry early on and used the exercise to show him how knobs and gadgets worked)
  • Including a pet in the household can be a terrific 'toy' or learning tool because it teaches the blind or visually impaired child much about interacting. It also brings joy and unconditional love into their life, and it also helps eliminate fears
  • Example: Treasure hunting on an ocean shore can be a wonderful way to creatively use 'toys' such as smell, touch, visual scanning and even movement (jumping waves, etc).

Summing It Up

Having a child who is born blind or low vision can stretch one's mind as to how best to go forward as far as learning goes - but you will always find a silver lining in sharing your life with these special children.  Whether you are a parent or a teacher, friend or relative, there are simple toys, games, and techniques that you can employ that will result in only positives - for you and for the child.

Employing learning toys as a teaching platform for a blind or low vision kid is much like teaching a child any skill.  You just have to be able to perceive how best to enhance their learning experience and bring out their strengths and learn what senses you can tap. 

Visually impaired and blind children are unique because they have so many components to make up for their sight.  My son has always been my inspiration because he truly only wants to be like everyone else and experience everything.  While it would have been easy to 'protect' him or think he had limitations, I am grateful that he had the bravery to enjoy life to its fullest and he did not let his lack of sight define him. 

I give him all the credit in the world for being so marvelous - but I do think part of the success was that we all tried to incorporate his learning experiences and turned it into a family thing.  We did not set him apart but rather we all participated.  We found new ways of doing things. 

Adaptation is better by far than isolation.  Even today at almost 32, he refuses to wear the label of handicapped.  That is a great success story!

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Comments 15 comments

akirchner profile image

akirchner 3 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Hi Desperate--sounds like the little guy might need some type of therapy for something like autism. Most kids who have low vision enjoy music and sound though they can be very sensitive to it but not quite like that. I'd look into movement therapies or therapy for kids with autism? Wishing you both well.


Desperate 3 years ago

I work with a fourth grader, he is very low functioning, blind, hears a little, wears pull ups, and stomps when he walks. When he hears other children talking in the halls he drops on the floor and cover his ears. Honestly the days are long for both of us because I don't do much with him. He enjoys music, I walk him and change his pull up.


daviddwarren22 profile image

daviddwarren22 5 years ago

Very useful hub!Glad to visit this page.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Any types of toys that are tactile, or used by touch like any toys that have to do with shapes, building blocks, rubber balls, stuffed animals, balls. Also motion things for 1-2 year olds with assistance such as bikes, trikes, swings. Basically, you use normal toys but then you modify your technique for the blind. Whereas a sighted child might be able to see a ball rolling towards them and stop it, the blind child will need some encouragement as to when it is coming, etc. You just train them to do things a normal child would do but in their own way - and believe me, they'll figure out their own way and probably surprise you each and every time. Losing sight makes them super aware of their other senses and they have an amazing sonar built right in.

Hope that helps!


eisya 5 years ago

what types of toy is suitable for blind child 1-2 ages


Lynn Gordon, Ph.d 6 years ago

Hi,

You might want to consider carrying my new phonics instruction book, "The Big Collection of Phonics Flipbooks" in your low vision online store. The hands-on flipbooks are VERY large print and are terrific for teaching beginning reading to children with low vision. The book also comes with 21 phonics assessments.

Here is a link to my book on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Big-Collection-Phonics-Flipb...

You can contact the publisher, Scholastic, if you wish to order a copy or become a reseller. Call (800) 242-7737 or visit Scholastic.com

Warmly,

Lynn Gordon

***************************************

Lynn Gordon, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Department of Elementary Education

California State University, Northridge

***************************************


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks for commenting, Katie! Hoping so!


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

Very good resource, this learning toys for blind and low vision kids is a great place to learn great and helpful activities. Peace :)


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks Shellie for stopping by - that was a great phrase - opened my eyes! They are just like the rest of us and I do think in retrospect, no matter how painful it was to watch Pat 'be normal' - it was really for the best!


theherbivorehippi profile image

theherbivorehippi 6 years ago from Holly, MI

Wow...how interesting this all is. I've never thought much about this topic so true that they should have all the toys, opportunities and athletic abilities offered to them. What a great hub. You certainly opened my eyes on the topic!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks, Spanky - it's all a learning experience no matter what you are doing in life. Even better if you can apply it somewhere!

Hello, hello - thanks so much for reading and commenting. My son made it all very easy as he is just a wonderful person and he was a great kiddo!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for such a wonderful, informative and helpful hub. I admire you for doing such a great job and care so much.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Buckwheat, this is an awesome and useful hub! Bet it educates a lot of readers!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks for stopping by, Sandy!


Sandyspider profile image

Sandyspider 6 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

Wonderful hub on toys for the blind kids.

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