Toys for Blind Children
How to Find Toys for Blind Children
Take a trip through any toy store and you will find row after row of toys designed for visual appeal to children. The toys are brightly colored or cute, but they do not offer much else in the way of sensory appeal. Where can you find toys that will appeal to a child who cannot see?
A few companies produce toys and games specifically made for visually impaired children. I will introduce these here.
In addition to toys specifically made for blind kids, there are a number of commercially available toys that are appealing to them right out of the box. I will spotlight those here also.
Finally, there are toys that can be made accessible to visually impaired children with a few easy adaptations, and I will also show you those.
This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but I plan to offer suggestions and ideas that may get you started on your quest to find appropriate and fun toys for blind and visually impaired kiddos.
Swings & Climbing Equipment
Swing Sets for the Vestibular Stimulation Blind Children Need
Vestibular stimulation is important to the healthy development of a child's brain and central nervous system. Blind and visually impaired children often do not receive enough exercise or vestibular stimulation. Sighted children get this kind of stimulation by running, turning their heads to look at things and all the different kinds of movement that a sighted child does during the day. Kids who cannot see get a fraction of these movement experiences.
Swinging and playing on climbing equipment is a good way for blind youngsters to receive the stimulation that their brains need to develop optimally. Swinging is calming and helps the nervous system to organize itself. If your little one is anxious or high strung, fidgety, or has problems processing information, swinging may help.
Most visually impaired children can benefit from having daily opportunities to swing.
Swing sets can also facilitate social relationships by giving children activities they can do together.
Dog Guide and White Cane - For Your Child's Blind Dolls
This plush dog guide comes with a harness and white cane. Fits 16" dolls. This one appears to be a yellow lab. We have one that is a German shepherd. He is greatly popular with my daughter's visually impaired friends.
Click on the photo for more information or to purchase this dog guide.
Toys Every Blind Child Should Have - (or at least have access to on a regular basis)
- A swingset, with at least a swing and a sliding board.
- A variety of musical instruments including a piano or keyboard and drums.
- Playdough or modeling clay.
- Swimming pool or wading pool.
- A CD collection, in a variety of genres, and a CD player.
- A radio.
- A tape recorder and tapes, or a digital voice recorder.
If you live in a climate where swinging outdoors is not always feasible, consider making a place indoors for your child to swing. When my daughter was younger, we turned our basement family room into a sensory room. This was a great way for all of the children to play, get exercise and get their energy out during the cold winter months.
The Rainy Day Indoor Playground listed below is great, because you can remove the swing it comes with and replace it with various other devices, such as trapezes, rings, gliders or chairs to curl up in. If you have a doorway this will go in, I highly recommend this toy.
More Vestibular Stimulation
These toys are all fun for blind children and provide much-needed vestibular stimulation.
My daughter had the earlier version of this toy when she was a toddler and preschooler. She enjoyed it into the early elementary years when she outgrew it. The addition of music and lights makes this version of the traditional Sit 'n Spin especially suitable for young blind children.
Swing, Twist, and Spin without a tangled rope! 6' weather-resistant rope is safe for outdoor and indoor use. Super Tough! UV stable, plastic spinner bar. Parents can easily attach the twist and twirl spinner bar to a tree limb, swing set, or other support and watch kids grab the handles, push off, and smile. Great fun, great exercise, tough and resilient, a classic product for all seasons.
A swing on a giant spring. Needs to hang from a high place with a lot of room to get going. Child can sit on disc or stand for more leverage. My daughter has had one of these for a few years and still enjoys it at age 13.
A great swing for the little ones. Very sturdy swing, gives baby the sensation of flying through the air.
It is a myth to say that all blind children are musically gifted, but it is true that everyone can benefit from experiences with music education. Blind kids usually enjoy music, and exposure to music has been shown to develop the parts of the brain responsible for understanding mathematics.
Give your child the gift of music!
My daughter had this set as a preschooler, and these instruments remained favorites for years. For quite some time the maracas went everywhere she did. Now, at age 13, she is a gifted percussionist. You never know where early exposure might lead!
Little ones can enjoy this set of rhythm instruments as soon as they can grasp the handles. My daughter also had this set as a toddler. I think a few of them are still around in her hand instrument collection.
A fun way to learn pitch.
My daughter had one of these accordions and played it so much she wore it out, then asked for another one. This is an extremely fun musical toy for a young child who likes music. It is the right size to fit the hands of a child between the ages of about 4 and 8 years.
Playdough & Fine Motor Development
Playing with clay helps strengthen the muscles in the hands and fingers necessary to operate the brailler. Blind youngsters should have daily opportunities to play with clay in order to strengthen their hands and develop their fine motor coordination.
Great for building finger strength and dexterity.
Hide coins, buttons or other small items in the clay for the child to find. Supervise closely. Start with soft putty and build up to the firmer consistency.
Sound Puzzles - Fine Motor Coordination and Auditory Discrimination
Swimming Pools & Water Play
Blind children need to learn how to swim. This is a matter of physical safety, if someone falls into the water they need to have the skills to be safe.
Teaching a blind child to swim can be challenging. Never having seen anyone swim, the concept of stretching out horizontally on the surface of the water can be confusing and frightening.
My daughter learned to swim at the state school for the blind, even while she was still a student at our local public school. For more information about swimming lessons, contact the physical education department at a school for the blind near you.
If you cannot get a full-sized pool for your backyard, consider a wading pool for your child to splash in during the hot summer months.This helps your child develop comfort with being in the water, so that learning to swim is much less traumatic. Moving in water is an excellent sensory experience, as well as being good exercise. A swimming pool also facilitates social relationships if you can have friends over to swim.
We have gotten this pool a few summers and found it very enjoyable. It holds a number of children at a time, or gives one child room to "swim" back and forth in shallow water.
Accessible CD Players & Radios
Find a CD Player and Radio on eBay - A Favorite Toy for Blind Children
Having an accessible CD player and radio opens up the world of music to blind children. Many stereo systems can be challenging for younger blind children to understand. Look for a player that does not have an LED screen, and where the buttons and controls may be brailled to facilitate learning.
Some of Our Favorite Music
Expose your child to a variety of music. Aim for high quality music, and not only the commercial music marketed for children. Try to expose your child to a broad spectrum of musical genres.
Audio Books for Blind Children
Audio books can be a wonderful choice for blind children. Listening to recorded books develops listening skills which is a crucial life skills for visually impaired people.
To develop reading ability, pair an audio book with a braille copy of the same book so the child can follow along.
This recording has been a favorite of my children for many years. Even as teenagers they never seem to outgrow these tales and the relaxing cadence of Weiss's voice. Highly recommended!
The Magic Tree House books have been hugely popular with the students at our school. My daughter has recordings of some of the books and listened to them over and over for several years.
Another wildly popular series for children who are emerging readers.
International folktales. Expose your child to different cultures.
Beautiful stories about animals, written by a veterinarian.
Ball Pits & Therapy Balls
Ball Pits Are Great Fun for Blind Children
A ball pit is a fun toy for blind children of all ages, from toddlers to teens. Many blind children continue to enjoy the ball pit during private moments well into their teens, if given the opportunity; especially if they can listen to music, books or watch television while relaxing there.
It is easy to put a ball pit in your home for your blind child. For many years we had a wading pool in our basement filled with several hundred balls of red, green, blue, orange and yellow. My daughter would crawl into it and luxuriate for hours. She found it a relaxing and calming activity.
Sighted children would come to visit and the ball pit would make them wild. They would drag the mini-trampoline over beside it and use it to spring into the ball pit. An occupational therapist suggested it might be the colors on the balls that was causing the sighted children to become over-stimulated. If you have sighted children you might want to stick with only blue balls for this reason.
A wading pool can be purchased cheaply, especially at the end of the summer. You will need several packages of balls. One hundred balls sounds like a lot, until you pour them into your pool. The ball pit is not fun without enough balls, so get more than you think you will need.
Does your child enjoy playing in a ball pit?
Blind Children Often Love Therapy Balls
Another physical toy that blind children often love is a therapy ball. The children at school fought all year over the one ball in the dorm, so the Parent, Student, Staff Organization had to buy some extras for next year. The dorm parents said the children like to sit or lounge on them while watching television.
Many blind children have low muscle tone in their trunks and the therapy balls are wonderful for building that up. Core strength is especially important to blind children when it comes to using their braillers, so while they think they are having fun and relaxing, you are actually sneaking in something that is not only fun for them but good for them!
A therapy ball can also help with focus and concentration, if the child sits on one while doing homework. For this situation you want to make sure you have one of the appropriate size. Trying to sit on a ball that is too large could result in injury.
The therapy balls are also fun for children of all ages. A parent can use them with a baby or toddler. Older children and teens can use them independently.
Here is a fun therapy ball that will help a child with balance. This ball comes in different colors and sizes.
12.5 inches in height x 27.5 inches in length
This peanut shaped ball provides added stability for balance, exercise and movement therapy
Strengthen core muscles, body awareness, balance and attention
Holds up to 750 lbs
Pump sold separately
My children had a lot of fun with these hopping balls for several years. Give your child a safe place to hop and let her go at it! It's great for core strength, coordination, vestibular stimulation and general fun and silliness!
A great ball for exercise and movement! This particular ball is best for older children, teens and adults. Holds up to 300 lbs. Click through for more options for smaller children.
Does your child like to play with therapy balls?
Toys & Games for Older Blind Children & Teenagers
A Portable Game for One
Both blind and sighted kids will enjoy this tactile puzzle that can fit into their pocket and requires no batteries!
This is great for car trips, bus trips or waiting rooms.
Click on the photo for more information!
Accessible Toys and Games for Blind Children and Teens - American Printing House for the Blind
American Printing House for the Blind (APH) has a number of accessible games for blind children and teenagers. As they note on their website, blind children do not pick up recreational and leisure skills through observation and modeling. These skills must be taught. The games from APH are on the expensive side, but if you are in the United States you may be able to borrow them from your state materials center.
- American Printing House for the Blind
Toys and games made especially for blind children and teenagers from APH.
Talk to almost any parent of a blind child school age or older, and you are sure to hear about the Bop It! This is an electronic game that gives instructions the player must follow. As long as the instructions are followed, the game continues. When the player messes up, it is over. The challenge is to get the game to go on for a long period of time.
This is a game the students at our school enjoy playing alone as well as with other kids. The Bop It! comes in several varieties, and it can be fun to collect them. If your child has one he enjoys, he might like another version of this game as well.
Buy a Bop It
Accessible MP3 Player
My daughter loves her little Zen Stone. This MP3 player was recommended to me by blind adults. Unlike most MP3 players, the Zen Stone does not rely upon an LED screen. A blind child can easily work all of the controls by touch.
Another nice feature of the Zen Stone is that it has an internal speaker. If your child does not like ear buds because they interfere with hearing environmental sound cues, they can enjoy their music using the speaker. This is also better for your youngster's hearing.
Many students at the Kentucky School for the Blind have received these MP3's and enjoy using them. They hold 500 songs or several audio books.
Does your child like to listen to music or books?
Toys for Blind Babies & Toddlers
Toys for Young Blind Children - Blind Babies and Toddlers
Blind babies and toddlers can make good use of many of the same developmental toys that appeal to sighted children. Some are particularly useful to children who are blind, because they help to address specific developmental challenges that blind children often have.
One way to tell if a toy will be appropriate for a blind baby is to close your eyes and interact with the toy. If it is still interesting when you are not looking at it, it will probably be fun for your child.
Balls with a variety of textures develop tactile discrimination, important for future braille readers.
This drum can be used to motivate movement, teach cause and effect, and introduce musical concepts.
My daughter had a ball similar to this one as a toddler. This is a very interesting musical ball for a blind baby or young blind child. This ball encourages the child to move across the floor to follow it as it rolls away. This is useful for any blind child, but particularly if you baby is reluctant to venture away from one spot. Also useful for playing ball with a parent or sibling, sit with legs in a V and roll the ball back and forth to baby to learn turn-taking. Also helpful for learning to locate sounds, a crucial skill for a blind person.
More Toys for Blind Babies and Toddlers
This is a good, basic shape sorter for baby. A blind child needs to learn the concept of containers, putting items into containers and taking them out. Remove the shape sorting lid at first, so the baby can learn the concept of putting the blocks into the bucket and dumping them out. Later, help the child learn to put the blocks into the proper holes by shape. Start with only 2 blocks & cover the other holes with tape. When the baby learns those two, add another one. Talk a lot about the different shapes. This is a very helpful toy for concept develpment.
These foot finders rattle whenever baby moves his feet. The encourage movement, help baby learn about his body and start to explore his feet. My daughter had a pair of these as an infant. She enjoyed them very much and they helped get her ready for rolling over and crawling. Wrist rattles are also available.
This activity table is great for teaching cause and effect as well as encouraging children to pull up and stand. It builds both gross and fine motor skills at the same time. Toddlers love this toy!
Braille blocks are great for early exposure to both braille and print letters. My daughter received a set of these as a toddler and they are still going strong. The blocks helped her learn both her braille alphabet as well as the shape of letters in the print alphabet. As a result she can now read signs and labels that have raised or embossed letters, a handy skill not taught in school.
My daughter had one of these as a baby and she loved it. Ours had a little bell inside. The description on Amazon does not mention a bell, but describes beads that make a quiet sound when they slide back and forth. My child loved to stretch the black bands with her feet while she held onto the bars with her hands. Good for learning how the body moves in space, which can be hard to figure out when you cannot see your body parts.
These are the same magnetic alphabet letters you remember from your own childhood, but now they have a braille cell included! Learning the shapes of print letters has many practical real-life applications. Recently my teenage daughter, who is totally blind, read a print sign in a public building. The sign had raised letters and no braille.
It is also helpful when describing a route or the layout of a building to a blind person. Curvy streets may be shaped like a print letter S, U or J. Buildings may be laid out in the shape of an L, E, H or T. Playing with these letters in childhood can be useful in building these concepts.
Click on the picture for more information, or to purchase, these fun and educational magnetic letters!
Braille Toys on eBay
Over the years I have been able to find a lot of braille and other equipment for sale on eBay. This can be a good source, but be sure to ask about the condition of the braille. Sometimes it has been flattened, and the seller might not be knowledgeable. I have found it is good to send an email asking where they acquired the item and asking them to check the condition of the braille to be sure it is still nicely raised.
More Information - Guide to Toys 2008 -- American Foundation for the Blind
- AFB Guide to Toys 2008
Every day, parents ask professionals for advice on buying toys for their children. Often, shoppers are wary of buying toys for special needs children. However, selecting a toy for any child begins with two steps: first, learning what the child is int
Does your visually impaired child have a favorite toy that you would like to recommend to others? List it here, or leave some feedback! Thanks!