Let's Play! Inclusive Toys for Children with Visual Impairments
The Importance of Play
Playing is an important and necessary part of childhood. When children play, they discover and learn about themselves, their surroundings, and how to get along with others. Toys encourage play and discovery and teach children about people, places and things. Toys also promote social skills, emotional development, and communication. While playing with toys, children develop fine and gross motor skills necessary for participating in sports and other recreational activities.
All children need to play and learn the skills that toys teach. Choosing toys for children with special needs, though, is not as easy as child’s play. Selecting toys for blind children and those with visual impairments can be more difficult, since much of play and learning with toys is done through sight. Inclusive toys for visually impaired children must offer additional encouragement in learning about their environment and the different ways to explore it.
Following the below guidelines will help in choosing inclusive toys for visually impaired children. Remember, though, each child has different abilities and unique interests. Toys should prompt children to use their imaginations and spark their creativity.
- To teach children with visual impairments to rely on their auditory skills, toys should talk or make real life noises. Products such as Hide ‘n Squeak Eggs by Tomy introduces children to cause and effect as each egg makes noise. The egg carton’s layout can also begin to teach about the Braille cell.
- Toys with bright colors, or ones with high contrast or lights encourage children to best use the degree of vision they have. The Vtech Move & Crawl Ball lights up and gets a child to move. This self-moving ball plays music and animal sounds, and teaches numbers and shapes.
- Climbing and riding toy promote physical activity, movement, and exploration. The Chicco Musical Roller is great for straddling or laying over the roller while playing with a toy on the floor. It plays music, too.
- Use dolls, stuffed animals, and puppets to promote awareness of people, places and things. The Jester book and doll a by The Jester & Pharley Phund, encourages interaction and stimulates a child’s imagination. The brightly colored doll has movable limbs and promotes interaction with the character while improving a child’s auditory tracking skills.
- Find toys with different surfaces and textures. Toys with flexible or rubbery surfaces, such as balls, rattles, and dolls appeal to children and encourage them to feel common objects. Jumbo lacing beads, for example, have many different shapes and textures that make a unique textile experience. The Latches Puzzle encourages children to use their fingers to manipulate different kinds of latches.
- Craft and art activities help enhance creativity. Crayola’s Color Me a Song plays music as your child draws. For a child with limited vision, the music can be extra incentive to draw. For the child without vision, the music serves as primary feedback. Either way, this toy encourages scribbling if children can see their drawing or not, and scribbling is both fun and great for fine motor skills.
- Games are important to promote cooperation, sharing, and social development. The Bop It game by Hasbro encourages social skills as children compete to the beat as spoken and musical commands test their reflexes, strengthening motor skills.
Remember that playing needs to be educational, but most of all, it needs to be fun. Children receive the most benefits from playing when parents join the fun and talk about activities with children. Proper adult supervision is always necessary to ensure safety, too.