Santa and his elves are currently working hard at the North Pole preparing gifts for all the good little boys and girls this year. But does Santa know what types of gifts to give those little ones with a visual impairment? Well, if he doesn’t, the staff at CVI’s BEGIN program is willing to help him out. And if you or someone you know is playing Santa this year to a visually impaired child, read on for toy suggestions and ideas to make their Christmas fun, happy and memorable.
One of the first things to consider when looking for toys for a visually impaired child is to not stress out. Many toys currently on the market for a sighted child can easily be adapted for a visually impaired one. With simple modifications such as adding sound, texture, color or vibration the toy becomes very accessible to a visually impaired child. In some cases the toy comes already accessible.
Many toys already have sounds, bold colors like red, blue, green and yellow, or rough and smooth textures. The goal is to think creatively and then the child can have plenty of fun. For example, for a newborn, a baby gym with interactive items hanging from the middle bar, deflated crinkly Mylar balloons or crinkly gift wrapping paper can be good toys. The bright, shiny color, plus the crispy, crinkly sound placed under a baby’s tummy can give them incentive to move around, therefore helping them to become more aware of their surroundings. Massage pillows are also a great gift and can serve the same purpose.
Every child whether sighted or blind can participate in old fashioned play with pots and pans. For a visually impaired child, this can be loads of fund as they use their hands, feet or wooden spoons to bang the afternoon away! Purchasing toy musical instruments such as ukuleles and harmonicas are good for older kids.
Sky balls from Toys R Us can also be a great gift. The balls are textured or have lights and bells which visually impaired children can touch, feel and hear. For children with low vision, the balls can have bright bold colors that can be seen more easily. These balls can also serve a dual purpose of providing great play time and helping a child to move around.
But of course, these noisy suggestions might not be the best gift for parents or family members! So let’s offer some toy suggestions that might be a bit quieter.
For older children, finger paint can be a artistic gift idea. For a visually impaired child, BEGIN advises to add texture to the paint to provide better feel and definition. Items that can be use are grits, rice or glitter. Children can also use foam stickers, found in the scrapbook aisle at stores like Target. These stickers are raised and self-adhesive. They can be placed easily on construction paper or poster board to create a memorable arts and craft project.
The other ultimate quiet gift for children is books. Books that have texture or twin books, that have both Braille and print, are great gifts. Seedlings has superb choices for braille books, especially for little children. Upon request, BEGIN can Braille printed books too. There are also accessible playing cards such as Old Maid and Go Fish, that can be found at the VisAbility Store. All of these make great gifts that can provide hours of quiet play.
For little ones that are on the move, toys that can be pulled or pushed are a great idea. For example, a caterpillar pull toy that has light and sound makes an excellent toy. The child can pull the rope and the insect will move and roll around on the floor. Other examples are toy shopping carts, toy vacuum cleaners, slides or small trampolines.
With these toy suggestions Santa and his helpers are sure to be very successful in providing the best toy for a visually impaired child. And if Santa can’t find these toys in his workshop at the North Pole here is a listing of places to purchase toys and games:
1. CVI’s VisAbility Store has toys for visually impaired children of all age groups.
2. Atlanta Parent Magazine provides a toy guide that includes children with disabilities each year.
3. Local big box stores like Toys R us, Target and Wal-MART sell toys and games that can be adapted for a visually impaired child.