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The Right Way to Play

Editor's Note: This article is reprinted from The Hadley Connection, the student newsletter of the Hadley School for the Blind, Fall 2003.

What is the best toy for your visually impaired child? Which one will he or she enjoy the most? There are many factors to consider when making that decision. Consider the following questions before making your purchase:

  • Is the toy appropriate for your child developmentally?

  • Is the toy safe, durable and without small, loose parts?

  • Can the toy be used as the child gets older?

  • Is the toy visually appealing to the child with low vision?

  • Does the toy have a pleasing scent?

  • Will your child be able to operate the toy?

  • Does the toy have tactile appeal?

  • Is the toy versatile?

  • Will your child interact with the toy?

  • Does the toy have a cause-and-effect quality, such as a puzzle?

  • Does the toy make noise, and can the volume be adjusted?

  • Is the toy washable?

  • Is the toy child-size?

  • Is the toy fun to use?

Once the boxes have been opened, take time to explore each new toy. Visually impaired children may be reluctant to try new experiences, so take things slowly. Enthusiastically play with the new toy yourself as you describe what it looks like and how it works. Encourage hand-over-hand placement as you help your child manipulate the toy. Introduce just one or two toys at each play session, so as not to overwhelm your child.

Schedule a specific time for play. Remember the importance of setting aside time for play in your child's daily schedule. Planning a specific time for play, such as first thing in the morning or after naps, works well for some families. Keep in mind when your child is at his best and most alert. Children thrive on routine; thus, have the same beginning and end to each play session. Include others, such as siblings, peers and other family members, in your play. Play only as long as your child is interested; learn to read his cues as to when he no longer wants to play.

Other families find the best way to play is to build play experiences into their daily routines. Sing songs and play games while in the car. Bring along toys, games and books as you wait for a doctor's appointment. Keep a low kitchen cabinet filled with plastic pots and wooden spoons, so your child can play in the kitchen as you prepare meals. Make bath-time fun by singing songs and playing with water toys. If you take advantage of the moment, you will find countless opportunities throughout each day for play and fun.

Try to find the best place for play in your home. Some find the family room, child's bedroom or even the kitchen work well. Make sure the space is large enough for your child to move about freely and for you and your child to sit comfortably. Find a place where toys can be kept organized, such as on shelves or in baskets. Try to limit distractions such as the telephone or television. Make sure the area is safe. Choose lighting that is appropriate to your child's needs. Locate the area where your child can be near to you. The older child plays more independently, but often wants to be within calling distance of Mom and Dad.

Play will help your child grow and develop. Through play, your child will learn about his environment; he will feel loved and cherished. He will develop fine and gross motor skills, motivation, curiosity and self-esteem. Learning through play is the foundation for future learning. Thus, make time for play and enjoy your child.

This sidebar features a list of toy companies and catalogues for children with special needs.

Abilitations (800-850-8603); www.abilitations.com

Crestwood Communications Aids, Inc. (414-352-5678); www.communicationaids.com

The Dragonfly Toy Co., Inc. (800-308-2208); www.dragonflytoys.com

Enabling Devices, a division of Toys for Special Children, Inc. (800-832-8697); www.enablingdevices.com

Environments Inc. (800-342-4453); www.eichild.com

Exceptional Teaching Aids, Inc. (800-549-6999); www.exceptionalteaching.com

Guide to Toys for Children who are Blind or Visually Impaired (212-675-1141); www.toy-tia.org

Music for Little People (800-346-4445); www.mflp.com

Hitech (for the hearing impaired) (800-288-8303); www.smar-t-pants.com (no link)

TFH (USA) LTD. (800-467-6222); www.tfhusa.com

Toys "R" Us Guide for Differently Abled Kids (800-869-7787); --- connects to general store information

ZZ - Disregard this link; it is used to trick spammers.