Outdoor Play Tips for Toddlers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

cover of Reach Out and Teach depicting a child wearing sunglasses reaching out to enjoy flowers -- her father kneels behind her

From Reach Out and Teach: Helping Your Child Who is Visually Impaired Learn and Grow

There is no better time than summertime for toddlers who are blind or visually impaired to begin to learn about the outdoors and playing outside. In this excerpt from the book Reach Out and Teach: Helping Your Child Who is Visually Impaired Learn and Grow from AFB Press, author Kay Ferrell provides tips for families and professionals on making outdoor play safe, fun, and a learning experience.

Depending on where you live, your child might not go outside without you. If you are lucky enough to have a backyard, however, you will want to encourage your child to go outside by herself. But, you also want to make sure the environment is safe.

  • Fence in the backyard, if you can, so your child does not unexpectedly wander away from you.
  • Introduce your child to the backyard by walking with her around the perimeter of the yard first and then exploring the middle.
  • Fix dangerous drop-offs or holes in the ground, if there are any, or mark them with a knee-high rope that prevents your child from going any further.
  • Place a swing on a tree branch that’s strong enough to support your child’s weight. If other children might be playing in your yard, make sure your child knows how to listen for anyone else swinging before walking in that direction, to prevent her from being accidentally hit by the swing. Consider placing some sort of noisemaker, such as bells, on the swing as a warning for your child.
  • Place a wind chime or other noisemaker near the door your child uses to go indoors and outside. This will act as a landmark for your child, a consistent noise that marks where the door is. As your child becomes more independent, you might want to hang bells on the door, so you can hear if your child goes outdoors on her own.

Don’t avoid the neighborhood playground. Playgrounds are great opportunities for making friends and trying out motor planning. It’s also a good way for her to become familiar with playgrounds in general, so she’ll be better prepared for recess and other activities at school.

Reach Out and Teach is available from AFB Press at www.afb.org/store.

How are you encouraging your child to enjoy outdoor play this summer? Share your ideas in the comments section!