Time for You as a Family: Fun Activities for Blind Babies and Toddlers
Families, in theory, have lots of opportunities to spend time together—whether at home, visiting relatives, or going on a picnic. But many families don’t seem to find much time for sharing experiences together. Spending time as a family is important and including your baby who’s visually impaired can help strengthen the bonds between you. But there are other benefits. Involving your child in many different family activities can help her learn all she can about the world. For example:
Take your baby to the places you go so she can have new experiences. While doing the laundry at the laundromat may be a chore for you, it can be an adventure for her—listening to the buzz, slosh, and whirring of the different machines; sniffing the scent of soapy water; feeling warm air come from the dryers; and when she’s a little older, learning to put a dollar bill in the change machine to make four quarters come out. You don’t have to create special activities for her. Your own community is full of exciting new experiences for your child. Simply involving her in the activities of a busy work place will help her learn about her environment.
Don’t stop doing favorite activities because of your baby’s visual impairment. If you and other members of the family especially enjoy going camping, walking on the beach, watching movies, or cooking meals together, include her in as many of those activities as possible.
If some activities don’t seem to be as much fun with young children along, you’re entitled to take time out to do them without the kids. But don’t find yourself avoiding them because of your child’s visual impairment. Your child’s teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) may be able to suggest ways you can adapt the activities so that your child can enjoy the time together as much as you and your spouse do.
Help other family members and friends get comfortable about having your visually impaired child join them in activities. When you go to a family gathering or a potluck supper at the community center, realize that people may not know how to react to your baby. You might have to help them understand, “She can’t see the food on her plate, so she touches it a lot.” Or, “She isn’t laughing at the funny faces you’re making because she can’t see them. If you sing a little song to her, she almost always smiles.”
If braille may be the way your child will read and write, try creating some one-on-one activities that will give her a chance to begin learning about braille. You might start by asking your child’s teacher of students with visual impairments about where to get free braille books or books that have both print and braille in your state. Although your child isn’t ready to learn to read braille, she can feel the raised dot patterns as you read to her. Also, have a few related objects to illustrate what you’re reading about. For example, if you’re reading a book about bathtime, have a bar of soap, a towel, and a sponge for her to touch as you read about them in the story.
Show your child how to do things that others her age are doing. At the park, if there’s a water play area for toddlers, take her to it and show her how to play in the sprinklers or run through the tunnel. Sighted children see others doing these things and want to do them, too. Your daughter may not know about these fun ways to play, so she needs you to introduce them to her.
Consider enrolling your child in a gymnastics class for toddlers or join a group such as “Mommy and Me.” Both you and she will be able to meet other children and parents while learning new things. There are many free or low-cost activities and classes available in libraries or sponsored by local parks and recreation departments.
As you think of ways to involve your child in activities, keep in mind that at first, she may not seem to enjoy them. She might cry or pull away when you ask her to try something new. If that happens, don’t give up after your first attempt. Come back to the activity again and give her another chance.
Don’t expect her to participate fully the first time or even the second or the third. If story time at the library is 30 minutes long and she lasts for 10 minutes, congratulate her on how long she sat still and listened rather than fret about how much of the story she missed. Next time shoot for 12 minutes.