Choosing Toys for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

If you think about it, you may realize that what sighted children are often most interested in is the appearance of a toy. We’ve all seen children smile at a big, cuddly stuffed animal or a funny-looking cartoon character they’ve seen on television. But for a child who is visually impaired, looks aren’t necessarily the significant factor. For that reason, when you’re looking for toys that will be fun and stimulating for your child, focus on those that have multi-sensory appeal. Multi-sensory refers to using more than one sense, so a toy that makes noise, has different textures to feel, and is visually stimulating, would appeal to three of your baby’s five senses. Toys with bright, high-contrast colors might be appealing if your child has some vision, but also try to find ones that are noisy, have a surface with multiple textures, or provide nooks and crannies for curious little fingers to explore.

It’s also important to think about toys that will challenge your baby or toddler and help her learn. If she’s just learning to turn, pull, and push knobs, a toy with that feature will be fun for her to play with and, at the same time, reinforce her manual dexterity. Also think about toys that simulate common household devices—a toy cordless phone, for example, that rings when she pushes a few buttons and has a handset that she can pick up, talk into, and return to its proper place. And don’t throw away that old computer keyboard—it’s a good practical “toy” to help your toddler get comfortable with a tool she’ll be using frequently in a couple of years—in the form of a braillewriter as well as an actual computer keyboard. It may be helpful to remember that many children with visual impairments don’t like the texture of stuffed toys. Plastic toys aren’t necessarily appealing either because a lot of them are very similar in shape and don’t feel much different from one another. What often distinguishes them is a colorful image printed on the surface.

Some of the features to look for in toys for your child are:

  • Unbreakable with no sharp edges
  • Moving parts that are fun to wiggle, press, or pull (be sure they’re firmly attached and too big for your baby to put in her mouth and possibly swallow)
  • Sound—for example, a wooden duck that quacks when it’s pulled or a soft plastic mouse that squeaks when it’s squeezed is very appealing
  • Surfaces that are multi-textured or in some other way pleasing and interesting to touch

Whether you’re shopping for a 6-month-old baby who’s visually impaired or a 2-year-old toddler with additional disabilities, the FamilyConnect’s Toy and Gift Guide for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired can help you find just the right toy.

Creating a Play Area for Blind or Visually Impaired Children

  • To help your child learn to play, feel safe, and understand her environment, set up an area that your child knows is her own special place. It could be in her bedroom, a corner of the kitchen, or a convenient space in any other room that she can get to easily and safely. It might be set off between two small, low bookcases; it could be a little multi-shelf unit against a wall with enough space around it for spreading out toys, or it can be just a couple of big boxes or baskets in which her toys are stored.

  • Put your child’s smaller toys in a shallow container or a tray with a raised edge. That will keep them from sliding or rolling away from her.

  • Encourage your child to roll, crawl, scoot, or walk to get a toy for herself. That will help her develop good motor skills. Also, if you always bring toys to her, she may not realize where the toys are or that she can choose the ones she wants.

  • Help your child store toys in an organized way. You might suggest putting all her mechanical toys in one bin; blocks and similar toys in another; and soft, squishy toys in a third. Gluing an identifying toy of each kind on each bin can help your toddler know just where to find each type of toy.