6 things to do on a play date
How to Plan a Play Date for Your Blind or Visually Impaired Child
Planning a play date for a blind or visually impaired child can be challenging — especially if your child has friends who don't have any visual impairments. Look for activities that involve the senses of hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Coordinating these other sensory experiences with descriptions can help your child learn and understand how things appear, even if their sense of sight is limited.
Hosting a Sensory Play Party
Choose a theme.If you want to plan a sensory play party for your blind or visually impaired child and their friends, a theme can help keep the activities simple and understandable. Your theme should be a common thread running through all the activities in some way.
- For example, you might want to have a construction party, and use objects related to building and construction work, such as blocks, hard hats, shovels, and other machines.
- Think not just of occupations, but also places. For example, if your child really enjoyed a recent trip to the beach, you might have a beach-themed party and bring the beach into your own backyard.
- When picking a theme, get your child involved so you can choose something that sparks their interest.
Modify activities to make them more accessible.Particularly if you have several different activities planned for your sensory play party, you want to make sure all activities are accessible to all children and clearly separated from one another.
- Think in terms of both auditory and tactile cues to enhance the children's understanding of each activity and the objective. For example, you might place a soft rug or mat on a hard surface to indicate a particular area is reserved for a seated activity.
- Use bright, high-contrast tape to mark off the bounds of each play area so the children can more easily understand where one activity ends and the other begins.
- Keep the area simple and uncluttered, and remove objects that are unrelated to the play date.
Make sensory bins.Sensory bins are wonderful tools that can help your child focus and engage their senses. When planning a sensory play party or play date with other kids who don't have visual impairments, put lids on the bins or have those kids put on blindfolds so they can have a similar experience.This can also help teach the other children empathy, as well as making the activities equally challenging for all the children.
- Start with a large plastic storage container, then choose a filler such as rice or sand. Your filler need not be expensive, and may vary depending on the other types of objects you plan to include.
- Add other objects with a distinctive shape and texture compared to the filler you've used. For example, you might place marbles of varying sizes in a tub of sand.
- Include tools for scooping and sifting the filler so the children can find the objects buried in the bins.
Add sounds and smells.When planning a play date for your blind or visually impaired child, you want to incorporate as many of their other senses as possible. Sounds and smells can help your child differentiate between things that are typically identified by sight.
- For example, you might hang pots and pans of various sizes on a fence. You can get many different types of pots and pans at a thrift store relatively inexpensively — you don't have to use the ones you normally cook with. Hang all the objects and give the kids different things to bang them with, such as brushes, wooden spoons, mallets, and spatulas, so they can experience the different sounds that are created with different combinations of objects.
- Infuse plain jello with different essential oils so that the children can dig their hands into the jello and release the aroma. Talk about what the smell is and what types of objects or experiences are associated with those smells.
Use edible items for sensory play.Edible items engage your child's sense of taste, which is crucial for blind or visually impaired children as they explore the world around them. Having different tastes for different colors can help your child start to recognize and understand the concept of colors.
- Some examples of edible items you can use include spaghetti noodles, edible play dough (look online for recipes), and tapioca balls.
- You can cook spaghetti with food coloring to add bold colors. Lay the colors out on a white tarp to create a squishy rainbow for the kids to explore.
- Try to keep your taste and color associations consistent. For example, if you associate red with cherry flavor in one activity, don't associate it with strawberry for another activity — this could cause confusion.
Create your own ball pit.Many blind or visually impaired kids love ball pits, but it can be dangerous for them to go into public ball pits along with other sighted children. However, you can eliminate this danger by making your own.
- Use an inflatable wading pool so the pit is soft, then get some balls for the pit. You can find suitable balls and most toy stores and discount stores.
- Consider using balls of different sizes to enhance the sensory experience. If you have any choice, choose high-contrast colors so visually impaired kids will be better able to distinguish the different balls.
Consider adapting popular games for your child.While a sensory party is usually pretty relaxed, with an emphasis on exploring and making messes, you may want to also throw in a few more challenging games or activities to help your child feel a sense of accomplishment. Ask your child what they would like to do, and see if you can make the necessary accommodations.
- Look for sensory-based board games, or games that have been adapted for blind or visually impaired children by adding braille or tactile markers. Games like checkers, tic-tac-toe, even card games can all be made accessible to your child with just a few tweaks.
- Another example is if your child is visually impaired but can make out very bright colors, you could adapt a game of t-ball by placing bright orange cones at each base and using bright tape leading to each base so the child knows where to run.
- Or, if your child wants to play kickball, you can allow the children to either kick the ball from a stationary position or from a pitch. Your blind or visually impaired child can kick a stationary ball and have a friend run with them, guiding them around the bases.
Making Arts and Crafts
Paint with tennis balls.If your child has some sight but is visually impaired, this activity can be a fun way to create bold abstract art with a group of kids. For this project, you'll need large white paper, paints, tennis balls, and a small plastic wading pool.
- Use puffy paint or add sand to the paint to incorporate a tactile dimension for kids who are blind.
- Pick paints in bold colors, and secure the paper to the bottom of the wading pool. Have the kids dip the tennis balls in the paint, then drop them in the pool and roll them around.
- It helps to have several kids for this project, especially if they're younger, so they can lift and move the pool together. This also teaches them cooperation.
Use scented crayons or markers.Scented crayons and markers incorporate the sense of smell into the art project, helping your blind or visually impaired child distinguish between colors by associating them with a particular smell.
- You can buy scented crayons or markers at specialty arts and crafts stores as well as many discount stores.
- If you buy more than one set of crayons or markers, make sure the scents and colors match up. Having the same color with two different smells can cause confusion.
Make collages.Collages are a great way to incorporate different textures, and help your child further develop their sense of touch. Many blind or visually impaired children also enjoy working with glue and sticky surfaces.
- Prepare the collage surface by covering it with glue using a glue stick, or using double-sided sticky tape. That way the whole surface is sticky and the child can place objects anywhere they want.
- Use a variety of different textures, and talk to your child about the different textures and where they are commonly found. For example, you might include something soft and fuzzy, a piece of felt, and pieces of sandpaper.
Draw and color.You can buy coloring books or sketchbooks with raised lines, so your blind or visually impaired child can experience coloring objects by feeling the edges. You also can trace the lines of a regular coloring book with puffy paint pens to get the same effect.
- Scented crayons or markers allow the child to have a better understanding of the colors they are using.
- Have the child trace the lines with their finger and talk about what object is represented by those lines.
Stick with high-contrast colors.Visually impaired children will be better able to differentiate colors if you simplify your color palate and only use colors that contrast sharply with each other, such as red and blue.
- If your child or children who will be present at the play date are colorblind or have color sensitivity issues, keep those in mind as you choose your colors.
- Keep contrast in mind with other items as well. For example, if you have a game involving Cheerios, place them on a navy blue or black surface so they will contrast sharply and be easier to see. Use white surfaces for dark or brightly colored objects.
Using Local Resources
Spend time in a park.There are numerous activities at your local park that can provide sensory stimulation, education, and enrichment for your blind or visually impaired child. A play date at the park also is a great idea if your child has a friend without significant vision impairment.
- You might pull up plants and examine the roots with your child, or catch bugs. They also may have fun exploring playgrounds, swinging on swings or running their hands over the equipment to see how it's put together.
- If you live in the United States, you might try NPR's directory of accessible playgrounds nationwide. Just visit www.playgroundsforeveryone.com and type in an address to begin.
Go to a local petting zoo.Because petting zoos focus on the senses of touch, smell, and hearing, they can be great places for a blind or visually impaired child to explore the world and connect with different kinds of animals.
- The animals at petting zoos typically are very calm and tame, and will allow your child to explore them.
- Talk to your child about the animal they are touching, the part of that animal the child is touching, and what that animal does. When the child touches a different animal, talk about the differences between the two.
Check at libraries and museums.Many libraries and museums have play-date type activities specifically designed for blind and visually impaired kids. These events can help your child explore their community as well as giving them the opportunity to meet other blind or visually impaired kids their age.
- Your local library or community center may have a bulletin board where information about activities and events are posted. You also may be able to find this information on the library's website.
- If your city government has a community events page on its website, you also may be able to find information there.
- Ask at local museums, especially children's museums, to find out if they have special events or specific days for blind or visually impaired kids.
Play in the water.If your child enjoys the water, backyard water slides, wading pools, or fountains can provide a fun activity for a play date, especially on hot days. You don't have to get fancy – often a simple garden hose is enough.
- Keep in mind that if there are too many elements, they can get overwhelming. Try to limit your water play activities to one or two things.
- If your child doesn't like cold water, you might try running the hose from the kitchen sink so you can use warm water.
- If you make a slide in the backyard, you can use other liquids on the surface, such as whipped cream, so the kids can enjoy different sensations. Just make sure the liquid you use isn't too slick.
Visit a farm to pick berries.If you live in or near a more rural area, you may be able to find a working berry farm where you can take your blind or visually impaired child along with a friend. Picking berries engages your child's senses of touch, hearing, and taste.
- This also can be an educational experience, because the child will learn where berries come from and how they are harvested.
- Call ahead to the farm before you go and let them know you will have a child who is blind or visually impaired. They may be able to offer specific accommodations, or may have special events for blind and visually impaired kids.
Take a group of kids fishing.Fishing is another activity that is both fun and educational. While you'll typically have to help with things like baiting the hook and removing the fish from the line, blind or visually impaired kids can still actively fish themselves.
- Catching a fish can give your child a sense of accomplishment. The process also teaches your child where fish come from and how they are caught for eating.
- Holding and touching a fish presents a unique sensory experience for the child, who will be able to feel the muscles in the fish and the flapping gills.
- If you go somewhere that doesn't require catch-and-release, you also have the opportunity to take the caught fish home and cook them. This will give the child a better sense of how food gets to their plate.
QuestionWhat water gun games it is possible to play between blind and sighted children, and how?Top AnswererKids and water always equals fun. Try playing with water balloons in the garden. They make a popping sound, and if you throw them up in the air, it's an adrenaline rush to not know if they will fall on or near you. As for water guns, there are toy games with auditory clues when you hit or miss a target, like shooting water into a giant's mouth makes it roar. Or, mark certain spots on the ground, and they can only run between spots and have to shout their name whenever they reach a spot. With the auditory feedback, the blind child could practice spouting water at them.Thanks!
QuestionIs it possible for blind children to play with squirt guns with sighted friends?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, very much so. The child may just need a little help!Thanks!
QuestionWhat games are possible to play with water guns between blind and not-blind friends?Cecilia FloresTop AnswererPlay the game in a wide-open place (a very large gym, park, open field...) and have each of the friends wear a beeping device of some sort so the blind child can hear and locate the others.Thanks!
- Keep in mind that many of these play date activities can get messy. Try to let go and have fun — to fully engage the senses, messy play can be important.Just make sure you use tarps, supplies that are easy to clean, or keep everything outside.
Video: Tips for Planning kids Playdates
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