Toys and Play

for Children with Visual Impairments or Blindness

It is often said that play is a child's work, and in fact, children learn essential skills through play. Communication, motor skills, cognition, and social interaction are a few of the developmental areas that are stimulated by play activities. In this section, parents and teachers will learn how to select playthings, adapt them when necessary, create play space, encourage play, and provide appropriate structure and support.

Below is a list of topics you'll find in this section. Click on a title to jump to a specific topic.

Toy Selection

Choosing the Best Toys for Your Blind Baby
This page offers a sampling of toys and a list of tips to help parents select the best toys for children with blindness or visual impairments.

Choosing Toys and Creating a Play Area for Your Child
Family Connect
This article lists some of the features to look for when selecting toys for a child with visual impairment, as well as suggestions creating a play area.

Good Toys for Blind Kids: Suggestions From Parents
National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
This list is made up of regular commercial toys that can be purchased through local shops or toy stores. The age categories are suggested by the parents, not the manufacturers.

Ideas for Selecting Equipment and Toys for Blind Babies
Future Reflections, 12(2), 1993, National federation of the Blind (NFB)
This articles has tips for choosing equipment that can enhance a child's development, including commercial toys and household materials, and ideas for activities to enhance a child's enjoyment of play. This article is reprinted from the Overbrook School for the Blind's Parent Early Childhood Education Series.

Let's Play: A Guide to Toys for Children with Special Needs
American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
Toy Industry Foundation (TIF™), in partnership with Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) and American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), has researched and tested hundreds of toys, and produced this comprehensive guide of the best toys for children with all types of special needs, of all ages, with different interests kept in mind.

Our Favorite Toys
Overbrook School for the Blind
Early Intervention teachers share a list of their favorite toys, with photos and a description of each one.

Quick and Easy Home-Made or Home-Found Toys, Future Reflections, National Foundation of the Blind
Future Reflections, 14(3) Fall 1995, National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
This article by Terri Connolly offers creative ideas for activities using household materials as props for play.

Really Fun Toys for Blind Toddlers
This page recommends specific toys for toddlers who are blind.

Toy Ideas for Blind Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers
Future Reflections, 20(3), 2001, National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
Terri Connolly and Jill Brody share ideas for toys that enhance developmental skills at different age levels, such as movement, visual awareness, and object permanence.  A list of questions to ask when selecting toys is included.

Adapted and Switch-operated Toys

Glossary of Switches
Los Angeles Unified School District
A catalog of adaptive switches, with image, description, and link to purchase. If you are trying to find the right switch for the right purpose, this is a great starting place.

Securing Switches (and Mouth-able toys)
Special Education Service Agency (SESA)
This document explains how to mount toys for students who do not have use of their hands or arms. (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Switch Adapted Battery Operated Toys
Alliance for Technology Access
Learn how to adapt a toy with a battery-operated switch using these step-by-step instructions. (PDF)

Toys for Children with Special Needs
Family Center on Technology and Disability (FCTD)
This issue of the FCTD newsletter has numerous articles on toys and adapted play, including what one can learn by observing children play, toy selection, and adapting toys with common household supplies; includes an annotated list of resources and toy vendors.

Organizations and Resources to Explore: Adapted Toys

Toy evaluations by an independent nonprofit agency that fosters play for children with disabilities. The online database rates the toys for suitability for children with cognitive, physical, sensory, or communicative disabilities (searchers may combine two categories).

Adaptive Toys, Family Village
Family Village has links to directories and vendors of toys for children with special needs.

Enabling Devices
Enabling Devices is dedicated to developing affordable learning and assistive devices to help people of all ages with disabling conditions.

National Lekotek Center
The National Lekotek Center is a source on toys and play for children with special needs. Lekotek uses interactive play experiences, and the learning that results, to promote the inclusion of children with special needs into family and community life.

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio
Oppenheim is the only independent consumer review of children's media.  Recommended toys are grouped by age level (infant, toddler, preschool) and by type of toy or equipment, e.g. active physical play, pretend play, bath toys, etc.

Special Needs Toys
Special Needs Toys are providers of carefully selected games, toys, and other leisure products aimed at people of all ages with special needs.. 

Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids , Toys 'R' Us
The free Toys 'R' Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids lists 85 great accessible toys that are available nationally.

Learning through Play

Adapting Play and Communication: Enhancing Interaction and Cognitive Skills in Young Children
Simplified Technology
Linda Burkhart outlines the many skills that can be reinforced through adapted play, including cognitive, communication, and fine and gross motor skills.  She also offers suggestions for expanding communication skills and interaction through play.

How We Play!  A Guidebook for Parents and Early Intervention Professionals
Let's Play! Project
This 20-page guidebook helps parents and early intervention professionals encourage play in the lives of children with disabilities.  Included are descriptions of six types of emerging play, advice on play materials, positioning options, and adaptations. (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Play from The Deafblind Disabled Baby
National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB)
This chapter from Peggy Freeman's book for parents of the deafblind baby with multiple disabilities discusses the importance of play and outlines six stages of play, with many simple activities to try at home. (Microsoft Word Document)

Teaching Your Baby to Play with Toys
Family Connect for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments
This article presents many practical tips to help your baby learn to play.

Organizations and Resources to Explore: Learning Through Play

Learning Through Play
Hadley School for the Blind
This online course offers suggestions for toys and activities that teach children about themselves and the world around them.

Blind Children's Resource Center
This section of the BCRC site contains four articles: Learning to Play, How Does a Blind Child Play, Adapting Play, and Adaptive Aids Equipment and Toys.

Play and Recreation
National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB)
This section of the NCDB website has several articles about play and recreation for students who are deafblind.

Creating Play Spaces

Make Your Own Mini Play Area!
This article is full of practical suggestions for creating a play area in a small space, such as a laundry basket.

Make Your Own Sensory Play Area
Learn to design play areas that stimulate the senses of babies with visual impairments while making them feel safe and inviting them to explore.

See also the Assistive Device Center and learn more about how to design these spaces and adapted play equipment at Perkins.

Active Learning

Active Learning and the Blind, Multiply Disabled Child
Future Reflections, 23(2), Special issue 2004, National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
This is an abridged excerpt from Dr. Lilli Nielsen's book, Early Learning Step by Step: Children with Vision Impairment and Multiple Disabilities. It outlines her Active Learning Approach and explains the importance of the learning environment.

An Introduction to Dr. Lilli Nielsen's Active Learning
Future Reflections, 24(1), 2005, National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
Stacy Shafer outlines some of Dr. Lilli Nielsen's recommendations for designing a learning environment for a child with visual impairments and multiple disabilities.

What my Daughter Taught me About Active Learning—or, Whose Goal is it Anyway?
Future Reflections, 25(1), 2006, National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
Jean Bugbee shares her experiences using the Active Learning Approach with her adopted daughter, Renee.

Connecting with Jimmy
Future Reflections, 25(2), 2006, National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
Sue Elan Holmes writes about her experience with the Little Room, and what the Active Learning approach has meant for her son, Jimmy.

Organizations and Resources to Explore: Active Learning

LilliWorks is the provider of Dr. Lilli Nielsen's specially designed Active Learning Equipment for North America, and also educates and consults on Active Learning topics.

See also Recreation: Toys, Games, and Recreation